Let’s get down to brass tacks: I like LULU. I don’t think it’s the best thing Lou Reed or Metallica have ever done (though I think it was a great opportunity for Metallica to get their minds off of themselves for a second), and I agree with a lot of the existing criticisms of the album. It’s overlong (by a lot) and even its best tracks have an unmistakable oil-and-water quality. Yet for as much as these two have nothing to say to each other musically, I’m still compelled by the inelegant mating in parts.

Ultimately the reason I like this album is that it’s sincere, and that’s a quality I don’t feel enough of anymore. We’ve American Idol’d and Pitchfork’d away anything that isn’t cool, and even if you’re not a fan of either of those tastemakers, I dare you to take a long hard look at the shape of your current tastes and see if their fingers haven’t reached some part of you. This album is desperately uncool, everyone involved is over-the-hill and irrelevant. There’s no synths, most of these tracks sound like outtakes from ...And Justice For All-era jams (some in the best possible way) and...did I mention these songs were long? Wow, so effing long...

But I really do like it. Lou Reed’s somehow still plumbing his brain stem for the most perverse psycho-sexual rants this side of Coil, in this case from lyrics to an abandoned theatre project. Metallica really get some choice riffage in, some of their best ensemble playing in years. The production by Hal Willner is lush and impeccable, replete with wonderfully strange string arrangements and drones, never wanting for less of this or more of that.

The highlight of the album for me is the ramp-up of “Pumping Blood” leading into the straight thrash assault of “Mistress Dread.” That’s about the heaviest this thing gets, but the rest of the album, while it works in fits and starts, works best against monotonous tasks occupying long swaths of time like a drive or, in my case, typing at a desk all day; you know those kinds of albums, like Jesu’s debut, that you can just dive into when you have the time,and ease in and out of because it doesn’t require your full attention throughout its duration. In this case, it feels appropriate that some of the fat was left on.

As someone whose head explodes at the thought of an album that represents the perfect mating of Transformer and Master of Puppets, I readily admit this ain’t it. Nor, when I think about it, is such a thing even possible. But close to the mark is still something quite good and at certain points even wonderful.

Parts of this review may sound defensive, and from an economic standpoint, Lou Reed perhaps and Metallica certainly need no cheerleaders. But from an artistic standpoint, they do and that’s my job. I think I feel so defensive about this recording because of the people who think it’s funny that Lou Reed says lines like “naked and spermless / like a girl.”

I don’t think he thinks it’s funny, and I feel that when I listen; that’s why I like LULU.

--Alee Karim

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