- by Sean Hewson Rating:8 Release Date:2016-10-28 Label: Domino
Lou Barlow is one of the all-time greats. As a member of Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr (amongst many others) he has made some of the greatest records ever (You're Living All Over Me and Bubble & Scrape are my favourites). Parallel to his loud career, he's also had a quiet, solo career and Apocalypse Fetish is the latest release by Acoustic Lou. It is a five track EP played mainly on a ukulele that has been tuned way down.
Apocalypse Fetish plays to Lou Barlow's many strengths: His heart-breaking voice, which has grown stronger with age; his love of direct communication (via home recording, his open and honest interviews (Our Band Could Be Your Life) or his Loobiecore web-site); his ukulele playing, which is an adaptation of his half-plucked/half-strummed post-Lemmy bass-playing.
Lyrically he's on good form too and the title track addresses the idea that we might have a need for Apocalypse, that not everyone is watching the various predicted end of the world dates pass by with relief but with disappointment. It is also a meditation on how we are controlled by fear - 'The safer we are, the more unsafe we feel. That's the curse.' It is a very Lou Barlow way of looking at things - there is no relief at survival, just the feeling that he's been cheated or denied something. On Apocalypse Fetish he has also created a sound-world, one that's mainly based around the low ukulele and his voice, but also with some simple, solemn synth and his own backing vocals (best heard on Pour Reward). It works very well in the context of a short recording, rather than over the course of a full album
Apocalypse Fetish is a good way in to Acoustic Lou. His emotional openness and yearning voice is similar to Mark Eitzel, whilst the directness and closeness of the recordings also remind me of his old chum Elliott Smith. He also likes a good chorus so he never gets lost in tuneless introspection in the way that less melodically-gifted singer/song-writers can. Lou Barlow has said that he'd 'be proud to have Apocalypse Fetish be my final record'. Let's hope it's not because he still has a lot to offer across his many different outlets.