Album Review: Lou Reed & Metallica – ‘Lulu’

It's a surprising triumph

The internet almost broke under the weight of WTFs and ROFLs when this unlikely collaboration was first announced. It brings together rock’s most curmudgeonly men under one studio roof; one assumes [a]Van Morrison[/a] was invited but told them all to feck off. So what do Laughing Lou and thrash metal’s mightiest band have in common? Therapy. Reed, who endured electroconvulsive shock treatment to vanquish his gayness at the behest of his parents, doesn’t talk about it. [a]Metallica[/a], on the other hand, are happy to involve their fans in their healing process, as 2004’s ‘Some Kind Of Monster’ testifies.

Rock is littered with odd pairings: Bing/Bowie, Kylie/Cave. The difference between ‘Lulu’ and these beauty/beast couplings is that [a]Lou Reed[/a] is no ingénue, is he? That’ll be where you’re wrong. On this hour-and-a-half long player Reed oft assumes the character of Lulu, the desirable young temptress from German playwright Frank Wedekind’s late 19th-century play Earth Spirit and its sequel, Pandora’s Box. What Lulu lacks in emotional warmth she makes up for in sexual hunger.

I am your little girl”, sings Reed on the throbbing, tortuous ‘Mistress Dread’. He then becomes Jack The Ripper on the unhinged ‘Dragon’, and it all goes a bit American Psycho: “I’m clawing your chest ’til your collarbone bleeds/Piercing your nipples ’til I bite them off”.

You’re unlikely to play this record at your next soirée but the breadth and ambition is to be applauded. [a]Metallica[/a] have performed way beyond what many thought them capable; they improvise freely as Reed’s musical bitch, while for him this marks his most outré offering since ‘Metal Machine Music’. Pretentious? Oui. Self-important? Natch. Any cop? Pretty damn fine actually.

Jeremy Allen