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Fans of Folk Implosion, Sebadoh, and Lou's solo work as Sentridoh will find a lot to like here. "Emoh" represents some of Barlow's strongest songwriting in years and will have longtime fans and newcomers alike singing along. Leaving the lo-fi behind, Barlow takes his place as an indie rock elder statesman and a modern day folk singer with this record.
Back in the mid '80s, when Conor was still in diapers, Lou Barlow was moaning gut-wrenchingly emotional indie-rock into a cheap tape recorder, on his own and with pal Eric Gaffney. It was a creative outlet separate from his day job as bassist for very loud proto-grunge act Dinosaur, but once Lou left the band the project took on a life all its own in the guise of Sebadoh. Barlows best songs are unabashedly dorky nursery rhyme songs sung in a honey-coated multi-tracked croon with generally minimal backing music, the strum of an acoustic guitar often its center. Lou doesnt always write the best lyrics ("If you love me tell me with your eyes, they never lie"?) but Emoh, his first solo album in a decade, recorded with a host of friends, is a true return to form. A few songs percolate with drum loops and tape hiss is notably absent here. Whether the record-buying public still cares is another question entirely, but, from a heartfelt cover of Ratts "Round & Round" to the slowly building and beautiful "If I Could," no one can say Barlow didnt try.
Back to the album "Emoh", I can't say enough good about it. It made me ashamed to be a disheartened musician who gave up writing a few years ago. And no those weren't tears flowing from my eyes...when I get really hungry they drool. Alchemists tried it for years....they just had the wrong tools and approach...with guitar in hand Lou has created an original template for musical gold. The sad fact is the youth are too busy either with the newest walking talking puppet of a Ken doll selling prepubescent sex or their older siblings buying into the smeared face paint, hell-spawn, gender bending, clownish peacock of the month. When mining for diamonds deep in the earth...most of the stones of true beauty remain there and escape the carving and shaping by boars for the masses of mediocrity.
Lou Barlow is one of the most talented singer/songwriters in pop music today. He should be a star. By that I don't mean, MTV and commercial radio stardom, but the college radio crowd should be playing this CD and buying it by the shovelful.
Mr. Barlow has every element of artistically driven pop music nailed down except one, style. He isn't a poseur. He looks and acts like a rather dour, mild-mannered geek. And to my mind, that's the one thing that's keeping Mr. Barlow and this CD from being a commercial success.
This is one of those albums that you'll find in a record cutout bin a few years from now, buy it because it's a bargain, play it and say, "Why wasn't this a hit?" You can say that about a lot of CDs that should get attention but don't. Likely, someone who makes it big in a few years will mention this CD as a big influence. It's the kind of music that other musicians love, but maybe the public just isn't ready for. Big Star. Joe Henry. Graham Parker. The list goes on and on of great, but no buzz acts that sound better and better in hindsight.
My favorite songs are Legendary, Royalty, and Puzzle. Legendary is a slow, sad song, and its hard not to feel his pain in this one. Royalty is a catchy song, and one of the most musically complex songs on the album, and it is pretty amazing. Puzzle is my personal favorite. It is slow, catchy, and amazing. It is one of those songs that are hard to describe simply through words. Just listen to his voice and the repetitve guitar work (not always a bad thing!)and you will probably be feeling everything that i do when i hear it
The bottom line for this album is that if you at all like folk and emotion driven by a talented man, then pick it up. It is certainly worth a try! For me, he is one of my favorite folk singers, right there with Damien Rice and Iron and Wine. Trust me, you will love it if any of these characteristcs are something you admire in an artist.