Review Summary: It is what it is, and good enough one at that, that deserves at least one more listen after you hear it once.
Music is art. And sometimes that art is created not to please the masses, not to top the charts, not to be catchy and relatable, but to fullfill the artist's soul. While that is not very common among the chart toppers of today, this applies to collaborated project between Metallica and Lou Reed, "Lulu".
It is truly a rare occasion that album of this magnitude can really enrage the people in today's state of world, but it seems like James Hetfield and the boys with Lou on the vocals did just that. Clocking at almost 90 minutes, it is a double disc, but since it is only 10 tracks long, some of the cuts are insanely long, like "Cheat on Me" and "Dragon" being over 10, and "Junior Dad" almost 20 minutes long! The negative thing about this is that the songs are highly repetitive and they very slowly build up so they can wear on the listener after couple minutes.
However, before I dissect it with more details, I'm telling you, completely honest - this is a decent album. Firstly, the concept of the record is based around the two German plays, that were sexually and violently explicit, and Lou delivers us just that with the opening lines of the opening track, "Brandenburg Gate". 'I would cut my legs and tits off...' is widely considered ridiculous and unappealing to any listener, but this is not supposed to be that, it is poetry based on sometimes that was this shocking, this gross back in the day. It is not bad writting (none of it is), it is done on purpose, and when it comes to lyrics all around, they paint a pretty abstract picture to casual listeners, those who don't know what "Lulu" is all about will maybe listen to couple of tracks, laugh at writting and of course - hate on it whenever they can in a discussion. However, if you followed Lou Reed throughout his career, this is nothing really all that surprising. It is very poetic and his mumbling voice really fits. It is spoken word for the biggest part, so don't expect any falsetoes or huge octave ranges, but as for the concept, it works.
Metallica on the other hand is doing equally pleasing job, mainly when it comes to riffs. The riffs are very strong, some even beating ones they came out with on their own records (post "The Black Album" tho). James Hetfield backs up Lou Reed and he sounds just as good as always. Of course it is easy to make fun of 'I am the table' line, and I'm not going to deny it is a ridiculously silly line, but it is not embarassingly bad, it is just a metaphor. I cannot exactly translate you what Lou Reed meant when he was writting this stuff, but it sure surves some kind of purpose. That song, "The View", is definitely one of the shorter songs, and surely the highlight, as riffs are thrashy, but also kind of slow and sound pretry heavy, they're fun and Lou doesn't sound bad at all, and James is even better. Drumming is, as it commonly is with Lars Ulrich these days, not very technical, but it does good job keeping the rhythm well, and even stands out here and there in the tracklist.
"Iced Honey" probably is the best song here. Hard rock sound mixed with spoken word works probably the best here, lyrics are, well, the least gross thing on the whole project, and James' backing vocals are excellent. As a whole, 1 CD contains shorter songs and it is even catchy and memorable for numerous lines and fun instrumental passages.
The inclusion of strings on the intire record is great, they shine on longer songs like "Cheat on Me" and the epic Lou Reed's swan song "Junior Dad". Acoustic guitar sounds very chilling and it adds a lot, the only negative being repetitiveness of the track.
One major issue with this, however, is that the clash of these genres sounds really awkward. Not all the time, sure, but for a thrash fan, and even metal fan in general, spoken word vocals can sound very distracting from the music. Sometimes vocals don't really match with the music, and it sounds like these are all first takes of each song. As I mentioned earlier, the length is another unpleasant thing, as it sometimes seems that the song goes on forever.
Still, it is undeniable that there is some value on "Lulu". Its creators did this for themselves and were highly passionate about it, they gave their all and delivered what might be the most misunderstood and the most insane record of the decade, in a sense that the actual concept is completely ignored, so the lyrics more all the more laughable. It is some type of an art rock record, and it has even some avant garde elements to it. It doesn't really fit the time, since nobody really comes out with music like this today, and it sure deserves couple points for that, as they created something unique and distinguishable from everything that's out there. It requires listening with an open mind, not expecting another "Ride The Lightning" with and old man delivering Shakespearean type lyrics. It is what it is, and good enough one at that, that deserves at least one more listen after you hear it once.