The Folk Implosion – [Discography Review]

The Folk Implosion – [Discography Review]

Saturday, 29 March 2014

As contrary to the basic mindset of music journalism as it might seem (most critics like to see themselves as taste-makers with an ear for a hit, a finger on the public’s cultural pulse and a keen eye which recognizes emerging future trends), sometimes there’s just no way to explain how or why a band succeeds or fails to break through and become a cultural icon. It could be argued that it just boils down to dumb luck; sometimes a band just happens to be in the right place at the right time with the perfect sound to satisfy a public desire that the public didn’t even realize it was starving for. Sometimes it’s just that simple, and it’s the impartiality of that taste which comes to mind when one thinks of The Folk Implosion. Really, The Folk Implosion is a perfect example of having a lot of positive attributes in their corner, but the fates conspired against them and ultimately ended up consuming them.

Where The Folk Implosion came from and the logic behind the band’s sound is perfectly easy to understand: the band was formed in 1993 by Lou Barlow as a side project away from Sebadoh. At the time, Sebadoh was riding high on the increasing success of a series of well-received albums including Bubble and Scrape and III. Listeners were really responding well and, as their albums got progressively bigger, production values (and the price tags associated with them) went up. While Barlow must have been comfortable with that growth, part of him must have also yearned for the simpler times he’d enjoyed in his band’s earliest days. Sebadoh had begun as a bedroom project which initially allowed Barlow the freedom to explore and develop any ideas he liked (but wouldn’t fit into Dinosaur Jr.’s designs) with the help of a four track recorder. That freedom had been very liberating initially but, as the band got bigger, Sebadoh became more formalized. Suddenly, there were expectations of Barlow’s little band; fans needed larger venues to accommodate larger crowds and with that came increased volume and more rigid song structures because – let’s face it – songs like “Healthy Sick” just wouldn’t work in an arena. Folk Implosion began with the desire to escape that formality and just get back to the simple pleasures of creating music. Because of that (and because it had worked pretty well the first time), Barlow began Folk Implosion with much the same spirit and sound with which he started Sebadoh. With the help of singer/guitarist (and confessed Sebadoh fan) John Davis, Barlow began germinating the seeds for a new band from the same fertile soil he had before – but it didn’t take long for the music to begin growing in new and previously uncharted directions. With the help of a bit of new technology (by 1999, digital production in general and Pro Tools in specific had taken the world by storm) and some new artistic growth (John Davis became especially interested in developing very small and quiet sounds which could then be amplified to larger than life proportions in post-production), Folk Implosion became about more than just being a coy name intended to be the antithesis of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion; it was suddenly a new and interesting strain of rock all unto itself.

What The Folk Implosion was doing by the time they released One Part Lullaby in 1999 was perfectly unlike anything else happening in rock at the time and it was exciting – but it wasn’t to last. By 2002, Davis had left the band in frustration and, tired of making increasingly “quiet” and “acoustic” sounds, Lou Barlow had enlisted Alaska! guitarist Imaad Wasif as well as calling drummer Russell Pollard over from Sebadoh to fill the band’s ranks. The lineup change saw the band’s sound turn on a dime; suddenly darker, more introspective and subdued, The New Folk Implosion marked a new and different direction for the band. In keeping with the “new, different” spirit, The New Folk Implosion signed a deal with iMusic (which was part of ArtistDirect) and began working in earnest to try and re-establish itself but, by then, audiences were not looking in a direction that The New Folk Implosion was interested in going and the group quietly dissolved. It was anti-climactic and just didn’t feel like the right sort of end for a band who had been consistently growing and winning fans just a couple of years before, but that’s how it went.

