Sebadoh - Defend Yourself

by Steve Reynolds Rating:8.5 Release Date:2013-09-16

The rock 'n' roll sands of time will tell you that over the years there have been some unceremonious band member trap-doors opened. Lou Barlow's exit from Dinosaur Jr wasn't pretty but meek in comparison to others. Constantly frustrated and suffocated by the lack of opportunity to pen his own material for the burgeoning noise-nik,s he was literally thrown out on his arse.

Without the time to dwell, Barlow refused to become withdrawn or descend into a pit of recrimination. In fact, he did the polar opposite and unveiled a softer, more thoughtful side, the very antithesis of Dinosaur Jr. He decided to call his new band Sebadoh.

Out of a bad situation, came something good, something very good which has resulted in Sebadoh's work mentioned heavily in dispatches as a fundamental contribution to the changing and quirky face of the late-80s American college-rock scene. They didn't keep bad company in those quarters either: Sonic Youth, Husker Du, Pixies and bosom burgeoning buddies, a little known act at the time, Nirvana.

So after an indefinite hiatus, we find Barlow is reinvigorated once more. Maybe the last 10 years have re-engaged dormant thought patterns. Mix this with the ageing process and being back in the studio and on the road with Dinosaur Jr, and you might be surprised that he's even bothered to put Sebadoh back in the public domain after the magnificent 1999 album The Sebado.

Yet he has returned with the bite and hunger for those archetypical lo-fi techniques which epitomise their sound. Of course, it's all put together in true assiduous Barlow fashion. He still delivers us with break up songs aplenty and, as always, he is aided and abetted by his omnipresent lieutenant Jason Loewenstein as they continue to deliver vibrant and bellowing guitar nuggets with all the fervour and spunk of teenagers against a plethora of bittersweet lyrics.

Opener 'I Will' is all breakneck, foot-to-the-floor stuff, but Sebadoh have always been more than just that. See the hook-laden 'Oxygen', delivered against Barlow's subtle but warming tones. Even instrumental 'Once' conquers. Lowenstein gets a go on the twangy 'State of Mine', but Barlow restores a calming air of parity on 'Final Days'.

'Can't Depend' features some of Barlow's most heartfelt words in years: "Said I'm the cause of all your doubts/ Honey, I can't depend on you/ You never do the thing you say you going to/ You said that when it comes to me you don't know what to believe". It's a really touching torch song of passion and strength, and a demonstration of why Sebadoh still have so much more to offer.

Maybe their persistence in meddling with the lo-fi approach has prevented them from pushing into the mainstream but me thinks that Lou really isn't that bothered. He still delivers lyrically and knows how to lay down strong songs, something which modern songwriters fall down on. Maybe there's a lesson to others in his nagging brilliance.

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