Headbangers’ Brawl is a weekly column where Metal Insider’s Bram and Zach take a moment to debate and analyze two opposing sides of a topical issue occurring in the world of metal and/or the music industry.
When Lou Reed and Metallica announced that they were working on material together, it seemed like an odd combination to everyone (other than to Reed and Lars, that is). And while we’ve been trying to reserve judgment until we heard the album Lulu in its entirety, the first single “The View” didn’t give us high hopes. But late Wednesday night, the wait ended two weeks early as Lulu is streaming in its entirety online. So now that Bram and Zach have heard more than 30 seconds of each song, they’ve decided to weigh in on the good, the bad, and the ugly qualities of Metallica and Lou Reed’s Lulu in this week’s Headbanger’s Brawl.
Zach: To be fair, not all of the songs on Lulu are as bad as “The View.” Maybe it’s because the first single helped lower our expectations… a lot, but Lulu definitely has a few cool moments (I was going to say “interesting moments” but that might be too kind). There’s some decent riffs in “Pumping Blood” and “Mistress Dread,” and “Iced Honey” (though definitely not a normal Metallica song) is actually a solid, simple song. The main problem with Lulu, though, is Lou Reed. Just like “The View,” Reed’s spoken word/singing sounds awful and really out of place on most of the album.
With that said, though, Reed can’t receive all the blame. While some of the riffs are decent, they also sound like left-overs from Load and Reload. And that only refers to the songs that are decent. Some tracks, like “Frustration,” sound like Metallica literally just played random notes while Reed spoke into a microphone. And while James Hetfield is the only saving grace on “The View,” his voice suffers the same fate as Reed’s, sounding weird on songs like the opener “Brandenburg Gate.”
Bram: Lulu? More like Lolol! No, honestly, this is… something. I’ve listened to the album through one time so far, and I can’t say it was an easy listen. I mean, I guess the best thing I can say on first listen is that I can honestly say there’s nothing else remotely like it. It’s high concept, and you can definitely feel Lou putting himself out there. On the other hand, it’s certainly pretentious and self-indulgent, with or without Lou Reed’s vocals.
As you mentioned, the closest Lulu gets to a straightforward song is “Iced Honey,” it’s riffy, catchy, and perfectly reminiscent of “I Disappear,” the band’s post-Load contribution to the Mission: Impossible 2 soundtrack. Lou’s even singing a bit on this one, as opposed to croaking. But aside from that, it seems a bit jumbled, and way too long. Three of the 10 songs exceed 11 minutes. Not even anything on …And Justice for All was that long, and I don’t think any Metallica song really needs to be.
All of this being said, I’m looking at this as a metal and Metallica fan. With the exception of maybe three songs, I’m pretty ignorant to the works of Lou Reed. I’d really be interested on getting the opinion of a Lou Reed fan. Would they be put off by the music or Hetfield’s vocals? And would more literate Lou Reed fans embrace the avant garde-ness of Lulu? I think I’m going to take a few and listen to this again to see if anything opens up on a second listen.
Z: I think you hit it the nail on the head when saying how we (aka, most of the metal community) are approaching Lulu as metal/Metallica fans. We do need to accept the fact that this isn’t a “Metallica album”, which is evident after only one listen. With that said, it is still James, Lars, Kirk, and Rob playing on the album. And I can’t help but find it ironic that the band’s latest “creative endeavor” is being streamed the same week Lars revealed his biggest “creative mistake.” So with that being said, Bram, would you say that Lulu might be Metallica’s biggest creative mistake to date?
B: I look at this as Metallica’s Napster debacle of this decade. Many of their fans are going to hate them for this, but they’re proud of what they did and not apologizing at all. And I don’t think they should be. They’re legitimately proud of the album, and if they pushed some creative boundaries and are happy with this, then good for them. Metallica fans have almost two weeks to listen to the album, and they’ll vote with their wallets. No one’s forcing them to pick up Lulu, or “Enter Old Man,” as I’m calling it. But after listening to it today a little bit more, it makes a little more sense. Some of the grooves on the album are pretty solid, and while Lou Reed isn’t going to make any sense any more, I can at least see what the five collaborators were aiming for, even if they missed the mark.