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Goodnight Unknown

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Album Review

Like the man says, the more things change, the more they stay the same. It's been close to a quarter-century since Lou Barlow became the uncrowned king of the lo-fi revolution thanks to his early recordings with Sebadoh, but while in 2009 he has a number of gifted musicians on hand to help him, and a professional recording studio at his disposal, Goodnight Unknown shows his songwriting style and musical direction has remained remarkably consistent with the passage of time. Producer Andrew Murdock, whose previous clients include Avenged Sevenfold and Godsmack, helped Barlow out with these recordings, and Dale Crover (of the Melvins), Sebastian Steinberg (ex-Soul Coughing), and Lisa Germano all sat in for the sessions, but outside of the higher fidelity, most of the tunes on Goodnight Unknown could have been recorded in Barlow's living room on a four-track, given the simple, uncluttered approach he takes to these songs. This might suggest Barlow is stuck in a rut, but that's not the way Goodnight Unknown sounds; instead, these 14 songs are the work of a man who has mastered his defining style, and with this album he's showing he knows how to write a moody but expressive pop song and bring it to rich emotional life on tape just as eloquently as ever. In some respects this is a long way from Sebadoh's early days; "The Right" suggests the grooves of his Folk Implosion work, "Sharing" and the title tune rock out simply but decisively (Crover hardly brings the same level of heaviness to his drumming here that defines his work with the Melvins, but he reveals a sure rhythmic confidence in his performances), and "Don't Apologize" is a compelling run-through the heart of darkness. But most of Goodnight Unknown is built around Barlow's barely accompanied acoustic guitar and his tales of romantic disappointment, and he hasn't run out of heartfelt variations on his favorite theme; Lord knows what will happen if Barlow's muse ever starts understanding girls, but their mystery is still a source of lyrical inspiration to him, and he not only hasn't run out of things to say about the subject, he has plenty of good music that suits his heartache. Lou Barlow is still the poet laureate of hiss and heartbreak, and although the hiss is missing on Goodnight Unknown, that's the only defining quality he's lost with the passage of time.


Born: 17 July 1966 in Dayton, OH

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Arguably the most prolific songwriter of his generation, Lou Barlow has also been one of the most influential; thanks to his lo-fi legacy, any geek with a guitar, a four-track machine, and an unrequited crush on a girl could become an underground pop star. Although born in Dayton, Ohio, on July 17, 1966 Barlow was raised primarily in Amherst, Massachusetts, where during high school he joined forces with fellow introverted outsider J Mascis in the hardcore band Deep Wound. After the group's breakup...
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Goodnight Unknown, Lou Barlow
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