Lou Barlow 2: Lou-fidelity
I always identified with guys like Lou Barlow and GBV's Robert Pollard because their prolific output made people start to think, "Maybe a song doesn't have to sound like "Mutt" Lange produced it to be good." Who cares that 70% of Lou's catalogue sounds like it was taped in a bathroom? More importantly -- for better and for worse -- these lo-fi recordings made people realize that all one might need to start making their own albums was a guitar (tuned or not), a 4-track Tascam recorder and a broken heart. Much like how the punk revolution showed people that you don't have to be in Yes to make rock music, Lou Barlow proved that you don't even need the support of a major record label. Shit, the Sex Pistols had a major behind them, and so did the Ramones. Putting out your own records, that's punk rock.
Tonight I'm showcasing a few of Lou Barlow's "lo-fi" masterpieces... a couple from the earliest Sebadoh recordings, and a handful from his side project The Folk Implosion (which, until its most recent album, included John Davis). And what the hell, a song from the "III" album that was no doubt recorded at home as well.
SEBADOH "It's So Hard to Fall in Love":
SEBADOH "Brand New Love": Both of these tracks are from Sebadoh's second album, WEED FORESTIN, and both would be go on to be rerecorded by the band. While the re-recordings are a couple of the band's most classic songs, I prefer these rawer versions.
SEBADOH "Spoiled": Even though I'd heard it long before I'd seen the movie, it's hard to disconnect this track from the movie "KIDS." Barlow did the soundtrack to that movie, including music from Slint, Daniel Johnston and his own Folk Implosion and Sebadoh projects. While a Folk Implosion song called "Natural One" shot into the Top 40 in the US (an amazing feat for indie rock at the time), it was "Spoiled" that truly captured the emptiness of the lives of the kids featured in the movie. Whether you hated the flick, you can't deny that this haunting, mournful dirge isn't the perfect way to end the 100 minutes of nihilism that precede it.
FOLK IMPLOSION "Slap Me": I have to credit my friend Matt for first introducing me to this Lou side project. When someone like Lou (or, again, Bob Pollard) releases as much music as they do, you start to get wary of what to purchase and what to avoid. Matt took a chance and bought their debut CD, TAKE A LOOK INSIDE. One listen to songs like the awesome "Had to Find Out" and the funky "Slap Me" and I knew this "band" had just as much potential as Sebadoh. On a tangential note, John Davis started doing his own home recordings after hearing Sebadoh's WEED FORESTIN. He sent the tapes to Barlow, the rest, as they say...
FOLK IMPLOSION "That's the Trick": After the success of "Natural One" and the incessant radio play that followed that summer, my friend Matt was a tad worn out on the idea of the Folk Implosion. Now, it was my turn to get HIM to check the band out. DARE TO BE SURPRISED came out in the spring of 1997 and soon found itself lodged in my car's CD player for months. It was jammed full of songs that exceeded the pop brilliance of "Natural One," while maintaining that lo-fi charm of the first record. I still recommend this album to people, and I think that the whole first "side" of the record is unstoppable.
FOLK IMPLOSION "Someone You Love": While ONE PART LULLABY, the third album from the Folk Implosion (and the last to feature Davis), isn't flawless by any stretch of the imagination, some of the songs border on the sublime. Davis was sort of pushed to the background on this record, acting more as a backing vocalist. A damn shame. Nevertheless, I still love a few songs on this record, including "Someone You Love," one of the most heavily produced tracks the band had ever released, and probably the closest to "Natural One" of all the tracks I've included tonight. This probably wasn't "lo-fi" at all.
FOR MORE ON LOU:
Lou and Jason, live 2004
The first Folk Implosion interview ever.
Another Folk Implosion interview.
Tascam USA, makers of fine 4-tracks