Look, we all know that the “The View,” the first single released by Lulu, the collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica was junk. It showcased the worst impulses of both artists — Reed sounded every bit of his 69 years, like an old man yelling at the government to get their grubby hands outta his Medicare, and Metallica sounded every bit like the modern Metallica, the one with big chunk-a-chunk riffs mastered to shit. Yet, should we be so dismissive of this album before even giving it a fair shake? I know this is the internet age and opinions are sharp, quick and unwavering, but these artists are responsible for a big stack of classic albums. Lulu has to have some redeeming qualities.
Should you want to listen to Lulu and have your opinions of Lou Reed and Metallica survive, if you want to get through Lulu and survive, period, here’s some helpful tips:
1. In addition to releasing the wrong song as the first single, Lou Reed and Metallica made another huge mistake when the album was first announced and Reed proclaimed it, “The best thing done by anyone, ever.” Look, Lou, you may have heard pre-release, internet hype is the way to sell records these days, but the hype isn’t really hype if you’re the one supplying the hyperbole. In this case, you’re just begging for someone, ok, the entire internet, to take you down.
I know this is going to be hard, but in order to get through Lulu, you’re going to have to eliminate that quote from memory and realign your expectations. Them Crooked Vultures, the supergroup featuring John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), succeeded in part because it didn’t claim to be the best rock album ever. These were friends having fun in the studio and on stage, who released an album with no strings attached. As the listener, try a similar plan with Lulu and keep an open mind.
2. I know I just told you to forget what you know about Lulu, and to keep an open mind, but I have to add one caveat — Don’t bother with “The View.” Hell, don’t bother with the first side of the record. While it’s true no one asked for a Lou Reed and Metallica collaboration, it’s even more true that no one asked for Reed and Metallica to do a reinterpretation of “Sweet Jane.” “Iced Honey” is just that.
3. Start with the longer songs on the second half of the album, like the eleven minute, “Dragon,” and skip around. Instead of banging you over the head with a clunky riff, Metallica starts this one off with a three minute drone. Now, when the heavy metal hits, and Reed’s still rambling, the collaborative effect isn’t nearly as shocking. Hell, I’ll go further — This is a song I’ll listen to again.
Even better “Little Dog,” isn’t metal at all. Here, the drone is the song and it actually provides a compelling backing for Reed. It doesn’t overwhelm him, but instead, accentuates his fragility.
Now we have two songs, “Little Dog” and “Dragon” that happen to fall back to back on the tracklist, at numbers eight and nine. That means if you can make it through the first half of the album, you actually have 19 minutes of quality waiting for you.
4. Yes, the basic format for Lulu is a pairing of Reed’s open-mic styled poetry with Metallica’s crunching riffs, but some times you have to just ignore the Reed half of the equation. Reed refers to something as a “Kotex jukebox” in “Dragon.” Let’s not dwell on the “Kotex jukebox.”
5. As we continue skipping around, and we are still sticking to the long songs first rule, and the second half of the album before the first half of the album rule, we find two more tracks that don’t do irreparable damage to both artists reputations — “Cheat on Me” and “Frustration.” The music on “Frustration,” in particular, is closer to Black Album Metallica than St. Anger/Death Magnetic, actually showing some degree of nuance.
6. You know what? I think it’s now safe to say, if you want to survive Lulu, the key is the second disc. When this thing is officially released, it’ll be available on two CDs (It’s over 85 minutes long), two LPs, and digitally. If you really, really need to have the physical product (And as optimistic as I’m being here, I am not recommending you spend $45 on the vinyl), just make the first disc or first LP into an art project.
7. Who am I kidding? The minute I hit publish on this post I am never, never, never, never ever going to listen to Lulu again. The best way to survive Lulu is to not listen to Lulu at all. Close that window in your browser. Erase those songs from your memory and put on an album from a time when Lou Reed and Metallica really mattered, like Reed’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Animal or Metallica’s And Justice for All, and the world will be right again.
I can’t say you should, but if you want to, you can listen to Lou Reed and Metallica’s Lulu, here.