The Folk Implosion’s end might have been a letdown, but that doesn’t take away from the music that they made, or the method by which they made it. With Folk Implosion, Lou Barlow proved that generating a different conclusion from what basically amounted to the same sonic initiation (Sebadoh and Folk Implosion both began with the same ideas at their core) was perfectly valid; the difference was that people were not employing the same standards to hear indie rock at the time the music was made. It almost sounds too simple, but that made all the difference; Folk Implosion’s music was fantastic – it was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Folk Implosion
Walk Through This World with the Folk Implosion EP
(Chocolate Monk Records, 1993; Drunken Fish, 1994)
At a certain level, a “new release” can be seen as only that for many bands; it is a fresh statement which laughs in the face of fear and declares “Here we are!” for all the world to see and hear. That album might not be the best thing ever (in fact, it almost never is) but it is a permanent document which is available to be discovered at any time following that original release by any and all interested parties. Look at it that way, and a band’s first release is invariably their bravest – even if it isn’t good. That’s the kind of announcement The Folk Implosion’s first EP makes.

In listening to Walk Through This World with the Folk Implosion, it’s easy to discern what co-founder Lou Barlow is doing: he’s trying to reclaim some safe and stable ground he feels he’s lost in the process of getting more successful. By 1993, Barlow’s “other” band (Sebadoh) was well on its way to becoming an alt-rock institution; by then, albums like Sebadoh III and The Freed Man had established both Sebadoh and Lou Barlow as names to respect. Both names had both grown in stature, escaped the shadow of Dinosaur Jr. and established communities of fans in their own right. Sebadoh was playing to larger and larger crowds in larger and larger rooms with each successive release, but Barlow had begun to feel stifled by the attention. He missed the freedom that passing a four-track recorder back and forth with a friend afforded. On the first Folk Implosion album, Barlow boldly ignores all expectations that anyone may have had and travels back to some truly sophomoric basics.

Listeners will get a little shiver as “Eternal Party” skulks its way in to open Walk Through This World with the Folk Implosion, just as they did the first time they heard “Healthy Sick” from The Freed Man so many years before. Now sounding a little older and more solid on the mic than he did in the early days of Sebadoh but still relying on the raw vibe and unfiltered emotion of the music (check out lines like, “A stupid ocean of their own fear/ Give up the notion of limpin’ around – life is an eternal party”) to really make the greatest impact with listeners, Barlow presents himself as a slightly more grown up (if not much wiser) incarnation of himself right away for listeners to measure. In some ways, that sort of near-effortless relapse into old forms is heartening because it proves that the accessibility of Sebadoh’s early records wasn’t just a trite device, but it’s also disconcerting how easily he’s able to forget five years of development at will.

The ease with which a man who has come so far is able to backslide into old habits quickly becomes disheartening and frustrating as Walk Through This World... continues. Immediately following “Eternal Party,” Barlow’s counterpart John Davis co-opts the mic and warbles out a whiny cover of Nirvana’s “School” before gargling out secondhand early Ween-isms like “I Know What I Want Today,” “End Of The First Side” and the medicated/masturbatory anthem “Third Mind Trouble.” There’s no question that all of those tracks are a little earnest and want to make an impression but it’s unfortunate that, because they’re also a little under-developed and aren’t particularly well-performed, the impression they leave isn’t a positive one. Likewise, the (comparatively) far less earnest but significantly more morose-sounding contributions made by Barlow (“This Is The End Of The First Side,” “I Remember The Angels”) don’t do much to move the record along, and the songs where the duo sounds stoned (“My Head Really Hurts,” “Hey, Don’t Say” and “So Sweet, I Swear”) do even less. At each of those turns, it does need to be pointed out that it’s at least sort of evident where Folk Implosion COULD go (there’s the outside chance that Walk Through This World is a sampling of strengths and weaknesses like The Freed Man was), but that it never comes close to reaching a solid presentation is pretty frustrating.

The Folk Implosion
Take A Look Inside…
(The Communion Label, 1994)
It gets said so often that it’s almost a cliche, but the art that some bands make truly does mimic life. The Folk Implosion’s catalogue definitely illustrates that; their first release (the Walk Through This World with the Folk Implosion EP) saw the group awkwardly and uncertainly screaming its way into existence, but the band was already beginning to better arrange itself and had started to assemble some finer creative movements on Take A Look Inside… which appeared less than a year later.

