Release Date: Oct 6, 2009
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
I’ve always been of the opinion that J and Lou are really better off without each other. That’s not to say I don’t dig that trio of Eighties Dinosaur Jr albums approved by the All Tomorrow’s Parties mafia. Heaven forbid: Lou’s 'Poledo' was one of the best songs from that era. It’s just that, without whiney milksop Lou, J was able to write FM rock anthems like 'Start Choppin’.
Lou Barlow doesn't need a solo career, really. No matter how you slice the indie rock discography, Barlow is central to anywhere from at least three to as many as 10 canonical releases. Between Dinosaur Jr.'s first three LPs, through the uneven highs of both Sebadoh and Sentridoh and on to D Jr.'s magnetic reunion albums (some might count Folk Implosion...
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.
The first twenty-five seconds of Goodnight Unknown sound pretty much like every other album that Lou Barlow has released. The immediate response is that the song “Sharing” sounds kind of cool, but it’s not as if Barlow is exactly tripping over himself to separate this collection of songs from his work with Sebadoh and Folk Implosion. The rest of the album’s forty-odd minutes confirm early suspicions.
It’s kind of surprising that, considering all his prolificacy over the years, Goodnight Unknown is just Lou Barlow’s second proper solo record. What is also surprising is how Barlow has, on both the wonderful EMOH and his new album, managed to make music that sounds familiar to his fans but also reshapes his dour melodies into something fresh and intimate. Though Goodnight Unknown doesn’t follow right down the hushed acoustic path EMOH took.