Thursday, November 24, 2011
LOU REED. METALLICA. LULU. WTF?
I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way (other than the fact that I'm against torture). But Lou Reed's unlikely double album collaboration with Metallica, Lulu, is one of the most abrasive albums I've ever heard, and one of the most difficult to sit through. I really admire the totally uncompromising spirit of the album: it is about as uncommercial as anything I've heard from a major artist in recent memory.
There's something admirable about a band like Metallica doing something so totally challenging to themselves and their audience (and Metallica must know that fans wouldn't like the idea of them collaborating with Lou Reed, and they'd like it less after hearing it).
That said, I don't really think I'll listen to this album too much. If I could go five years back in time and play Lulu for someone, they'd probably think that it was a Saturday Night Live skit making fun of what would happen if Lou Reed and Metallica did an album together.
In the years since Lou's classic 1989 LP New York, he's adopted a sort of atonal talking style of doing his vocals, and that's what he does here. I'm a huge fan of his music, and I even like some of his post-New York stuff. I liked his collaboration with his Velvet Underground bandmate, John Cale, Songs for 'Drella. Magic & Loss is an incredible album, but only if you're in a certain mood. But New York is the last Lou album that I just reach for because I want to listen to it again. Of course, he has a lot of great albums, and all the Velvet Underground LPs are incredible. A lot of Lou's influences are avant-garde, outsider music. But he's also influenced by doo-wop and Dion. I'd love to see him to something you can sort of sing along to, and I thought this album might be that chance. But I again, I respect that he doesn't care what I, or anyone else, wanted with this album.
Metallica definitely do a solid job, but there's only so much they can do with this material. I like the opener, "Brandenburg Gate," and also "Iced Honey," but that's kind of it. I wouldn't mind seeing them do those songs in concert, with or without Lou.
I find myself wondering why Metallica agreed to this. They definitely worked surprisingly well with Lou at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 25 anniversary concert in New York a few years back, they did a great version of "Sweet Jane." They must have been surprised to have been asked by Lou to do a record, and I'm sure it appealed to Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett (although James Hetfield is a fan of dark outsider music by the likes of Nick Cave and Tom Waits so it makes sense that Lou's music would appeal to him as well). Still, Lulu makes St. Anger sound like "The Black Album," and they have to have realized that this would probably be the lowest selling album in their catalog. But I guess they wanted to do something different and challenge themselves, and that's admirable.
I imagine that their next album will be much tighter, shorter and accessible. In fact, I've heard that they will play "The Black Album" in its entirety at a European festival this summer. Well, if this album sends them in a more song-oriented direction, I'll be grateful for Lulu.