Still a little rough around the edges and steeped in the “classic” indie rock creative paradigm (wherein the common practice is to throw everything against the wall to see what sticks), Take A Look Inside… opens with four very nervous, minute-long bleats of spastic quasi-rock which combine equal amounts of needs-first indie-punk and an almost earnest desire to further refine some songwriting chops. While a couple of miles away from “good,” each of those first songs does show the ambition to at least surpass the strides made on the band’s first EP and they end up being difficult to not appreciate as a result.

After those first four tracks (all of which sound like they were primarily overseen by John Davis), Lou Barlow steps to the mic and immediately some contrast in “Spiderweb-Butterfly.” There, the going gets far less staccato and measured and becomes far more fluid and melodic as Barlow effortlessly leads the vocal charge backed by a very monotone bass line and lean drums, and single-handedly finds a better vibe on his own than the band had done together prior to this point. Suddenly, it feels like there’s a care and delicacy about the band which had just not been there before. Just to prove it wasn’t a fluke too, Barlow backs “Spiderweb-Butterfly” with “Had To Find Out” – a great, Barlow-esque indie rock anthem which features a heartfelt melody, fragile-sounding guitars and strong but spare drums – and draws a deep, definitive line in the sand articulating what this new group is capable of. These two songs are similar in nature to the classic sounds Barlow had already developed with Sebadoh, but they were most definitely not exactly the same and that is engaging in and of itself.

After the breakthrough represented by “Spiderweb-Butterfly” and “Had To Find Out,” listeners won’t be able to stop themselves from looking for similar streaks of gold throughout the rest of the album’s run-time, and they will find a few. Songs like “Why Do They Hide,” “Winter’s Day,” (the thoroughly horny) “Shake A Little Heaven,” the scrappy rocker “Waltzin’ With Your Ego” and the critical, introspective title track all shine with their plainspoken intentions and lean arrangements – all of which helps to showcase the quality of the songwriting as a whole – but leave enough room for improvement that listeners will find themselves fantasizing about where the band might be headed on its next release and how great it could be before “Start Again” even has the chance to play through and close this one. In that way, Take A Look Inside… really does set a hook in listeners; the album will have them inspired to come back and see which ideas the band develops further and how they do it on their next album.

Deluxx Folk Implosion
Daddy Never Understood EP
(Domino Records, 1995)
As good as Folk Implosion would eventually prove itself to be, the release of the Daddy Never Understood seven-inch marked a point so low in the band’s musical output that it could only be called rock bottom. It’s so poor, it’s hard to even understand how it got released; its only redeeming feature is that it sounds so little like any of the other music the band released that it’s easy to disassociate the band’s catalogue from it.

It’s entirely possible that Folk Implosion fans will be taken completely off their feet as the title track from the Daddy Never Understood EP opens the proceedings with a hardcore thud that one can only assume was Deluxx’s contribution to the song because Folk Implosion never did anything this aggressive sounding before. With squealing pick scrapes and almost industrial-sounding drums and a guitar figure recorded so poorly that it sounds like it’s clipping, “Daddy Never Understood” just jostles those who come upon it violently as if to shake them awake; it’s loud and basically formless, and fundamentally unlike anything else Folk Implosion had made before (and even further from anything they’d make later).

Fans will find that they have no choice to concede that little on this EP bears any resemblance to Folk Implosion’s previous releases. Ravingly overdriven guitars, bellowed vocals, concussive drums and themes of alienation are all the norm here and don’t seem to be at all intended to be an ironic statement; the entire first side of this 7” plays loud, hard and fast and leaves no space at all for the emotional candor that has always been a staple of Lou Barlow’s music, nor is there any of the humor which usually underscores Davis’ contributions to Folk Implosion; this first side is just hard, humorless and disappointing.

