Preview: Lulu - Metallica & Lou Reed
IT'S new. It's brave. It's the future. It ranks among the best work each artist has ever done. Yeah, right.
There's been a lot of hype around Lulu, Metallica and Lou Reed's collaboration project that's set for release on October 31.
Much of it has come from the artists themselves.
"This makes ... And Justice for All sound like the first Ramones album," drummer Lars Ulrich has said of the album, while front man James Hetfield called the union "potent".
Reed, 69, told The Guardian that "we pushed as far as we possibly could within the realms of reality".
"This is the best thing I ever did, and I did it with the best group I could possibly find. By definition, everybody involved was honest.
"This has come into the world pure."
It's a grand statement and so is Lulu, a concept album inspired by Frank Wedekind's hundred-year-old plays Earth Spirit and Pandora's Box.
Reed invited Metallica to help him out during recording sessions in Northern Carolina in May after the pair met at an awards bash in 2009.
But fans reacted badly to first single The View, and judging by feedback online, what they really want is for Metallica to start recording the follow-up to 2008's comeback Death Magnetic.
Guess they're going to have to wait a little longer.
Our track-by-track guide to Lulu:
1. Brandenburg Gate: Metallica albums don't usually begin with acoustic guitar, but the serenity doesn't last as Reed delivers his best Johnny Cash impersonation over crashing metal sludge-rock. The album's first song - which, bizarrely, features Reed and Hetfield singing the line "I'm just a small town girl" together - is also its shortest at just over four minutes.
2. The View: 'Loutallica' released The View first and it's no wonder - with that menacing lead riff it's the most Metallica track here. But you'll spend most of it wishing Hetfield's aggression would take over, instead of Reed infesting things with his mumbling poetry.
3. Pumping Blood: It starts out like a typical Metallica riff-fest. But then Reed comes in, completely out of time and sounding like Mr Burns trying to sing karaoke versions of The Black Album. By the end, when Reed stops mumbling, Metallica actually sound like they're starting to enjoy themselves, but it's way too late.
4. Mistress Dread: Woah. Metallica haven't played this fast since Dyer's Eve from ... And Justice For All. It's a great thrash-metal juggernaut that's faster than horses hooves. But once again, Reed's warblings let the side down. "Tie me up and beat me," he moans at one point. It's starting to sound like a good idea.
5. Iced Honey: Reed could probably use some honey for that ragged throat of his, which is really starting to grate. It's the halfway mark and there are no complaints about the music - Iced Honey sounds like a great Metallica track in the making. But it's Reed's lyrics and delivery that stand out like a sore thumb. When Hetfield helps him out at the three-minute mark on the line "See if the ice will melt for you," it really shows him up.
6. Cheat on Me: Find a comfy pillow because here's Lulu's first 11-minute opus, and it's about self-sabotage. It doesn't really get going till the eight-minute mark and the chorus - "Why do I cheat on me" - sure gets repetetive.
7. Frustration: All the tracks on Lulu's second disc are more than eight minutes, so you might want a cup of tea to go with that pillow. This is quite cool though, a meandering basement brawl that twists and turns like the best Metallica tracks do. Shame about Reed's acapella segments - if only he could hold on for the ride.
8. Little Dog: Here comes Reed's countrified Cash impersonation again. Reed mumbles over a quietly sprawling track that would make a great theme tune if the Coen Brothers ever make a sequel for No Country For Old Men.
9. Dragon: Stick around because there's a really cool guitar meltdown in Dragon - a track that's probably Lulu's best. A foul-mouthed Reed sounds like he's fired up and ready to match Metallica's mood swings, which happen often in Dragon. The album should end here on a high, but ...
10. Junior Dad: Nineteen minutes! What did we do to deserve this?
Phew. That's it. Ten tracks over two discs of what could probably pass as a university student's mashup project for a musicology assignment.
That sounds harsh and admittedly, Lulu does have its moments, with most of them coming from Metallica's tried-and-true rhythm section.
It sounds like there's a great Metallica album in there if only Lou Reed headed off for a lie down and Hetfield took over and let off some steam.
Reed's voice just doesn't seem to fit over Metallica's gargantuan riffs - the two come from different worlds and here they feel like they've been spot-welded together. It makes for a jarring listen.
Metallica fans are diehard but they've already had their patience tested with the St Anger debacle, so it's going to be really interesting to see how they react to this.