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coverpic flag US - Massachusetts - Full Moon 234 - 09/28/15

Lou Barlow
Brace The Wave
Joyful Noise Recordings/Domino Recording Company / Playground

Lou Barlow is one of the 'heroes' of US indie rock (and lo-fi, bedroom/kitchen/living room/basement recordings). He co-founded the shortlived, hard-core punk band Deep Wound in 1982. Some two years later, Barlow (guitar) and drummer J Mascis went on to form Dinosaur Jr. The rest is history, sort of, but on the road there has been many a crossroad, intersections, turns and u-turns, including bumpy rides, 'engine problems' and 'vehicle' trouble. Dinosaur/Dinosaur Jr. saw Mascis take care of the guitar/vocal duties while Barlow picked up the bass (and had a few vocal parts - plus, he wrote a couple of songs). In 1989, not long after the band's third platter, Bug Barlow was kicked out of the band. Barlow went on with his Sebadoh project, which was formed (as a duo) in 1988 by Lou and Eric Gaffney. Sebadoh has been an on/off band (and Gaffney's been an on/off member), but they returned two years ago (without Gaffney) with their 9th album, the marvellous Defend Yourself. The line-up now counts Barlow (on vocals, guitar, bass), long-time associate/member (since 1989?) Jason Loewenstein (on vocals, bass, guitar), and Bob D'Amico (drums). In between Sebadodh, Barlow has released records as/with his side project Sentridoh (a.k.a. Louis Barlow Acoustic Sentridoh, Lou B's Acoustic Sentridoh, or even as Lou Barlow and Friends), as well as with The Folk Implosion who are Barlow and John Davies, plus solo works under his own name. What can I say but Gimme indie rock!

Brace The Wave is Barlow's third solo album, following 2005's Emoh and 2009's Goodnight Unknown (with Melvins' Dale Crover, Sebastian Steinberg, Lisa Germano, and Murph among the guests), both released by Merge. Where Goodnight Unknown six years ago was an 'electric' (but far from being noisy) album, Brace The Wave is a 'pure' acoustic one (hey, wait, there's an exception to every rule - "Nerve"'s got an electric touch to it), holding Ukulele and trad-style folk songs recorded live in studio. The nine tracks on the album shows that Barlow has developed and refined his skills as a song-writer over more than 25 years. To quote Domino, Barlow is 'most comfortable writing uncomfortable songs, Brace the Wave finds the songwriter exploring yet another transitional period in his life.'

Most of theses songs show a toned-down Barlow, but he's far from being low-voiced. He for sure holds on to the punky DIY and home-recording aesthetics. At times he (briefly) reminds me, or makes me think of Bob Mould. Yet, most of the time he's and sounds like himself - simply Lou Barlow, and some of these songs is possible to imagine as 'regular' Sebadoh songs (electrified and amplified). The folk aspect is also highly present, especially with the opening "Redeemed" and "C + E", "Pulse", and "Lazy". The 'title track', "Wave" is one of the stand-out songs, along with "Boundaries", the tense "Nerve", and the restless "Moving". All in all, Barlow has put out an impressive solo album. Once more. Now, I can only sit back and wait for Sebadoh's visit when they tour Europe this October. Maybe we'll get to hear a song (or two?) from Brace The Wave as well. Until then, I'll reload and refresh on Sebadoh records (or most of Barlow's extensive and acclaimed discography. Brace the Sebadoh. Brace the Lou.

PS! In 2005 Barlow and Mascis (and drummer Murph) reunited for some gigs, and so far the original threesome have put out three solid and acclaimed albums; Beyond (2007), Farm (2009), and I Bet on Sky (2012). They are now on the road again, rolling, in parallell to Barlow's (and Mascis') solo work as well as Barlow's Sebadoh. To quote Lou Barlow about his solo 'comeback': 'I just finished a solo record, which will be out in September, and right after that I'll start recording with Dinosaur Jr. again.' The Dinosaurs are not extinct yet.

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You may also want to check out our Lou Barlow articles/reviews: Apocalypse Fetish, Emoh.

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