Lou Barlow is a bona fide rock star. I had no idea who he was when I picked up his 2009 release, “Goodnight Unknown.” The disc was surprisingly good. I liked song after song and started to wonder, “Who is this guy?” The songwriting was remarkably mature and I had never heard the name. Turns out Lou Barlow was a founding member of 3 bands you may well have heard of, Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, and The Folk Implosion. I have some Sebadoh on my iPod. I don’t have any of the other two, but I’ve heard of both. So Barlow has been as successful musician for over 25 years. He knows how to write a rock song and it shows on “Goodnight Unknown.”
Barlow doesn’t try to do too much on this album. They play their instruments, you don’t get many crazy arrangements, and the sound is relatively clean. The strength of “Goodnight Unknown” lies in the simplicity and quality of the songs. The melodies are engaging, the lyrics are meaningful, and the arrangements all fit. It is not the best album I have heard this year, but it is a rock solid effort by a musician who knows his way around a recording studio. In fact, Barlow himself produced the album with a little help from Andrew Murdock (who has worked most notably with Godsmack and Alice Cooper). Give my favorites a spin and see if you’re not interested.
- Sharing – Basic, slamming percussion and regular chords hit 4 per measure march this song along behind Barlow’s alto.
- Goodnight Unknown – This is a big and friendly pop song with a bit of a 60s folk-rock throwback feel. Just a bit, though.
- Too Much Freedom – Here is a quieter, acoustic song with a pretty melody and deep lyrics. I like the variety of sounds Barlow and company are comfortable playing.
- The Right – More simple percussion and breathy alto singing. This reminds me of ‘Sharing,’ but it’s even catchier.
As I said, I don’t have any Folk Implosion or Dinosaur Jr. Any suggestions as to what I should pick up first?