(review by William Wheaton)
Lou Reed and Metallica have released their first single. They sound a lot better then Genesis P. Orridge does these days, I’ll give them that much
There are two extreme takes on the whole Lou Reed/Metallica collaboration. On the one side there are rock critic types that are saying that this is the best album in years. The other extreme is that you see blog comments in particular written by die-hard Metallica fans that this album is a complete train wreck. As material from the album has begun to be released, I’ve become of the opinion that these extremes are both really silly. I think devote Metallica fans are angry and have been angry for a long time that Metallica don’t sound exactly like they did in 1985. The web phenomenon of Metallica fans complaining about Metallica working with Lou Reed is quickly becoming the most obnoxious web phenomenon of all time. There’s also been minor controversy about the London Underground authorities banning the album artwork from trains and train stations because it supposedly looks “too much like graffiti” and a British columnist named Lucy Jones attacked the poster as misogynistic.
The single sounds about like the metal subgenre doom metal or somewhat like Black Sabbath. The collaboration between Metallica and Lou Reed doesn’t sound awkward because music that exists in a happy medium between Metallica and the Velvet Underground already exists. If you played a Metallica riff at the tempo of ”Venus in Furs” by the Velvet Underground it would sound about like doom metal. I’ve got bands like Evoken and the Howling Void going all the time. I think the big threat was going to be that this album wasn’t going to be heavy. What’s been released so far is.
Lou Reed wrote all the lyrics for the project. There are going to be no serious surprises on there for people who know Lou Reed’s music well. It seems like Lou Reed has been writing one tribute to a friend that passed way after another for 25-30 years. The lyrics on this one are some such madness about sadism and violence, such as was heard on his Velvet Underground albums and his solo albums Berlin and The Blue Mask. Lou Reed was kind of always that way. I saw some old footage of the Velvet Underground playing recently where they were doing their whole multimedia thing from the 60’s. The footage shows some young man pretty clearly on drugs and his face at first appears to show a state of euphoria but then on closer examination it appears to reveal a state of psychic agony. As I’m thinking of it, a lot Velvet Underground footage is pretty much like that. That’s pretty typical Lou Reed territory. However to put it into perspective in terms of time, Ian Curtis of Joy Division was influenced by Lou Reed in that regard and Ian Curtis hung himself over thirty years ago. So Lou Reed is using tricks he’s used for a long, long time.
This is not revolutionary music. It is very good music. There’s a kind of psychosis to it all. Metallica switches over to a doom metal thing, Lou Reed rants about killing a whore or whatever, sounds fine to me. Best album in years? You go through those Metalhit Free Download albums or tune into the Doomed station on Soma.fm (which is their gothic/industrial station) you’ll find a fair few excellent bands. There’s a general direction of music that Lou Reed and Metallica is an example of, albeit a very interesting example of, more so then it is a solitary work of genius.