There is an album that came out back in 2011, that the world seemed to really take a rather negative turn on. You’ve all heard about the collaboration of the great Lou Reed and the mighty Metallica and their album Lulu. The majority of people that heard the album immediately called it atrocious and worthless. I’m probably, no, I am in the minority of people out there that actually like the album. Now before I tell you why I dig it, let me give you a little backstory on how all this came to be.
The inception of this collaboration began in 2009 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert. Metallica was chosen to perform with a variety of different artists from the rock world. Lou Reed was one of the rock contemporaries that joined Metallica on stage for a renditions of The Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane” and “White Light/White Heat.” After the show Lou suggested to the band that they should work together. It wouldn’t be until 2011 that this finally came to fruition. Metallica was originally brought in to re-record various unreleased songs Lou Reed had written. There were a batch of songs that Lou had from a piece of work called Lulu, based on the plays of German playwright Frank Wedekind. Metallica brought a slew of different arrangements to the table and the rest played out with the band and Lou working together to create the album. Lulu is a piece of art that is very misunderstood. The full story of where the material comes from is quite dark and horrific and comes from a place that most people wouldn’t dare tread. There are two pieces Earth Spirit and Pandora’s Box that sum up all the parts of what Lulu is all about.
The critics of the music world truly denounced the album calling it one of the worst albums of all time. This is where I come to the albums defense. First of all, if you are not a Lou Reed fan, you are one, not going to like this album, two, if you’ve never listened to Lou Reed, you won’t “get” this, and three Lou had picked Metallica to be his backing band on this project due to the intensity of the content that Lou had written based on these plays. As a Lou Reed fan since I was a very young child, when I first heard about this collaboration, I was overjoyed. I was going to get to hear two of my favorites working together. Lou has and always will be one of the best songwriters of all time. His influence since the late 60’s is astounding. Many bands wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground. Lou has always been an unorthodox artist. Anyone that has taken the time to delve into his catalog can attest to that. The choice of Metallica for this project is one that is pretty astounding. Having a band that has gone against the status quo for most of their career link up with a guy like Lou is like kismet. The 5 of these guys created an album that is an art piece through and through. It’s not a Metallica album. This is a Lou Reed album.
If you were Metallica and one of rocks biggest titans asked you to work with them on a project, you’d jump at the chance to do that. You know you would. To the guys in Metallica, this was one of those instances when doing this would be fulfilling artistically. Metallica has never been a band about quantity, thankfully. They spend time crafting their material. Some of their output hasn’t been what the “fans” wanted, i.e. Load, Reload and St. Anger but, they have always stuck to their guns and did what they felt was right.
Don’t be so quick to dismiss this album. It’s very involved and not for everyone that’s for sure. Lou Reed isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but if you give him a chance and take a deep look into the works of Lou, it will all make sense. Lou was an artist first and foremost. His lyrics told stories and hit on subjects many would find taboo. One day I will write up a whole thing about the greatness that was Lou Reed so you all can really delve into his works.
Lulu is like scotch, it’s acquired taste. As I’ve mentioned already, this is not an easy listen and you should not be expecting a Metallica album. If you really want to give this a chance, I highly recommend looking into what the plays are all about then go in knowing this is Lou Reed’s album with Metallica as his backing band.
Lou Reed & Metallica- Lulu:
Lou Reed and Metallica- Live:
Lou Reed and Metallica- Sweet Jane (Live):
Lou Reed and Metallica- White Light/White Heat (Live):