The disappointments continue to roll on the B-side of this 7” too. First off, Deluxx Folk Implosion reprises “Daddy Never Understood” [the versions of the song on each side are different takes, but they aren’t so different that they really needed to be included –ed] as well as the comically stupid, Davis-fronted ear-bleeder “Liquid Bread” and “Ovenmitt” – the song which tries to break with the EP’s overblown styling by offering a Robert Quinne-ian guitar line – but still falls well-short of all intended marks.

In the end, even the most dogged and unflinching supporters of hardcore will find themselves left cold by the Daddy Never Understood EP; the songs aren’t up to any of the standards that Lou Barlow had set with his work in Dinosaur Jr. or in Sebadoh. The idea made sense (Barlow has some history in the hardcore community because of his other projects), but the execution is basically and fundamentally flawed here; while Folk Implosion would prove to be capable of many things, this EP proves they could never have been a good hardcore band.

Various Artists
Kids OST
(London/Universal, 1995)
After the fantastic disaster that Deluxx Folk Implosion’s only EP turned out to be and coupled with the rougher creative misfires on Take A Look Inside… and Walk Through This World…, it’s understandable how some of the support for Folk Implosion, Lou Barlow and John Davis may have diminished. Those fans who had picked up on the band because of its members’ other projects might have dismissed Folk Implosion as a dud initially but, almost unnoticed (due to the format), the band was beginning to make some great creative strides on the Kids motion picture soundtrack. Almost out of nowhere, there’s a sudden dynamic shift in the eight songs Folk Implosion contributed to the soundtrack which sees the band spontaneously gel together, abandon any and all skronk-y overtones and hardcore influences and test the waters of a move groove-focused, almost ambient rhythm.

Without question, the runaway hit (and really, the best song on the soundtrack) is “Natural One.” There, Lou Barlow takes a decisive lead and, after a mock-bombastic synth splash to open the song, he makes both his and his band’s presence felt as he rolls out a smooth bass motif and immodestly croons, “I’m the one, natural one, make it easy/ we can take it inside/ Where I can love where I can like if I want it/ whatever keeps me high.” That introduction (and, really, the whole song) is the first genuine and truly strong track to come from Folk Implosion, and it even has the benefit of being pretty cutting edge; while Beck has already crossed hip hop into alternative rock with Mellow Gold, “Natural One” marks one of the first occasions when these sounds came together in a way which isn’t intended to be deliberately novel; it’s more “rock” (thanks in part to the similarity between “Natural One”’s bass line and that of the bridge in “Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf) in demeanor than it is “pop.”

While none of the other Folk Implosion songs on the Kids soundtrack are quite as good as “Natural One” (the best of the rest, “Crush” and “Simian Groove,” would both have made phenomenal B-sides for “Natural One” as a single, or maybe even a respectable follow up), the unquestionably dominate the soundtrack and trump songs submitted by Slint and Daniel Johnston (which are consistently static) hands down. That is impressive on its own, but the bittersweet thing about it is that is the fact that it happened on a SOUNDTRACK – which means that even fans might not have been paying attention to it (well, not right away – “Natural One” would overcome the soundtrack stigma with the advent of file sharing via BBS) or even known about the release at all. “Natural One” did help to crack the glass ceiling for Folk Implosion though, and that makes it an enduringly important moment for the band; it took a couple of years, but they were finally finding something which was reaching an audience that they could call their own.

The Folk Implosion
s/t EP
(The Communion Label, 1996)
By 1996, The Folk Implosion had already evolved tremendously as the proverbial tape rolled (the difference in how the band’s first full-length album, two EPs and one soundtrack play is easy to measure), but not every experiment was a rousing success; on at least a couple of occasions, the band’s ambition exceeded its reach. Maybe it was because their output had been so spotty that they finally decided to play it safe, stick to their strengths and release an album that Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr. fans would find instantly gratifying, and that’s exactly what Folk Implosion’s self-titled EP is.

