Saturday, January 28, 2012

Lou Reed & Metallica Lulu

  As listeners of music, we are in many ways, professional appreciators.  There's something in the music that either makes you love it or hate it.  It's either something you will pay for to take home and add to your collection or something that you may sneer at when you walk past it in the store or only allow to play as background when the local radio DJ plays it on his or her show.

       Fans are an interesting culture and as important to the music as the music itself.  Many fans see themselves as part of the band or only choose to accept their favorite artist from one time period of their career.  These are the same fans that hunger for new music from the group but once it's released judge it immediately and harshly when it doesn't sound like the time period that they love from the band.

       With this in mind, I have decided to make the first musical post of this blog about a truly polarizing album that fans either love or hate.  More accurately they love to hate.  It's a strange phenomenon.  With that in mind, let's discuss Lou Reed and Metallica's Lulu album.

       It was announced summer of 2011 that Metallica had recorded a full length album with legendary singer/songwriter Lou Reed of Velvet Underground fame.  The collaboration's earliest roots beginning with Metallica playing along with Lou Reed at his induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  The story is interesting in itself, but the music is what this discussion is about.  The album has received low reviews and low album sales according to Soundscan.  Fans of Metallica's early thrash days hating the album.  Of course it has to be said that this is NOT a Metallica album.  I'll say this one more time for the cheap seats THIS IS NOT A METALLICA ALBUM!  This is a collaboration between artists, but in style and presentation this is a Lou Reed album.  If you don't know Lou Reed, you should first familiarize yourself with his music.  This is pure Lou albeit a very heavy and attitude laden Lou Reed album  This album is based on two plays by German expressionist writer Frank Wederkind, Earth Spirit and Pandora's Box.

       Lyrically Lulu is about an abused dancer/prostitute, the relationships she has that eventually bring her life to an end at the hands of London's notorious Jack the Ripper.  The story weaves through ten tracks on the album in a non-linear story in a sometimes incoherent fashion.  Lou Reed is a master poet, although less of a singer.  This is where the album begins to be a challenge to the listener.  Lou half sings/half speaks the lyrics, going back and forth between melodic and off key singing and speaking.  There is no real sense of timing by Reed in the lyrical delivery so one will find it difficult if not impossible to find musical rhythm in Lou's delivery.  Personally I would find this frustrating if it weren't one of the reason's why I love this album.  This is classic Lou Reed delivery.  The voice has aged some but it still has that captivating quality that has kept him as a musical enigma throughout the past 4 decades in music.

The music itself is heavy, moving back and forth from slow, sludgy rhythms to blinding speed thrash, always capturing the feel and the emotion of the story.  Metallica arranged the music to accompany Lou's vocals and this task was accomplished brilliantly.  Rhythm guitarist James Hetfield provided backing vocals on three songs Brandenburg Gate, The View and the radio friendly Iced Honey, which many Velvet fans will find similarities to Sweet Jane.  In short, to me, this record is brilliant.  It's challenging the way music should be.  It's energetic, emotional, raw, poetic, uncomfortable and in some places downright painful, this is intended in order for the listener to take the ride that Lulu experienced through the stores to her ultimate death.  This is not a good time record to be played in the car when riding around with friends.  This album is more personal and requires a more personal approach.  Get comfortable in your favorite chair, get a beverage of your choice, turn off the lights and just absorb it on the first listen.

       Now let's discuss the vinyl itself. This record is pressed on 180 gram vinyl and cut for vinyl at Bernie Grundman Mastering.  The lows are rock solid the highs are crisp and beautifully reproduced.  I have had the privilege of doing a side by side comparison with the cd and the album delivers nuances that just aren't present in the cd release. Acoustic guitar strings ring and bass lines are far more audible in the LP.  It comes in a double gatefold sleeve with a lyric sheet insert.  The cd includes additional artwork as well as a group photo of Lou Reed and Metallica photographed by legendary photographer Anton Corjbin.  The price for this piece of vinyl though is a little steeper than others at 49,99.  I would definitely suggest listening to this album before making the investment, but for those who love this album, there is no better way of hearing it.  A full streaming version of this album can be heard at  Post your comments below and Enjoy!

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