Collaborations nearly always generate considerable amounts of excitement. The off-chance that the sum will be greater than its parts is always tantalising, no matter how illusory. The announcement that ex-Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed and heavy metal giants Metallica would collaborate on an entire full-length record, then, despite all the cynicism, aroused hopes among a few that something of interest might emerge.
Could the bizarre concept, based on Frank Wedekind’s ‘Lulu’ sequence, actually conceal the stroke of genius? Fascination was only fed by Reed’s announcement to New York Magazine, months ahead of release, that ‘It’s maybe the best thing done by anyone, ever. It could create another planetary system. I’m not joking, and I’m not being egotistical.’ Hyperbolic yes, but was his enthusiasm genuine? Then came the press video, a soft-focus black and white thirteen minute interview of Lou and Lars on a couch. ‘I couldn’t think of anyone more obvious to collaborate with,’ said Ulrich. ‘This is all first take stuff’, said Kirk Hammett, Metallica’s lead guitarist.
The whole Lulu enterprise quickly teetered into ludicrousness. Maybe it was a long term prank: after all, Joaquin Phoenix stubbornly pretended to have ‘quit’ acting and started a hip-hop career for almost two years. But ‘LouTallica’ is no hoax (it hit the shelves on Monday – Halloween).
It’s an arduous listen. Reed utters rambling, melodramatic lines loosely connected to Wedekind’s piece over half-baked Metallica tracks for a full hour and a half. It’s almost difficult to describe individual ‘songs’, for they leave absolutely no impression on the listener as they progress through the record. One is left with only fuzzy half recollections of a noisy, discordant mess. Opener ‘Brandenburg Gate’ begins with Reed’s disinterested claims that ‘I would cut my legs and tits off’, before Metallica’s guitars begin screeching in full force, and vocalist James Hetfield repeatedly (and inexplicably) wails ‘small town girl’ for another three minutes. And that’s probably the most engaging track of the bunch. The whole existence of Lulu, however, has become so farcical that its actual release is almost anticlimactic. Probably best to pretend it never happened, for the legacies of everyone involved.