Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Review: Lou Reed and Metallica - Lulu

 It's hard to think of an album that has had such a overwhelmingly negative build-up than Lulu, the collaborative effort between vintage, artful rock and roller Lou Reed and Bay Arena metal titans Metallica. Be it in the initial disgust spread online when the collaboration was first announced, the hostile reaction to The View and even an online poll that popped out of nowhere calling Lou Reed "rock's most overrated lyricist.", there has been a largely dark cloud spread over the hope of this album being approved by the masses. Listening to it, it's easy to understand why.

To quote Metal Hammer writer Dom Lawson back in June when the collaboration was first announced:
 "[a collaborative album] might be fucking brilliant. It might just be a bit weird and pretentious. It could even be a load of sloppily-played, third rate metal riffs accompanied by the sound of a miserable pensioner muttering about heroin and cancer."
 Lawson's third choice pretty much sums up Lulu. Reed's incoherent rambling using his frankly uncomfortable sounding vocals which are spoken but include the occasional melodic note, which usually make him sound like he's having a heart attack. This is clearly no longer the man who once astonished many with his rapid energy and glee heard in The Velvet Underground's Sister Ray.
 But of course, the idea of creating an uncomfortable and disgusting feel is intended, as Lulu is not to be viewed as a collaborative album, but instead a theatrical adaptation of Earth Spirit and Pandora's Box, "The Lulu Plays" which are the two best known pieces of work of German playwright Frank Wedekind about the tragic life of a young dancer Lulu, who rises through German Society following numerous affairs with some of it's wealthier members but eventually falls into prostitution and bleakness. The idea of the album is for us to picture this within the lyrics, if we're able to catch what Reed is saying. He does sound like a drunk old man after all. As this goes on we picture Reed as the narrator of the production, while Metallica provides the background music, with a sense of extra drama added whenever James Hetfield throws his more agressive vocals or Kirk Hammet adds a guitar solo into the mix. However, when I see a play, I expect to feel a sense of enlightenment and a sense of something learnt and a real emotional attatchement to it's characters after it has finished. I certainly don't expect to leave a play with a burning desire to cut my ears off with a hacksaw. I can get behind the idea of the album's premise to be viewed as a musical narration to a theatrical adaption. But if this album were a play that I were watching on a stage, the cast would all be drunk or hungover, stumbling over their lines and scaring the audience in a manner that is simply mean-spirited.
 As I say, this album could have been more enjoyable. However, the performance of Metallica is just so lacklusture and sloppy that it means listeners have no way of divering themselves away from Lou Reed's horrifying lyrics. And yes, diversion is required. Frustration and Little Dog will surely cause listeners to smash their heads off of a wall and scream "MAKE IT STOP!!!" But Metallica spend the whole time playing bleak and unsatisfying doomy thrash riffs which sound like a gathering off all the material that was rejected from 2008's Death Magnetic. It really sounds like they don't care at all which is probably a bad sign for the band's future considering the large amount of passion they've displayed towards the album in recent interviews.
  This album... is frankly a mistake. It is the worst thing I have heard from both acts and I say that with Metal Machine Music and St. Anger in mind. At least you can laugh at the former. This is also a large dissapointment as hearing the initial ideas for the album really excited me, and anyone who read ROARF could probably identify the exitement I felt when album details were announced and for this to be my payoff is simply horrendous. This just causes readers to feel bleak, depressed and probably suicidal in some cases. And the worst part is that this is the pure intention of the album. As an album that wants to present us with a theartical production that will shock, chill, depress and make people feel like they will lapse into an eternal sense of doom, Lulu manages to do just that. And I really wish it didn't exist.

Lou Reed and Metallica's Lulu will be released on the 31st of October via Vertigo Records.

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