By Chad Baalman
Perhaps it's fitting that Lulu has a release date of Halloween (outside of North America). The new collaboration between Metallica and rock veteran Lou Reed could be termed many things that fit the Halloween theme.
Scary, cringe-worthy, a trick perhaps? But definitely not a treat.
What made these two camps believe they could come together and produce something that's pleasing to the ear is hard to tell. Despite good intentions, the result is something that's best left to be heard by their close family and friends.
Imagine going to karaoke night at a local pub when the old man (who has been there way too long throwing back cans of Busch all afternoon) stumbles up to the mic and tries to belt out a tune. You and your friends are having a time and think it's a little funny at first. But after a while you can't wait for someone - anyone - to go up there and drag his butt out the door. A total buzz kill.
That's what you get with Lulu. There are some hints of musicianship, courtesy of some cool riffs by Metallica guitarists Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield. You think there might be some hope. But, alas, this isn't a Metallica album. Someone turned on the 69-year-old Reed's microphone.
The songs, inspired by a couple 19th century works from German playwright Frank Wedekind, feature some "way out there" lyrics.
North America gets its first crack at Lulu on Nov. 1.
For instance, on the album's opening track named "Brandenburg Gate," the first words out of the mouth of Reed, the former Velvet Underground frontman who also penned the 1972 hit "Walk on the Wild Side," are: "I would cut my legs and tits off when I think of Boris Karloff and Kinski / in the dark of the moon."
Really? The madness doesn't stop there. In "Pumping Blood," Reed offers in a weathered voice: "If I pump blood in the sunshine / And you wear a leather box with azaleas. . .Waggle my ass like a dark prostitute / Coagulating heart / Pumping blood."
If those two tracks don't have you reaching for the "stop" button, "Mistress Dread," with a seemingly endless metal filibuster from the Bay Area boys and another disturbing sequence from Reed, will: "I beg you to degrade me / Is there waste that I could eat?"
The Metallica-Lou Reed combo does exhibit a little promise with "Iced Honey," if only from the standpoint that it sounds as if the vocals and crunchy riff actually landed on the correct track. Yes, by this point, the bar had been lowered that much. Hetfield does his part to prop up Reed's shaky performance - "I am the root! / I am the progress," Hetfield roars in "The View." But there's no saving this ship.
It's called a collaboration, but disjointed is a better way to describe this release, recorded during a three-month stretch starting in April at Metallica's HQ studio in San Rafael, CA. It's produced by Reed and Metallica along with Hal Wilner and Greg Fidelman.
It sounds as Metallica laid down a decent instrumental only to have Reed come in and spew out bad poetry over top of it, with little regard for rhythm or tune, unaware of what music bed Metallica had supplied. You could say there are two albums going on here. They just happen to reside on the same disc.
Part of you wants to give props to Metallica and Reed for deciding to stick their necks out (way out) for such a venture, but another part of you wants to ask, "What were they thinking?" Publicity? This album will definitely have a polarizing affect, though I would suspect the amount of detractors to outweigh that of the supporters.
If you decide to take the plunge and purchase this disc, you might want to keep that Halloween costume handy when you make the trip to your local second-hand music store to sell it.