One of the most unexpected Top 40 hits of the ’90s, Folk Implosion’s “Natural One” came from an equally unlikely place: the Kids soundtrack. The movie, which was released 20 years ago today, caused an uproar and spawned plenty of finger-wagging moralizing, due to its realistic depictions of teen sex, drug use, and unsavory behavior. “I was surprised that the movie would cause such a ruckus and that many people were that upset,” Kids’ writer Harmony Korine recently told The Guardian. “I really enjoyed that. I think watching all the grownups flip out was the most fun for me. I think everyone involved wanted a reaction. Most of the kids in there had been ignored their entire lives, so it was exciting.”
The Kids soundtrack, also released in 1995, existed mostly in the margins: Besides songs by Daniel Johnston and Slint, the album consists of music from the lo-fi weirdo-folk band Folk Implosion, one of many side projects started by Sebadoh’s Lou Barlow. The musician and his collaborators (mainly John Davis and Wally Gagel) sketched out a series of rough, brief songs encompassing sleepy electronic wobbles (“Raise The Bells”), eerie indie-rock churning (“Jenny’s Theme”) and acoustic-driven laments (“Spoiled”). In an even weirder twist, the Kids soundtrack’s single, “Natural One,” received a huge push at radio and MTV. The dread-filled song paired creepy percussion, clopping drums, uneasy guitars, and Barlow’s even-keeled vocal delivery; the accompanying video came off like a cross between a National Geographic special on nature and an art-school film.
As a result, “Natural One” became a Top 5 hit at alternative radio—and, weirder still, hit No. 29 on Top 40 radio on February 3, 1996. But as Barlow recalled to Stereogum, the song didn’t exactly do much for his career. “[’Natural One’] was pushed by a major label through the channels of this weird glad-handing system to get the song on the radio,” he says. “I don’t mean to diminish the success of the song, but it was very anonymous. I just went on about my business and finished the Sebadoh record, and then Folk Implosion went into a studio and did another record. Then, we went on to make a record after that that completely flopped. Nothing really changed.”
Still, the song’s success did lead to a late March 1996 acoustic Folk Implosion performance on 120 Minutes that featured a faster (and perhaps even superior) version of “Natural One.” The song starts off very similar to Van Morrison’s “Wild Night,” but quickly turns into a bewitching, moody song that emphasizes vocal harmonies and the intricacies of the song’s guitar melodies. Watch below.