Being Lou Barlow

It's not as bad as it seems.



Crocodile Cafe, 206-441-5611, $10

9 p.m. Wed., Oct. 16

YOU’RE Lou Barlow.

You used to be Lou Barlow from Dinosaur Jr., but that was back when guitar noise fueled radio stations and indie rock was still good.

You were once Lou Barlow from Folk Implosion, a band that had a monstrous hit with “Natural One”—a song that served as the centerpiece to a film equal parts kiddie porn and Catcher in the Rye.

You were once Lou Barlow from Sebadoh, you were once Lou Barlow from Sentridoh, and, in fact, you’re still both of those things. Sometimes, at least. Like right now. Actually, you just put out a CD called Free Sentridoh From Loobiecore, a collection of old and new songs that are about as left-wing Neil Young as they are right-wing Daniel Johnston.

You’re not exactly textbook kooky like Johnston (or Brian Wilson or Syd Barrett), but you are kind of weird. But at the same time, you’re also the workingman’s Neil Young. Even though Neil Young already does a pretty good job being the workingman’s Neil Young, you give it an even bluer collar. For example, you record on four tracks, pretty much exclusively. Anymore than that and, well, you don’t exactly have a cute metaphor for it, it’s just that one wouldn’t be necessary. Not for what you’re doing. You like to keep things simple—aggressively simple.

Your songs are kept in boxes: assorted TDKs with truncated titles written in black pen. When you get ready to release a new record, you take a couple of boxes off the shelf and put about 20 tracks together. You’ll have time to write more later. As it ends up, a portion of the songs on your album are maddeningly juvenile yet oddly endearing.

Of your songs in general you say, “Well, I like ’em all—they all mean something to me. I gave up trying to figure out which were ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ No one really agrees on that stuff anyway.”

A few of the tracks on your newest album, however, display an affable humility, a self-deprecating burned-out- urban-folksinger shrug: That blue-collar thing again. Those songs are like the ones you were writing in 1992, on records like Smash Your Head on a Punk Rock (Sub Pop)—back while you were being Lou Barlow in Sebadoh and writing about the cleverly heartbroken. When quizzed about a line that goes, “I am the freak upon the slope,” from the song “Mountain on the Hill,” you admit your house is, in fact, on a bit of a hill, but it’s a nice one in East Los Angeles, so don’t worry. But yes, you add, some bad shit has happened since you moved there five years ago, although lately you’ve found ways of “climbing up from the well.”

In the end, you really are the same guy you were in 1989, when pretty much everyone was caught somewhere between R.E.M. and rock ‘n’ roll. And you like it that way. You never really expected much of anything and you’ve stayed reasonably healthy and relatively happy because of that. Even though, after hearing your latest record, your dad suggested you move back to your native Massachusetts quickly—before it’s “too late.” Whatever that means.

And when asked what your business card would say—should you, all of a sudden, need a business card—you say “Lou Barlow, Cat Lover.” That seems about right. Things are really OK. And most nights, when you climb into bed at the end of the day, you’re able to fall asleep.

Being Lou Barlow is really pretty good.