The catch in working on a series of guaranteed-to-be fan pleasing songs for a band who had proven to be as inconsistent as Folk Implosion had been is that different fans are destined to be dissatisfied at different moments through this EP’s run-time and, because an EP plays short anyway, there’s no doubt that some listeners are going to have the final memory of this release as being a less-than-stellar one. For example, some listeners will rave about “Mood Swing” and call it the only valid thematic successor to Iggy and The Stooges’ “Gimme Danger” that has ever been written, but call “Electric Idiot” (which runs a little looser and features at least a couple of vocal lines which must have only been finalized when the tape caught them) an utter waste of time – and vice versa. The same argument could be made of the intoxicating (in this writer’s opinion) take of “Lo-Fi Suicide” and the intoxicated-sounding fall-down/run-through of “I Reserve The Right To Rock”; some will love them and others will find them utterly detestable. This pattern continues through the entire EP which more than a few listeners will find frustrating, but the most open-minded fans in the band’s audience – those known for screaming the words, “Gimme Indie Rock!” during the breaks between songs at their shows – will take it and love it all because they can see the value in the EP’s variety.

Simply said, The Folk Implosion’s self-titled EP is not the easiest thing in the band’s catalogue to like but those who do are likely to love it and that’s all the reason it needs to exist.

The Folk Implosion
Dare To Be Surprised
(The Communion Label, 1997)
It might have taken a couple of years, a couple of false starts and a bit of formal refinement, but The Folk Implosion really started to come into its own on the band’s third album, Dare To Be Surprised. In the context of the band’s catalogue, the album is a genuine revelation; from nowhere (or at least it seemed that way), the tumblers just seem to drop and unlock a perfectly solid presentation of the band’s sound. It had never been as good as it was on Dare To Be Surprised before and, even now the album remains a compelling experience to try and absorb.

After taking a couple of tracks to get steady (“Pole Position” and “Wide Web” are the definition of a warm-up; not a complete departure, but both tease with some scintillating promise), The Folk Implosion begin blowing minds with the brilliant sequence of songs “Insinuation,” “Barricade” and “That’s The Trick.” There, Lou Barlow and John Davis lay out a near-perfect blueprint for the band’s sound; over a beat so consistent it almost seems mechanical, the duo lays down some deep, soulful bass lines, stringy guitars and some very melodic, introspective vocals. The results are very math-y and measured, but also brimming with the kind of pop sensibility and melodic slant which helps get the songs  inextricably stuck in the minds of those who hear them. In each of those cases, Lou Barlow takes the lead with a voice so pregnant with emotion that it almost seems to tremble but, rather than coming off as contrived (as it would, were it handled by many other singers), listeners will find themselves running toward Barlow to simultaneously support him and give him the strength to continue. At the same time, Davis’ ever-so-slightly more enunciated vocal delivery follows closely on Barlow’s heels until the mood strikes him, and then he rushes forward in the mixes to offer an few poignant words. Because of that interplay and the methodical pulse of the music, listeners will be lulled into a state of perfect relaxation and gently tugged toward a dream state; it’s a little surreal and unnerving how easily it happens at first, but listeners will soon find they’re perfectly happy to hand their minds over to the band and let them gently massage them a while.

After “River Devotion” runs out and the album closes, listeners will find they’re astounded by how deeply under the spell of Dare To Be Surprised they fell, and how refreshed they feel after the experience ends. If any sensation signals that The Folk Implosion have hit a stride, it’s that.

The Folk Implosion
One Part Lullaby
(Interscope/Universal, 1999)
After the release of Dare To Be Surprised, things seemed to start happening much faster both for and around The Folk Implosion. First, the positive of Dare To Be Surprised by the indie community combined with that of the Kids soundtrack attracted the interest of Interscope Records, and they signed the band; that meant the band had major label money to work with when they re-entered the studio to make their third album. Also, the sort of relaxed, beat-focused vibe that The Folk Implosion were working with was really beginning to pick up steam with pop radio; Beck had already blown minds with the release of Odelay in 1996 and the computer platform that he and The Dust Brothers had used to make it (Pro Tools) had taken the world by storm. By 1999, innumerable artists (including – but certainly not limited to – Incubus, Limp Bizkit, Live, Butthole Surfers and even The Beach Boys were using Pro Tools as the platform of choice and, with it, innumerable different sounds and ideas were filtering into rock. Suddenly, it felt like if you could dream it, you could put it in a song and made for some pretty wild and exciting creations.

