Folk Implosion

One Part Lullaby

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Folk Implosion disappeared from view not long after Dare to Be Surprised, which failed to capitalize on "Natural One"'s surprise success. Perhaps the group effort of 1998's The Sebadoh made Lou Barlow want to claim control of Folk Implosion on One Part Lullaby. Though John Davis is credited with co-writing the songs, "Lou sang lead vocal and wrote most of the words," making this feel like a Barlow solo project blessed with greater popcraft. It's more cohesive than Dare to Be Surprised, built around the trip-hop/new wave blend that made "Natural One" a hit, but that turns out to be a mixed blessing. Part of the charm of Folk Implosion was that it felt like two friends just kicking back, making weird noises, and writing quirky songs. Some of that remains, especially in the cheap synths and other electronic instrumentation, but One Part Lullaby is far more measured, filled with songs performed at the same basic tempo, with similar hooks and arrangements. It's not mellow, necessarily, but has a meditative mood, which fits Barlow's disarmingly introspective lyrics -- something familiar to Sebadoh and solo albums, but previously unheard of on Implosion albums. Parts of One Part Lullaby work very well, but it's also curiously flat. The modern rock production feels two years out of date -- shiny and commercial for 1996-1997, but an anomaly in 1999. Barlow's writing is too emotionally insular and musically similar for it to be truly engaging throughout and mutes the carefree spirit of previous Implosion albums; worst of all, it feels like he's repeating himself. That's not to say One Part Lullaby is a failure -- when Barlow and Davis pull it all together, the results are as strong as anything else the duo has recorded. As a whole, however, it winds up being strangely unengaging.

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