With “Cheat On Me”, I have now arrived at the halfway point with the Lou Reed/Metallica team-up album LULU. One disc down, one to go. And after having listened to six songs and nearly 45 minutes of music, it is a strange feeling to still not know if this thing blows or not. I have lived with it for the last week or two and the whole thing just IS. I find myself cringing when I have to review the next track but weirdly welcoming it into my life. LULU is the person in your life that you’re not sure whether you like or not – the security guard in your office building, your landlord, the friend of a friend whose number you have entered into your phone for some reason.
There are elements that I’m definitely not a fan of that occur throughout: I’m not nuts about how Lou’s vocals seem to be pressed onto the front of the recordings like they came from a different session, and sometimes he sounds like Imus. Metallica veer from weakness to weakness, overplaying when it should be tasteful and attempting to sound arty when it’s beyond its reach. But there’s a spirit here that is alluring and it feels like listening to this thing has me circling some larger life lesson. So I will proceed.
SONG SIX OF TEN “Cheat On Me”
“Cheat On Me” is about eleven-and-a-half minutes long. It’s the second longest track on LULU, surpassed only by the nineteen-plus minute set closer “Junior Dad”. I have no clue what these guys are going to do with a twenty-minute song so I’m kinda excited to get there. I’m also excited because it’ll mean that I’m done reviewing LULU. But I was not drafted into doing this so I’ll zip my fat mouth for once.
The song starts with a full three-minute ambient stretch with droning guitars and strings. It’s pretty well done – no overplaying or ham-boning it; even Lars is under control with a few random thumps here and there. Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t mistake this for the Dead C at any point, but they’re trying to set a mood and they’re succeeding.
Lou eventually joins the song, singing “Why do I cheat on me?” for a while as the song builds to a tense and unwavering mid-tempo. The guitars rise and fall but on the whole the song locks in and doesn’t vary from this spot for its final six or so minutes.
And the whole thing works! Lou’s performance is solid and his lyrics are simple and understated. He upshifts to a more tortured growl in the final minutes and it makes sense. Metallica ride the line really well, ultimately choosing to support the singer and the song, resisting the urge to spread out or swallow Reed with the type of histrionics that are second nature to it. There’s even a call-and-response thing from Lou and James that doesn’t drive me up the wall.
It took six songs for Reed and Metallica to sound like they’re playing the same song in the same room - I know that’s not exactly the pinnacle of artistry, but for these two insanely different acts so set in their ways, it’s not nothing either! – but that’s exactly where they landed with “Cheat On Me”. The tastefulness in the execution is what makes this work and I hope they can keep it going. I don’t have high hopes that they can, but I don’t have any expectations for anything that happens over the next four songs.
“Cheat On Me” is the highpoint of Disc One of LULU and I am giving it 5.5 out of 10. I know, right? I surprised myself with that one too!