Too many a moppy-haired hipster, Lou Barlow needs no introduction. His CV is smattered with one lo-fi success after another, from his days as a seminal indie rock artist alongside J. Mascis in Dinosaur Jr., to his later collaborations known to many as Sebadoh and Folk Implosion. Scene politics and allegiances aside, chances are great that Lou has given you reason to hum along at some point in his 20-year career.
While it’s easy enough to spot the common thread that binds his diverse projects, judging an album like Emoh is really just a matter of which Barlow era attracts you the most. For those with Barlow baggage, the first step is to forget everything you know and have heard over the years. Blank slate in place, Emoh is without question a solid effort that does its part to save music as we know it.
“Royalty” builds off the acoustic warmth and irreverent intimacy of the disc’s first four tracks, eventually rising in a dark, larger-than-life chorus, the likes of which have not been heard since David Eugene Edwards’ Woven Hand. Folk Implosion fans will immediately gravitate toward “Caterpillar Girl,” a hooky anthem that speaks volumes about Barlow’s ability to craft clever jams without the help of infinite instruments and studio trickery.
And what would a Barlow joint be without a few sing-song ditties. Downright blasphemous to some, outright hilarious to others, “Mary” attempts to tell the story of how Jesus really came to be, using sweetened melodies to offset the sting of lyrics like, “Immaculate conception, yeah right/Crazy Mary, good that you lied/A test-tube baby, seed of the lord/Breaking the law with the man next door.”
Not to be outdone, the comparatively innocuous nursery rhyme “The Ballad of Daykitty” is a folksy finger-snapper that serves as an appropriate closer to Emoh. As a former Ratt fan who eventually came to his senses, I can’t help but think that Barlow gave the track “Round and Round” more than it deserved, but it fits right in with the rest of Emoh.