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Lou Barlow

Years ago, Lou Barlow was scheduled to do an in-store performance at Wax Trax Records in Denver. He showed up almost an hour late; by the time he walked through the door with guitar in hand, the place was packed to the ceiling. As he hustled past the cash register, he looked up at the store's stereo, which was playing a copy of his then-new CD, Sebadoh's Harmacy. Brusquely and with no small amount of contempt, he muttered to the counter staff, "Take this shit off."

Gross arrogance or gross self-deprecation? That's long been the question at the root of Lou Barlow. His music has always had a mousy grandiloquence, like operas crumpled up and crammed into shoeboxes, and he's as well-known for surliness as for sensitivity. Emoh is the songwriter's umpteenth release, and it still doesn't come any closer to unlocking its creator's soul. Not that it isn't an enthralling listen. A mostly acoustic affair, it's one of Barlow's better batches of blunted hooks and mid-fi folkiness. But his smirking, lukewarm-piss take on Ratt's "Round and Round," while funny enough, doesn't make it any more clear whether he's one of indie rock's greatest paradoxes -- or just one of its biggest wiseasses.

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Jason Heller
Contact: Jason Heller

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