After 6 long years away from the spotlight, Lou Barlow is back with his third solo album appropriately titled Brace The Wave. As the title suggests you need to get ready and brace yourself for Barlow’s wave of alternative rock sound. Musically and lyrically it represents a transition period for this musical overachiever while still holding onto some of his rock roots. It’s a relatively small album with only 9 tracks making the release, but the wave definitely manages to make an impact.
Brace The Wave is an absolute mix of sound, there’s some elements of folk, hard rock and a use of subtle beats; it all has a slight alternative edge to it. While there’s a lot to wrap your head around it leaves you feeling a little lost, instrumentally there’s just a lot of contrasting sounds that don’t really compliment one another. Throughout the album it switches from more mellow folksy melodies similar to those in the opener track Redeemed and C&E to a much heavier hard rock with intense riffs and warp pedals like Nerve that unquestionably get your attention. You’re then hit with songs like Wave that almost feels like an acoustic pop punk ensemble; it’s just very busy. If we disregard the album as a whole and look behind the condescending instrumentals you’ll hear Barlow’s vocals and emotional lyrics that just ooze with 90s classic rock tones while he croons over his guitar, and that alone will have you ascending to the heavens. Unfortunately everything else swirling around them will bring you back to the land of the living soon enough.
It seems that Lou Barlow just had too many ideas for his latest release, it doesn’t serve to be a well rounded, cohesive vessel of sound, it leaves you feeling a little confused. While the last song on the record is Repeat, what Barlow has offered doesn’t make you want to instantly spin it again. Don’t get me wrong there are some good tracks in there that stand on their own but put all together Brace The Wave is a musical mess. You’re warned from the get go that you have to brace yourself, so I hope you did just that before the tuneful wave washed you away.