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Live Review: Lou Barlow, The Outdoor Type

1 February 2016 | 1:05 pm | Joel Lohman

"Barlow begins singing a cover of their song Lady before quitting mid-song when he senses no one in the crowd recognises this song."

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The Outdoor Type offers a refreshingly unpretentious, distinctly Australian take on the guy-with-a-guitar-and-harmonica thing, his lyrics about cheating Centrelink and unfinished Arts degrees undoubtedly ringing true for many in attendance. It's unfortunate when he resorts to trite, too-well-trodden natural imagery on songs such as Little River, especially after displaying such a gift for capturing the life of a 20-something in Melbourne. Similar to the subject of The Lemonheads song that likely inspired his moniker, this singer-songwriter seems more comfortable singing about the city. 

Lou Barlow sits on a stool onstage — his face shrouded by curtains of long, curly hair — and says he wants to share the songs from his most recent album. Over the next 45 minutes he plays faithful yet spirited versions of all nine songs from last year's excellent Brace The Wave. Beginning with that album's opening song, Redeemed, and the sort-of title track Wave, Barlow works his way through this deeply personal recent material, plucking and strumming the hell out of his baritone ukulele. Switching to a full-size nylon acoustic guitar for Nerve, Barlow is clearly a man who's sorting through some shit. We are essentially watching him unpack his failed marriage in front of us. Pulse and Lazy are not mere breakup songs. These are divorce songs, filled with the raw feelings dredged up by the dissolution of a marriage that decayed over decades. Boundaries is an anthem for people recovering from relationships. Barlow ends his run of new songs with the almost unbearable fragility of C & E and the album's closer Repeat.

Barlow then takes us on a tour through his remarkably fruitful songwriting career with various bands and solo projects. His first call for requests is met with "The cat song!", which Barlow obliges, shaking his head at the goofy song's enduring popularity. But almost everyone in the crowd smiles throughout The Ballad Of Daykitty, which is a welcome sight among typically dour indie-rock crowds. Taking requests mostly from Sebadoh's catalogue — including On Fire, Beauty Of The Ride and Magnet's Coil — Barlow then graces us with a stripped-down version of Natural One by The Folk Implosion, another of his under-appreciated mid-'90s bands. Mary, which tells the tale of the immaculate conception from the perspective of 'virgin' Mary's secret lover, offers further proof that Barlow's humour does sometimes creep into his songs.

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Barlow sings the praises of Little River Band and begins singing a cover of their song Lady before quitting mid-song when he senses no one in the crowd recognises this song. He then admonishes us for not knowing about our cultural heritage. (This is a pertinent point, especially around Australia Day, but people aren't usually talking about Little River Band.)

After dozens of songs surveying the wreckages of relationships, the more hopeful Brand New Love (as in, "Anyone could be a...") feels positively triumphant. Barlow treats the crowd to a new song from the upcoming Dinosaur Jr album that includes the line, "No matter what they say/There's no reward for pain". It's hard to fully get behind this sentiment after spending over an hour and a half listening to the glorious fruits Barlow's pain, neuroses and failed relationships have borne.