Even though it’s been wildly and almost unanimously massacred by both critics and fans, the one-time collaboration between Lou Reed & Metallica has become the latter’s most adventurous, and strongest release in a more than 30 years career.
Lulu appears like a Swiss knife in a battle axe collection; I don’t need to tell you it’s out of place. Indeed, I believe the reason why it was so broadly bashed is that it was seen as a Metallica record. The amount of “Metallica” sound throughout the album is so few that it could’ve been sold as something completely else and it would’ve been a lot better received, even though it might’ve sold less.
Lulu is a concept album, a quite long one, with more than 80 minutes of music. It’s not sung by James Hetfield, the band’s frontman, like every other Metallica album; instead, Lou Reed uses a mix of speaking and singing – reminiscent of the Sprechgesang used in the famous piece “Pierrot Lunaire”, by Arnold Schoenberg – to deliver his own lyrics, based on two plays originally written by Frank Wedekind, namely Erdgeist and Die Büchse der Pandora. The story is of a dancer, her ups and downs, along with pretty literal depictions of sexuality and violence, hence the sometimes rather crude lyrics. This is where most of the collaboration lies: Lou Reed writing and speach-singing, while Metallica performs the music to the story, and few backing vocals.
The voice of Lou is one to get used to, but once that is done, the story, along with the music, will grab you, and most probably won’t let you go.
On Metallica’s side, they truly are at their top, musically. Using the many cards they have, and even showing off aspects we didn’t know them, the band creates increasing momentum when it’s time, they show tension and release, and play around with the songs’ structure in order to best support Lou’s delivery. This is particularly the case of the drums, which surprised me through the album, with off-time chops sometimes coupled with the guitars that really help create the soundscape of the album.
I would love to see Metallica follow through with this “new direction” they aimed for with Lulu. I suppose that’s what they will do, seeing how they responded to the criticism about the album, except they most probably will be without the help of Lou Reed next time. If Metallica’s next album is as adventurous, as “progressive” in its own right, and experimental as Lulu, I’m excited about it.
Get Lulu practically everywhere.