With the field suddenly seeming to be thrown wide open for exploration, Lou Barlow took the opportunity to examine every creative direction and see how far he could reach. Not really sharing the mic here, he threw everything against the wall – sounds, themes, arrangement ideas – to see what might stick, and the results were One Part Lullaby; a banging, clattering work of genius which plays with elements of dub, indie rock, alternative rock and trip hop and rolled the whole conglomerate in pop sugar for listeners.

Even with advance warning, listeners will be thoroughly confused as “My Ritual” opens One Part Lullaby with what sounds like a bootlegged Folk Implosion live sample. After a couple of strums on a guitar listeners catch Barlow and John Davis laugh to each other and remark about their ‘seamless transition’ before a very obviously programmed beat smashes on top before falling into a deep, decidedly trip hop groove. While Folk Implosion had characterized its output by always trying something new and different on each release, “My Ritual” cuts through like it might be the first time the band has ever really been bold. While the band had previously worked on a very straightforward rock guitar form, the dominating vibe here is one of cool intensity; Barlow’s bass pushes the song along as if in a trance over a noir-ish drum sample before pausing for the first great vocal hook of the album: “Don’t touch me ’cause I’ve had too much to feel tonight.”

That emotionally pregnant line lands like a bomb on listeners. It’s the kind of musical moment which has started entire rock sub-genres elsewhere; that it arrives within the first forty seconds of this album’s run-time hints that this is only the beginning and you won’t believe what else you’ll find on One Part Lullaby.

That promise proves to hold true as the album unfolds. After the title track cements the sober and pensive lede set up by “My Ritual,” Folk Implosion illustrates how flexible this form can be by turning to the album’s pinnacle of pop composition, “Free To Go.” There, Barlow artfully outlines a character who has been alienated and ostracized (“Catching butterflies, line drives, watching TV/ Had seven good years before I noticed they were looking at me/ I didn’t like what they’d see”) and abandoned by those he was supposed to trust (check out lines like, “Where did you go? Did I make you leave?/ Another thing I didn’t know/ Nobody ever believes. They just leave, they just leave”) and would be perfectly heartbreaking in almost any other context, but sound light and almost carefree here. The terms and tone of what Barlow is articulating sit in perfect opposition of each other and, in that presentation, the song defaults into a work of perfect pop genius; it’s nothing short of astounding.

After “Free To Go,” One Part Lullaby immediately reverts back into the dimmer and more introspective tones presented by “My Ritual” and never really makes it back to that same level of pop bliss (“Chained To The Moon” and “No Need To Worry” both try, but come up short on the innocence required to make a pop crossover hit) but the overall impression left seems to be a few shades lighter than it was before. Suddenly, while songs like “E.Z. L.A.,” “Kingdom Of Lies” and “Merry-Go-Down” all wrestle with incredibly dark and disconcerting levels of both inward and outward-looking criticism, each seems lighter, somehow, after “Free To Go” shines some bright pop colors into the mix. The only occasions when the Folk Implosion manages to get back to some truly dark shades here, in fact, are when there simply are no words; the instrumental track “Serge” is the only song which really breathes out an air of trepidation following the bright pop sun of “Free To Go.”

After “Back To The Sunrise” fades out and closes the album, listeners will find that they’re still left feeling warm and energized by what they’ve absorbed from One Part Lullaby, and that truly does feel as though it is the single best turn about the album; while other releases in The Folk Implosion’s catalogue had some great moments, the uncertain ones where those which listeners found they often remembered best. Not so here though; One Part Lullaby is surprisingly consistent (perhaps due in part to the fact that Barlow remained up front and in control the whole time) and that consistency yields the best experience. Even fifteen years after its release, One Part Lullaby still plays fresh – the sure mark of a classic album.

