New Lou Barlow album! Brace The Wave is the third album Lou Barlow has recorded under his own name. It’s his first since Goodnight Unknown in 2009. Barlow was a key figure in the alternative Boston, Massachusetts music scene in the late ‘80s and ‘90s firstly with Dinosaur Jr then with the incomparable Sebadoh, Sentridoh and Folk Implosion.
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I believe this record is part of a secret competition among Dino Jr. members past and present, wherein they try to wring the most emotion out of a good plaintive folk record. It’s important, you know, this folk rock thing; if it hadn’t met up with indie music, where would we get the Annoying Boy Playing Guitar At The Party trope from? Lou Barlow obviously did a lot for the band in their early days, then fucked off to be in some other seminal indie rock band (the one no one talks about, also known as Grunge Pavement). Now here’s this thing, ‘Brace The Wave’, a record that showcases his softer side in case the Folk Implosion hadn’t already done that.
‘Brace The Wave’ is bare and its songwriting is simple: a song like “Nerve” is a fine example of how Barlow constructs chunky sounds even at the sparser levels, with chords bumping over coarse rhythms and acoustic strums getting encased in electric guitars and modest drums. “Moving” sees him take a more formal visit to his soft lo-fi days with an acoustic/bassline interpolation that recalls Angel Olsen (as a Dave Grohl indie rocker). Other moments revert to real folk traditionalism, with “Wave” taking in mandolin strums and real corny lyrics about longing — again, though, he can’t quite escape from his signature musical aesthetic, bringing in a grungy baseline and a typical Sebadoh melody.
I’m now remembering that the songs I like by Sebadoh were actually written by Loewenstein, which explains why little of this feels inventive to me: the production is bare and delicate, but the songs are variably overstuffed with instrumentation or underdeveloped in songwriting. A completely acoustic track like “Lazy” suggests that Barlow thinks folk music speaks for itself, and it meanders in and out of nothing in particular, never reaching a compelling idea. Good demos? Greg Demos.
8/10 Penrith Steve Customer review, 6th September 2015
I feel as though I need to step in and stick up for my old pal Lou Barlow (we're not really friends) after the above review. This is not written in anger and I don't wish to argue with Robin as his opinions are perfectly valid, but I need to add some balance as it seems he may not be such a fan of Lou Barlow anyway. Lou Barlow may not have re-written "The Freed Pig" or "Beauty Of The Ride" here but this record is good and arguably his best solo album that he's released under his own name. speaking as a Lou Barlow fan I'm perfectly happy with it and I think many Barlow Fans will be as well. "Moving", "Wave", "C + E" and the fabulous closer "Repeat" are the stand out tracks.
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