Is this worst possible collaboration album in the history of mankind?
Collaborations between bands have always been a bit of a dodgy area. Granted, the odd few seem to work, despite your conscience screaming that it’s wrong (see Aerosmith teaming up with Run-D.M.C. and smashing the original ‘Walk This Way’ to pieces), but the vast majority just sound shit and ultimately are shit (see the endless stream of trash Fred Durst popped up on in the noughties.) But over the course of last summer, one such coming together was announced that greatly distressed me; Metallica and Lou Reed.
If you are sane, the first question you ask when you see this isn’t the usual, “Hmmm, I wonder what that will sound like?”, but rather “Who is this album being made for?” Are there vast numbers of Velvet Underground fans out there screaming for a bit more stadium metal behind Lou Reed’s voice? Are there Metallica fans who feel deprived having just one set of croaky vocals, a decade or two past their prime? Of course, there are neither; the only reason for these strange bedfellows to unite, lies in pure ego and self indulgence. Reed wants to seem more extreme than he now is and yet, his attempts ultimately likening him to a balding, middle-aged man who just bought a leather jacket and a motorbike. Metallica are also having their own little midlife crisis. Desperate to undo nearly thirty years of rebellious, beer swigging attitude and be seen as credible, they’ve decided to enlist one of the greatest vocalists in living memory, with the ironic side-effect of sapping the credibility out of all involved.
Let me be honest with you now. Every judgement I made on this car crash of an album, I made before seeing any details, hearing any songs, reading any interviews or observing the artwork, but in turn, nothing I’ve seen in the slow reveal since has changed my mind at all. In fact, every time I hear a new detail about the album or hear an extended sample, I do so getting steadily more depressed about the impending result. The most distressing detail about the whole album is the concept; yes, it’s a concept album by the way. The album is called Lulu, and charts the story of a dancer and her relationships. If that didn’t interest you enough, it also involves Jack the Ripper. If that still didn’t interest you, it’s worth noting that, ultimately, this is the score for a failed reworking of century old German plays Earth Spirit and Pandora’s Box. Whilst this is the exact quirky territory you may expect Reed to cover, I really wonder what Metallica were thinking.
When they and Reed played together at their induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, did they really see this as the logical next step? If so, why? Surely inspiration cannot be so dried up that, not only must they recruit an outsider, they do so bringing no ideas and perhaps more importantly not shooting down ridiculous ones Reed gives them. ‘The View’, a number in which Reed talks over plodding riffs, was released to near universal groans, seemingly proving every sceptical comment thrown Lulu’s way to be correct; which brings this rant to the point I wanted to make. Sometimes it is just better to focus on what your fans want. Now, I’m not saying that Reed or Metallica should pander to the masses and put out what they feel is a terrible album, but surely, they want to keep in the favour of long term supporters. By putting out Lulu, not only have they put out a potential flop, but they’ve also pissed in the face of fans waiting patiently for a real new album and that shows just how out of touch with their audiences both are. Collaborating with somebody your fans probably don’t like, on an album they didn’t ask for, in turn delaying the album they want.