The Folk Implosion
The New Folk Implosion
(iMusic/Domino USA, 2003)
…And then, seemingly without warning, the wheels came off of Folk Implosion. After the release of One Part Lullaby, Lou Barlow and John Davis started promoting the album but tensions quickly came to a head, culminating with Davis citing irreconcilable differences and quitting the group. That left Barlow in a difficult position; with responsibilities already made, he had to put together a new group in order to fill them. To that end, he tapped Russ Pollard – who happened to also be playing drums in Sebadoh at the time – to fill Folk Implosion’s drum seat and, after great deliberation, Vancouver-born, San Francisco-based guitarist Imaad Wasif agreed to play guitar with the group and The New Folk Implosion was born. The band made a few appearances (in 2002, the group appeared as the backing band for Alesandro Nivola’s character in Lisa Cholodenko’s film Laurel Canyon) and toured occasionally before finally signing a deal with Artistdirect’s then-new venture iMUSIC [a nascent version of the Label Services companies like Rocket Science and Kobalt –ed]. The ground the band was standing on was still fresh and uncertain, but they got to work on a new album which was ultimately released in 2003.

If any album in the Folk Implosion’s catalogue seems as though it was designed to be the soundtrack to a rebirth, re-imagining or regrouping, it is most definitely The New Folk Implosion. That isn’t meant to imply that the record begins on a whole new creative path though; in fact, it absolutely takes the band’s history into account. This time out, Lou Barlow has elected to avoid most of the electric touchings which characterized the best moments of his work with John Davis and pulled the basic creative tenets of Folk Implosion back toward the ground he tread over several times with Sebadoh. In fact, it could the argued that the only significant difference between The New Folk Implosion and any particular Sebadoh recording made circa 1999 is the guitar work of Imaad Wasif; he is the X-factor which stops listeners from mistaking this album for a long-lost Sebadoh release.

There is a sort of classic rock phrasing about Wasif’s guitar playing which really does echo the arena rock bombast of Marc Bolan here but, rather than alienating indie rock fans with its bombast, that tone ends up being the perfect escape hatch which stops listeners from being able to make any valid comparisons to Folk Implosion’s previous work, but still makes for a great and very satisfying experience. Song’s like the hazy “Brand Of Sun,” the glassy and elegant “ReLeast,” the swaggering “End Of Henley” and the absolutely melancholy “Creature Of Salt” all bear about as much similarity of any other song in the Folk Implosion catalogue as a lemur does to a lemon mirangue pie but, even so, longtime Folk Implosion fans will have a very hard time crying foul at the results because, while not the same (in fact, they’re barely even similar to anything else in Folk Implosion’s book), the songs are all still very good. Lou Barlow’s lyricism and vocal tone here are absolutely beautiful here (check out Barlow’s resigned tone when he laments the title lyric in “Leaving It Up To Me” or the muted indictment which reads “We’re all the same” in “Fuse”) and they play off of Wasif’s grandiose guitar tone perfectly; the interplay amplifies the vocals as well as the sentiments in them, and downplays the potential size of the guitars – keeping them from inflating to sizes of Classic Rock proportion.

As successful an artistic compromise as the album proved to be and as good as the songs on it were in their own right, the quality of the music didn’t end up redeeming The New Folk Implosion with fans who had loved the band’s music when Davis was co-piloting the band. The number of receptive outlets which positively reviewed the album were few (the “big” outlets took the album tepidly and some of the mid-sized markets were positive, but almost everyone who would have been interested had their eyes glued to bands like The White Stripes, The Black Keys and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – who were all fresh and breaking out at the time. When it didn’t work, it didn’t take long for the bandmembers’ interest to wane and, in the end, the band was done by 2004, with Barlow’s interest turning to a solo career (he’d release Emoh on Merge in 2005) while both Wasif and Pollard would return to Alaska! for a few more releases. The trio would reconvene again briefly to compose some of the songs on Barlow’s Emoh album but, since then, Folk Implosion has remained on blocks.

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