The Folk Implosion: Walk Thru Me Album Review


The Folk Implosion certainly wasn’t the first 1990s indie rock act to tinker with the sample-based structures of hip-hop, but their approach to genre fusion may have been the most prescient. “Natural One,” the duo’s unlikely Billboard-charting hit and best-known contribution to Larry Clark’s Kids soundtrack, was a reaction to recently released major label debuts by Portishead and Beck, translating the group’s usual plunking bedroom recordings into a beat-driven context while consciously avoiding the sardonic tone of a track like “Loser.” As Lou Barlow and John H. Davis grew into their new sound, their experimentation became increasingly distinct, particularly on their last album, 1999’s One Part Lullaby, which fully realized their blend of glitched-out electronic composition, gritty drum breaks, and whispery emo pop. From a contemporary perspective, the album’s title cut and the vocoder-infused “E.Z. L.A.” feel like an embryonic version of recent work by brakence or Jane Remover: intimate, yet futuristic in equal measure.

Following the release of 2023’s Music for KIDS compilation—a retrospective look behind the scenes of the soundtrack sessions that inspired the Folk Implosion’s embrace of electronica—Barlow and Davis have returned with their first body of new work in 25 years. Walk Thru Me, written remotely before the pair hit the studio with producer Scott Solter, is a return to the group’s roots as penpals. They’ve also largely abandoned their hip-hop influences, dusting off the droning indie rock sound of the band’s formative years and giving it a fresh coat of paint. While early Folk Implosion outings like Take a Look Inside and Palm of My Hand were patchwork affairs comprised of crunchy thrash, stoned jam sessions and bite-sized lo-fi pop gems, Walk Thru Me lacks their mercurial mystique. Davis, who is currently studying Persian music, incorporates stringed Middle Eastern instruments like setar, oud, and saz into his songwriting, though he and Barlow stick to a familiar formula throughout, noodling and down-stroking over leisurely, mid-tempo drum patterns. Without the Folk Implosion’s typically unpredictable energy, the duo’s knack for conjuring surreal harmonic atmospheres is dampened by boilerplate beats and song structure.

The shift toward more polished, fleshed-out songcraft finds greater success on the lyrical front. On “My Little Lamb,” Barlow grapples with his approach to parenting, weighing his protective instincts against the wisdom that “they’ve gotta wonder on their own.” With a conversational cadence that recalls Jad Fair, Davis’ turns at the mic are painstaking snapshots of adult ennui, describing the numbing effects of robocalls and televised sports on “Bobblehead Dolls,” and trying to put himself in the neurological headspace of his late father on “The Day You Died.” Earlier Folk Implosion material reveled in abstract expression, balling up scribbled pages of adolescent catharsis on songs like “Daddy Never Understood” or “Mood Swing” and chucking them into oblivion. The fragmented lyricism suited the dashed-off, DIY quality of Barlow and Davis’ mid-’90s output, but here their angst translates to full storytelling quite naturally.



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