FOLK IMPLOSION'S HEAD-scratching "Natural One" was the best thing in Larry Clark's leering film Kids, and the soundtrack single left more than a few Lou Barlow fans wondering why Sebadoh's knob-twiddling hero didn't discover a beatbox sooner. Now he and fellow Imploder John Davis fill their major-label debut with kindred loopy beats, but it's the songwriting that still intoxicates.
Like Hole's migration to Silicone City, Barlow's move from Massachusetts to Los Angeles proved a fateful creative spur. One Part Lullaby finds the cold-clime transplant returning repeatedly to his new-geek-in-town bewilderment. On "E.Z. L.A.," he wonders, "Without the seasons, will I know how to change?" He even uses a Zapp-style vocoder to sing the chorus, remarking that the town's dazzle is "cold like the desert at night."
That's a good description of the album's overall emotional tenor. Though Barlow may profess that "it's gettin' easy not to suffer all the time," on "My Ritual," his mid-gig meltdown onstage with Sebadoh earlier this year in Belgium suggests that the sun hasn't exactly done him good. There's a spiritual sickliness at the heart of Lullaby, and you get the sense that Barlow--alternately revered and ignored for the work with his other band--now sees himself as a reluctant attraction in a packed freak show. Worse, he may take this unease as a form of integrity--and maybe it is. As he sings suggestively on Lullaby's hypnotic title track, "Who can be trusted/With perfect weather inside?"
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