David Bowie considered Glenn Branca for a mutual project (there was a short collaboration between the two but the result never saw the light of day). And Scott Walker made a stunning album with Sunn O))). Stranger than fruitcakes and unlike anything I heard before (which is very much a recommendation).
Belonging to the same generation of pop & rock stars, Lou Reed made, perhaps surprisingly, a more conventional choice when he was looking for a partner for his Lulu-project: the boys from Metallica. Creator of repertory that's considered by many as the Holy Grail of Heavy Metal, this collaboration with the former member of the Velvet Underground was received with both disbelief and expectation. Announced as Berlin meets Master of Puppets. As a result, Lou Reed even received death threats from Metallica fans who blamed him for destroying the career of their favorite band (did they really need Lou Reed for that?).
Announced as "Berlin" meets "Master of Puppets"
Was it that bad? It has a weirdness that obviously alienated Metallica fans who - when “Master of Puppets" is mentioned as reference for a upcoming Metallica-album - lose, whatever there is left, much, if not all, of their capability to keep an open mind for new music.
The result is a poetry-slam over a metal jam. It milks out a few good ideas in songs that are in need of a good edit. It sounds like something that is stuck in pre-production. In a way it is the worst of both worlds and Reed, even by his standards, sounds off-beat and detached. But then, was "Berlin" not the same kind of monster? A singer who is losing himself in songs that, very often, are lasting too long. A shortcoming also Metallica-songs tend to suffer from. And Reed, being his own book, with that unique voice that tends to nag if you don't have a taste for it. Lulu is very much a Lou Reed-record. Don't try to make it through this album searching for "Ride the Lighting" and "Master of Puppets"-references because you will find nothing here but the title of the album-song "Frustration" closing in on you.
In a way "Lulu" is like watching an accident waiting to happen. Reed rhymes and Metallica plays. And more than once the rhyme master is losing it when the band puts the pedal to the metal
The Lulu on the album cover looks a bit like Louise Brooks with bleached hair. Louise Brooks played Lulu in the movie Pandora's Box from G.W. Pabst in 1929. A film noir that, almost 90 years later, lost nothing of its glamor and elusiveness. Louise Brooks - there is only one Lulu because there is only one Louise Brooks - is seductive and dangerous (for the men who love her and dangerous to herself). She is an impossible woman but we hate to see her go. When she has her death wish fulfilled by the hands of Jack the Ripper we feel a knot in our stomach.
Compared to the Lulu of Louise Brooks and that other incarnation of Frank Wedekind's brainchild, in Alban Berg's opera, Reed's portrayal of this femme fatal is by far the most one-dimensional. His Lulu drives solely on anger and frustration and it's hard to see why she attracts men in the first place. Her death comes only as a salvation. We are not challenged to sympathize with or feel anything for her.
David Bowie thought "Lulu" was Lou Reed's best effort. Up there with "Berlin"
But for all what is missing here, solid songwriting to begin and to end with, Lulu from Lou-tallica became a kind of guilty pleasure for me. It's an album I learned to appreciate for what it is: a Lou Reed-album with Metallica jamming in the background. The best ideas on the album are in the first half. I like Miss Distress and Pumping Blood which gives us Metallica being their thrassiest self. A feel and approach I wouldn't mind if they could bring it towards their next studio-album.
For what it's worth, David Bowie thought "Lulu" was Lou Reed's best effort. Up there with "Berlin".
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