Lou Barlow on five inspiring lyricists
From hard rock to intimate acoustics, Lou Barlow has traversed many a musical landscape, and has no plans to stop. Now 49, the Massachusetts-raised musician returned last November to live in Greenfield after 17 years in Los Angeles. A founding member of Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, and the Folk Implosion, Barlow ventures from his indie- and heavy-rock bands through his folksy solo career. Though he still rocks on stage as a bassist every now and then, expect to see Barlow solo, guitar-strung baritone ukulele and microphone in tow, at Allston’s Great Scott next Tuesday, celebrating the arrival of “Brace the Wave,” his first solo album in six years. We asked Barlow to identify the five lyricists who have most inspired his own songwriting.
“I’ve always loved Joni Mitchell, and I think her album ‘For the Roses’ has really inspired me lyrically. . . . It’s personal, and really beautiful. There are a lot of songs talking about her jealousy. . . . It’s really fiery, while revealing that she’s really scared.”
“She plays harp and sings. There’s a song called ‘The Book of Right-On.’ Even though she sounds kind of fairylike, her lyrics are devastating, and this song, it scares me — because her perception is so clear, it’s almost of someone superior in the relationship.”
“I think their body of work [is] pretty accessible and very tuneful. And I love the lyrics. . . . There’s a song called ‘Hand of Doom,’ which is about heroin addiction. I think Black Sabbath really articulated the dark side of the ’60s into the ’70s. People are always talking about how terrible it is right now. . . and I don’t believe that, I don’t think it’s true. But I do believe that if you were around in 1969 or 1970, things were really bad. Things were legitimately bad. People were being drafted, the Vietnam War was being shown on TV. Armageddon was a very real thing for people. And I think Black Sabbath really articulated that. This song is sort of about using heroin as an escape.”
“[His songs] are so nakedly powerful and honest, like honest admissions about relationship politics. One is called ‘All of Me Wants All of You.’ He has this really precise pronunciation of things.”
“The leader [and songwriter] of the band, J Mascis, was a really powerful singer to me. . . . I met him in high school, and he was a year older than me. But I felt that he was 20 years older — he was just at another level developmentally than me. In the first two records I was involved with, his lyrics were really imaginative, and really powerful for me, to have someone that I knew, who was a huge part of my life.”
Lou Barlow performs at Great Scott on Tuesday at 9 p.m. Tickets: $18. www.greatscottboston.com