Dare to be Surprised by The Folk Implosion

I have this strange habit of digging through the side projects of famous musicians before the works they're best known for. Lou Barlow might've been in Dinosaur Jr., but even if I snuggled up close to what they've been up to lately, I'll still best know him as one half of The Folk Implosion. Originally a warm, lo-fi home recording project built of bass-first indie rock and traded vocal parts, it was the fluke funky downtempo hit "Natural One" that gave Barlow and partner John Davis their first and only hit at radio. Luckily, while its sound was a bit out of the ordinary for the pair, the songwriting was pure Barlow, making it a pretty good introduction to what the group would later release as 1997's Dare to Be Surprised.

While they might've cleaned up their sound a bit, this is still the same poppy, organic, cheaply-recorded Folk Implosion that poured out like sand on Take a Look Inside. The duo are eager to get the real earworms out early; after all, Davis fought for years for that pole position, and the constant thump of "Wide Web" and tuberculosis groove of "Insinuation" show them no less itchy. The songs here run a bit longer than Take a Look Inside's spidery vignettes, though no worse for it. Experiments still grub ("Park Dub") and dub ("Fall Into November"), and while that frustration and defiance still holds ("That's the Trick", "Ball & Chain"), the duo hit on probably one of the most innocent of indie sentiments as they float along like otters on "River Devotion": "I'll trim my whiskers and I'll wash my fur—anything for her". A long-forgotten indie classic and full of character, Dare to Be Surprised is sticky on first listen and proves "Natural One" shouldn't have been a fluke.

Dare to be Surprised

Essential: "Wide Web", "Insinuation", "Ball & Chain" (and can I put "Park Dub" too? I love "Park Dub")
Quintessential: "Pole Position"
Non-essential: None!

Rating: Classic
Listen on Spotify