Sebadoh - Act Surprised - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Sebadoh - Act Surprised

by Sean Hewson Rating:7 Release Date:2019-05-24
Sebadoh - Act Surprised
Sebadoh - Act Surprised

Six years after Defend Yourself, their first album since reforming and their first with Bob D’Amico on drums, Sebadoh return with Act Surprised. Seven songs each from Low Barlow and Jason Lowenstein and one from D’Amico. I’ve been a fan since Bubble & Scrape so I’m looking forward to some instrument-swapping hi-jinks.

First up is Loewenstein’s Phantom and it’s classic Jake – discordant lead lines, crunching chords, bit of a banger. D’Amico’s drums are explosive and propulsive and Barlow’s one of the greatest bassists around anyway. Lou’s up next with the single Celebrate The Void. It’s slower and more heart-wrenching to begin with before the lads pick up the pace and it’s classic late 80s US Punk-Rock. Loewenstein’s Follow The Breath follows and it’s more spiky goodness. When Loewenstein first joined Sebadoh I felt that he was somewhere between Eric Gaffney and Barlow. He had Gaffney’s weirdness, but there was always a tune and a structure. Next are two tracks from Barlow. Medicate, like the previous song, shows a middle-aged man caught between doing what the middle-aged man knows is right or what the younger man wants to do. The chorus is brilliant. See-saw has a great intro – the sound of Barlow’s four-string guitar works really well with the others’ bass and drums. It’s another great song, these guys have other bands and solo careers – how have they got so many great songs? They probably don’t go out as much as they used to. Loewenstein returns with Vacation, another belter where he switches between Punk-Pop and Hardcore Punk. Stunned is a quick, insistent track from Loewenstein that meanders between the actual song and the twists and turns or the instrumental section. Barlow’s Fool has a classic, almost 50s chord progression which then moves through a few unlikely changes (the chorus is Country) that suggest that it might be a compilation of fragments. Raging River has a set of strangely-timed chord changes over which Loewenstein somehow constructs a vocal melody. It’s intriguing but, along with Fool, the meandering leads to a slight drop in the energy of the album which has been a torrent of tunes and ideas so far. Sunshine from Barlow is a slower song with an urgent drum pattern, it has a great chorus, right when the album needed one. Barlow’s voice lends itself to these kinds of yearning choruses. The distortion pedals are out for the title track. Especially on the bass. It’s a fairly classic Sebadoh riff with Loewenstein’s voice breaking in the verses. The chorus could possibly be bigger, but he provides a brilliantly ridiculous solo at the end. Battery sounds like a Barlow song melodically, but it’s Loewenstein’s. The chorus isn’t quite as big as the verse deserves but it finishes nicely with a load of noise. Barlow’s Belief is pretty classic Indie with a familiar chord progression and a nagging little lead line. Leap Year is D’Amico’s baby and, 14 tracks in, the change is required. It’s pretty weird, in a kind of Punk-Prog way, but totally fits in and livens up the end of the album. We could possibly have done with another of these. There’s a shade of In The Court Of The Crimson King in the way the drums double what the guitars are playing. There’s also something of XTC about it. Act Surprised finishes with Reykjavik, written by Barlow, and it continues the Proggy weirdness whilst still unmistakeably being a Barlow song.

Act Surprised is a great album. As a Sebadoh fan, I’m happy. All the bits I like are there – Loewenstein’s riffs and choruses, Barlow’s songs, and yearning voice and brilliant ensemble playing in an ego-less Punk environment. My only complaint is that there are one, maybe two, too many songs and the album dips a bit on the second half. On the plus side, this is partly because it explodes out of the blocks on side one. A further plus for future releases is that D’Amico can write an intriguingly odd tune as well and possibly deserved a second go on this album.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet
Related Articles
Sebadoh - Act Surprised - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab
Coughy - Ocean Hug
  • 04/11/2019
  • By Mark Moody
Sebadoh - Act Surprised - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab
Ovlov - Tru
  • 07/17/2018
  • By Tim Sentz