Lulu, commonly known as the album Lou Reed made with Metallica, is really bad. An unlikely collaboration for sure. Reed is known for some of his more polarizing works like Metal Machine Music, and I would argue that those works unquestionably have leagues more merit than Lulu. As far as Metallica is concerned, this could probably be considered a low point, even for them. The bulk of this album is Reed reciting spoken word lyrics over the most obnoxious commercial thrash that has ever been recorded. I must add, some of these songs are long, very long. The final piece is nearly twenty minutes in length. Making it through is not an easy task, but who said writing an article for the water tower had to be easy.
We open with ‘Brandenburg Gate,’ a reference to a monument where the concept takes place. This piece is large, epic and sprawling, and none of it works. Reed struggles to match his old man voice to the power of the constant cymbal hits. Hetfield yells “Small town girl!” in the background. After hearing this, you know you are in for an hour and a half of suffering. As the songs continue, we quickly realize the drummer will not let up on the cymbal ever and will continue to constantly hit the worst sounding piece of metal throughout the 90 minutes. This is actual hell, I am listening to it, and it is so bad.
‘Pumping Blood’ is our first marathon song, and it really could have ended two minutes in. Reed’s lyrics are meant to come across as profound and maybe even poetic, but they really seem quite idiotic. As this is a longer piece, the instrumental devolves into what I must assume is improvisation. Something so mundane and predictable that it resembles a high school metal band trying to back up a senile man reciting his horrible poetry to an audience of no one.
As we move through the album, new ideas are very few and far between. In ‘Iced Honey,’ Reed attempts to sing in what is the most enjoyable song to me. It has all the trappings of the other tunes, but it’s under a melody that I would say is fine. ‘Cheat on me’ is so lame. So lame. The songs get progressively longer and my strength is waning. It seems that for the casual listener, the first track might have been enough. Finally we get to the closing track, ‘Junior Dad.’ The ending here is something I actually do not hate. A composition of what seems like a string ensemble plays us out, and although it seems to be just random chords, it isn’t insufferable.
As a final thought, I would say that there are some good ideas thrown into all of the shit. It is one of music’s most legendary rock acts on the verge of his death, and I believe there is something beautiful about Reed’s fall from excellence, his intense drop from acclaim. Many artists struggle to recover as they get older to get back to their peak, and this was a valid effort. 10/10.