Vastly amusing amounts of vitriol are being poured over a new record by Lou Reed backed by Metallica called 'Lulu'. And this is just the beginning – it isn't officially released until the end of October. However you can listen to a stream here if, as Pitchfork declaims, you dare.
What's all the fuss about? The record sounds exactly like you would expect a Lou Reed/Metallica collaboration to sound – Reed intoning sung/spoken and very gory lyrics over large quantities of thrash metal leavened occasionally with some acoustic guitar and stringed or electronic drones. Alban Berg this is not.
To my ears it sounds no better or no worse than much of Reed's and Metallica's current output, most of which sounds pretty irrelevant compared the urgency of their earliest work. At the very least though, they sound as if they are having fun, if fun is quite the right word to apply to a song cycle detailing degradation and collapse.
So is this self-parody? Always difficult to say with Reed who has an unfortunate habit of mixing the sublime with the absolutely ridiculous in his lyrics without giving the listener much sense of whether he's aware of the difference or not. But this is not new – it's characteristic of his entire solo output, and what seemed awkward and clumsy at one point can seem considerably more profound in the fullness of time. (Case in point, "Berlin" an album sharing some this new record's flavor.) Indeed, there are flashes of humor and irony that slip out even on a first listen.
Musically, Metallica give Reed's slender tunes considerable heft, perhaps more than they can carry, but it's surprising how little bombast accompanies this leverage. Stripped of the high speed lead guitar soloing and with minimal melodic interest, musical texture becomes paramount and it fits rather well with Reed's vim and fury. I actually wonder how many reviewers have actually listened to this record beyond registering the shock of Reed's voice over Metallica's riffing.
None of which leads me to say that I actually like this record very much at the moment, but it is interesting and may grow on me with repeated listens. It is not the worthless piece of junk some of the reviews might lead you to believe.
So is this record destined to fill the used-CD bins at your local charity shop? Quite possibly, but it would hardly be alone in being spurned only to be appreciated sometime later. We'll see.