The Angry Scotsman
Oh my...here to begin?
When I heard Metallica and Lou Reed were doing a collaboration, I was intrigued to say the least. What on Earth would that sound like? While I had no idea what to expect, safe to say it was not this.
I have to have a bit of fun, there were some young, (my age) Metallica fans that started discussing Lou Reed, and I knew they had absolutely no idea who he was. I thus enjoyed their utter horror at this album, clearly having no idea this was never going to be a standard Metallica album.
Then there's the Metallica purists who haven't liked the band since "selling out" 20 years before, and the die hard Metallica fans, who hated this because it doesn't sound like Metallica. Some of course hate anything this band does, while fans of Lou Reed were also pretty displeased with this. Never have I seen such a diverse hatred for an album.
Well, what about the music itself? This has been a difficult review to write. I tried to free myself of all these outside influences, sat down and really listened to this, digested it and really wanted to think about the music. Keep in mind, I actually think St Anger isn't so bad, so I'd say I'm fair as possible. What did I finally come up with for "Lulu"?
Messy. Random. Boring. Laborious. Painful. Unrewarding. A failed attempt at being experimental.
"Lulu" is a lot of simple, boring music. Emphasis on a lot. 87 minutes! Most of it sounds random, like it was not even constructed but just thrown together and the songs drag on and on. Lou Reed does spoken word over this musical train wreck, and age has gotten the best of him. There's no way to put it: he sounds terrible. His singing is no better, and in all fairness I think James Hetfield doesn't sound very good either.
There is no hand holding, this album goes right into it. A nice acoustic guitar intro leads into Reed's nasaly, raspy voice delivering the fairly hilarious opener "I would cut my legs and tits off". There's a cool droning riff that kicks in with James howling while Lou continues on. It works, for a bit. It became quite boring though and felt longer than a 4 minute song should.
"The View" became a bit of an internet sensation due to the line "I am the table!" being shouted by James, but this song is actually pretty good! There is a simple, but cool, riff that plays as Lou Reed delivers spoken word over it, slowly and subtly building to a brief, moderately up tempo crescendo with James singing. It shifts back to Lou, building back up to another James crescendo and finishing off with some shred like soloing, transitioning back to that churning, chuggy riff.
The reason this song works is because it was well constructed. It never grows tiresome because it builds. There are some minor changes to the drum work as the riff drones on, there is progression opposed to simply going on without change. The crescendos hit hard, the settle downs feel more impactful, there are some solos and neat guitar work sprinkled throughout. There is variation, progress, a coherent song structure. Thus no part gets stale or feels awkward, and there is enough going on to keep you there.
Unfortunately this can't be said for the rest of the album. Sure there are good moments sprinkled throughout, but it's like dumpster diving to find them, a big dumpster and all you find are nickles. There's not much reward for all the work and filth. Whenever "Metallica" comes through, it's generally simple and uninteresting. Little technical skill or songwriting ability is displayed.
The album actually finishes on a pretty good note. The only other good song, "Junior Dad" is a 19 minute journey, and I don't use that word lightly. The song actually moves. Peaks and valleys, builds, some nice riffs, melodies and songwriting. There are many textured parts and the drumming is simple but effective, and throws enough unexpected moments and fills in there to keep your head bobbing. Much of the second half are just strings, but it's quite beautiful and is a fitting end to this slow paced, gentle yet moving song.
I wanted to emphasize those two songs, "The View" and "Junior Dad" to give this album some positive words. The pretty good pieces of bread that hold together this sandwich of minimalist droning, noise, spoken word, hard rock all smushed together randomly. I have read that most of this album is improv, and it shows. Kudos for the ambition, but it's not something I think Metallica proved very capable of doing.
I always applaud a band for doing something different, for experimenting and for challenging their fans. I understand this is what Metallica was doing with "Lulu". They have always been a band to try something new, no matter the criticism, and "Lulu" takes it to the nth degree. Metallica is saying we've been around for 30 years, sold 100 million albums, we have everything we could want so we're gunna do something different, something we want and no fucks are gunna be given. While I admire the effort, it is not successful. Just like how people shouldn't automatically hate something without giving it a fair try, a band experimenting doesn't mean it needs to win our approval just for doing so.
"Lulu" has 2 good songs, the rest of which is boring and frankly, terrible. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes painful, I am hesitant to give this album even a one star rating, because even a completionist will be A OK not having this album in their collection. Yes, it may not even be worth having solely to complete a collection, no one would blame you. That said, it's not 100% garbage so I can't give it a half.