The Folk Implosion iTunes Tracks

The Folk Implosion

Sometime scientists of the shambolic-like, SEBADOH/Sentridoh geezer Lou Barlow’s side-project The FOLK IMPLOSION – featuring former PALACE/OLDHAM agent John Davis – became a main event after hitting a rich, dark seam of form on the soundtrack to Larry Clark’s cult controversial KIDS (1995) {*8} flick. Accompanied by a part-Various Artists album, whose stealth was in shifting between primeval splurge, orchestrated dissonance, and CAN-esque death-march, FI’s position gave lie to its lo-fi clichés.
`Natural One’ was the hit single of course, a half-sung hypno-groove putting a minor chord, LEFT BANKE-sampling spin on BECK’s thrift-store economy. They bettered that with the Satie-sampling `Wet Stuff’ (a track that recalled nothing so much as forgotten blues mystics MASTERS OF REALITY), the coma-inducing mesmerism of `Nothing Gonna Stop’, and the American Werewolf In London-goes-trip-hop creepiness of `Simean Groove’. That they failed to delve deeper into this electro-swamp fever remains one of the more disappointing legacies of an album which the Rough Guide To Rock hailed as “dazzling”. Haunting is maybe a better adjective, but there’s no denying that it was possibly the best original “indie” soundtrack of the 90s, bookended as it was by DANIEL JOHNSTON’s `Caspar’ and the epic SLINT monologue, `Good Morning Captain’.
That aside, The FOLK IMPLOSION were the fifth outfit that Dayton, Ohio-born/Boston-based workaholic Lou Barlow had helped form, the previous four being (not including one-off collaborations):- DEEP WOUND (1982-84), DINOSAUR JR (1984-1989), his solo Sentridoh (1986-2002) and the transitional SEBADOH (1989-1999); the latter a platform for co-writer/drummer Eric Gaffney (until he was superseded by Bob Fay) and Jason Loewenstein. Note too, that he’d re-formed SEBADOH in 2013, and buried the hatchet with the maverick ex-buddy J MASCIS when they and sticksman Murph re-booted the seminal but sprawling DINOSAUR JR.
Taking a cue from his early DIY releases cut by his own Sentridoh at the turn of the 90s, The FOLK IMPLOSION kicked into reverse gear – so to speak – with a c-30 cassette, `Walk Through This World With…’ (1994); diluted to an official 7”EP release soon afterwards. Basically short-sharp-shocks of tuneless, two-chord sketches of anything goes, songs one might recognise over the crashing cymbals and squealing, were re-treads of TOM PETTY’s `I Won’t Back Down’ and NIRVANA’s `School’.
Hardly conventional yet again, but at least delivered officially for the Communion Label, 1994’s mini-set TAKE A LOOK AROUND….. {*6}, was more of the same – a dozen or so dirges jam-packed into just over 22 minutes. If the MINUTEMEN could make it work, why not FOLK IMPLOSION? Showcasing the minute-to-two-minute long `Sputnik’s Down’ (think The RESIDENTS on punk pills), `Slap Me’ (straight outta CBGBs), `Had To Find Out’ (very SEBADOH!), the VU-esque `Boyfriend, Girlfriend’, the RICHARD HELL-ish `Better Than Allrite’ and the almost wished-for `Start Again’, it was all over much too soon. Could’ve been a genuinely classic album had it been longer. But that was just Barlow.
Back on independent terracotta after “Kids” turned FOLK IMPLOSION into brief overnight sensations among the collegiate at least, `Palm Of My Hand’, was a clever enough slice of indie-pop, but it would take something eclectic to compete with his own SEBADOH; note too, that the FI were mixing up the medicine with Deluxx (messrs Bob Fay and Mark Perreta) as Deluxx Folk Implosion; one-off, `Daddy Never Understood’, was even more confusing and indeed refreshingly anti-commercial.
Now ripe and ready to deliver their first full-length set, Barlow and Davis released DARE TO BE SURPRISED (1997) {*7}. Embracing brittle CAN-like rhythms and hypnotic hooks, tracks such as `Wide Web’, `Pole Position’ and `Insinuation’ (the latter two also 7” singles), had all the makings of classic records, just that, under all Barlow’s faceless aliases and musical masks, it was hard to immediately define what constituted a fresh release from the prince of lo-fi – too many fingers in the pie, so to speak.
A first for Interscope Records (Domino in the UK), ONE PART LULLABY (1999) {*7}, saw accusations that The FOLK IMPLOSION – much like un-subconsciously autocratic J MASCIS was with his now ruptured DINOSAUR JR – was Barlow’s baby. Of course, none of the above was necessarily true, especially as the latter genius allowed stalwart sidekick Davis to, get on occasion, his two-penn’orth in – `Kingdom Of Lies’ a perfect example. Normally brooding and brittle in his neurotic SEBADOH persona, Barlow was free to brighten up the corners of his musical being with the shiny spirit of The FOLK IMPLOSION; `Free To Go’, `Back To The Sunrise’ and the title track, almost optimistic and hopeful.
As Lou was gearing up to find a fresh direction and impetus from somewhere else, up popped THE NEW FOLK IMPLOSION (2003) {*6}, a record that was to ultimately separate his musings with the now rested SEBADOH; and indeed, The F.I. (with solo artist in his own right, JOHN DAVIS). Officially a trio with seasoned indie campaigners Russ Pollard (drums) and guitarist Imaad Wasif (both ex-Alaska) on board, Barlow could express any emotion he wished. Reaching out to lovers of the folk implosion himself, NICK DRAKE, and his devotee disciple, ERIC MATTHEWS, Barlow and Co signed off in graceful aplomb on the foreboding `Pearl’, plus `Coral’ and `Brand Of Skin’.
LOU BARLOW’s hectic schedule never let up after FOLK IMPLOSION, releasing solo sets (“Emoh” in 2005 and “Goodnight Unknown” in 2009), although the real McCoy was when the lo-fi rock icon re-established himself in DINOSAUR JR. (three sets: “Beyond” 2007, “Farm” 2009 and “I Bet On Sky” 2012) and SEBADOH (“Defend Yourself” 2013). When does this man sleep?
© MC Strong 2008/BG-LCS // rev-up MCS Sep2013

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