Lo-fi legend Lou Barlow has played in three of the most influential indie bands of the last quarter century: Dinosaur Jr, Sebadoh and the Folk Implosion. And while he’s still recording and touring with the reunited Dinosaur (whose Farm was released this summer), his main concern these days is his solo career. Goodnight Unknown (Merge), Barlow’s second album under his own name and the follow-up to 2005’s Emoh, is his best collection of songs in a decade and features guests including Dale Crover (Melvins) and Lisa Germano. Barlow also recently joined Lara Meyerratken in Ben Lee’s new incarnation of Noise Addict, which released It Was Never About The Audience for free last month. Barlow (backed by the Missingmen) is opening for Dinosaur throughout October and part of November. As if that double duty wasn’t enough, Barlow will also be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with him.
Barlow: Tom Waits, Townes Van Zandt, Leonard Cohen. Cult figures. People love them. I’ve listened to all of them. Good/great stuff. But, in my opinion, Bill Callahan is better than all of them. He has been moving, ever so slowly (the tortoise and the hare metaphor might be appropriate) toward greatness for many years now. Back in the day, when Sebadoh used to share bills with him, his shows were excruciating. He seemed to have a capacity for self-sabotage that exceeded even my own. But the songs—”Bathysphere,” “A Hit”—brutally personal. It seemed very early on like he really cared about what he wrote. This at a time when most people were cultivating ironic distance. The recordings were patchy, but every album had heartbreaking lyrics and strange humor; there’s always a line that makes me laugh out loud. And so it went for years. His voice deepened, he developed a Willie Nelson fetish, and lo and behold, with 2005’s A River Ain’t Too Much To Love, the elements were in place. I listened to his new album, Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle, in its entirety yesterday (had an mp3 of “Eid Ma Clack Shaw” for about a month), and it is astounding. One of the many cool things about it is the triumph of simplicity in a time when precocity is being mistaken for heart. But mostly I’m thankful that B.C. gives a shit, because it seems like he struggles with that. But he persevered. It seems likely now that B.C. will “break through,” a la Will Oldham circa 2003’s Master And Everyone. I used to get depressed when a peer out-classed and surpassed me. Now I’m happy to have more great music in my life.