Release Date: Sep 17, 2013
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Lo-Fi
It's been 14 years since Sebadoh last released a full-length and they attack Defend Yourself with great, gritty new songs and refreshing upgrades to their idiosyncratic aesthetic. Lou Barlow, Jason Loewenstein and Bob D'Amico convened to record this album in May of 2012 after years of semi-Sebadoh live activity and other ventures. Barlow left the professionally fruitful '90s to experience some hardship in the '00s, until he re-joined Dinosaur Jr.
Sebadoh were one of the first ’90s indie-rock bands to break a years-long hiatus, supporting a series of reissues with concerts starting in 2007. (Since then, just about every other one has followed suit…OK, save The Grifters.) They’ve finally put their recording chops back to the test for the first time in 14 years and, like rewatching a re-run of Beavis and Butt-head, it only takes a moment to fall back into the groove. Resuming Sebadoh’s classic but rarely imitated habit of trading off singing duties from song to song, Lou Barlow takes the melodic, introspective route, exorcising the pain he’s accumulated from romantic relationships, while his foil Jason Loewenstein unleashes heavy outbursts and provides much-needed relief.
After a 13-year hiatus, lo-fi pioneers Sebadoh returned in 2012 with the Secret EP. It found the trio back in fightin' trim, although Eric Gaffney, despite going on a 2007 reunion tour, was and still is not part of the lineup. Bob D'Amico takes his place alongside the classic songwriting duo of Lou Barlow and Jason Lowenstein. Now they've followed that up with the very satisfying Defend Yourself.Perhaps the long absence was due to Barlow's involvement in the Dinosaur Jr.
Of all the comebacks recently mounted by fondly remembered ‘90s underground faves, Sebadoh’s might seem like one of the more difficult propositions. That’s not because the group doesn’t have the chops, but because the bleeding-heart-on-sleeve sentiments expressed in Lou Barlow’s trademark songs seem so tied to a specific time and stage of one’s life when perceived slights and psychic wounds could feel so fresh and raw. In other words, how could a band whose music so viscerally captured what it felt like to be brokenhearted in your twenties do the same when they’re in their forties and know better than that? And if it’s hard enough for a listener to go back through the Sebadoh catalog and hear insecure, lovesick ditties like “Two Years Two Days” and “Willing to Wait” without a slight bit of cringing for identifying with them way back when, how would Barlow approach his exceedingly personal and eviscerating songwriting when he’s older and hopefully wiser, with almost a decade-and-a-half of distance from the last Sebadoh album? The more things stay the same, the more they’ve changed for Barlow and band co-founder Jason Loewenstein on their latest, Defend Yourself, which comes 14 years after their last full-length, 1999’s The Sebadoh.
In what’s becoming the year of ‘90s indie-rock resurgences, alt-grunge trio Sebadoh offers the next solid reunion record of 2013. Lou Barlow started Sebadoh as a Dinosaur Jr. side-project, and although he rejoined J Mascis and company to play bass in 2005, Sebadoh’s output has earned a steady following based on its own scuzzy merits. Defend Yourself marks Sebadoh’s first LP after a 14-years hiatus.
Most music reviewers don’t actually like to be punched in the face, and in the process of avoiding such assaults from frustrated readers, it’s usually wise to indicate not just whether an album is any good, but what it sounds like – and by this, of course one means who it sounds like. But the problem is, this game of spotting influences and little lifts allows a disproportionate and unfair impression of unoriginality and dishonesty to rise unbidden through one’s more considered opinions. And this is why listening to a Sebadoh album is such a welcome change, for any apposite comparisons form a list not of influences, but the influenced.
This trio, once the platonic ideal of indie rock's ragged, guitar-blasting side and its mopey, acoustic no-fi side (see also their self-parodic 1991 single "Gimme Indie Rock!"), hasn't put out an album since 1999. As lead singer and songwriter Lou Barlow puts it on Defend Yourself, "Things have changed." The 47-year-old Barlow recently ended a 25-year relationship, and you better believe it comes up here. The album bristles with post-divorce bummers both electric ("I Will") and gracefully acoustic ("Let It Out," "Listen"), while guitarist Jason Loewenstein gets heavy in the riff sense ("Beat").
What with solo and side projects aplenty, the members of Dinosaur Jr have never been short of things to occupy their time, either during the alt.rock lynchpins’ neardecade- long hiatus, or, since reuniting in 2005, the relatively lengthy gaps between albums. Formed in 1989 by Dino Jr bassist Lou Barlow, Sebadoh themselves haven’t released an album since 1999, so this eighth full-length comes with high expectations. At first, they’re satisfied.
Lou Barlow's best work comes after break-ups, or when he's yearning for something he doesn't have. III, the classic record he released in 1991 after being dismissed from Dinosaur Jr., remains his band's most intriguing balance of heartache, anger, gentleness, and noise. That's partly because longtime co-pilot Jason Loewenstein had just joined the group and charismatic founding drummer Eric Gaffney was still in the fold, but also because Barlow was fuming at J Mascis ("The Freed Pig") and nurturing a brand new love with Kathleen Billus ("Perverted World," "Kath").
Few people in rock are capable of keeping a legendary band functioning, and fewer are managing to juggle two of them. There’s David Pajo; until recently there was Kim Deal; and then there’s Lou Barlow. Despite decades of emotional turmoil, rotating line-ups and lengthy hiatus, he’s currently managing to function within both Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jnr.
It's been over six years since Lou Barlow, the sad bastard prince of indie rock, made nice with J. Mascis, a détente that yielded three surprisingly lively Dinosaur Jr. albums and concert gigs considerably larger than any Barlow saw with Dino Jr. or Sebadoh the first time around. Due to the ….
Led by once and future Dinosaur Jr. bassist Lou Barlow, Sebadoh blazed through the '90s helping to define movements in both indie rock and lo-fi music with their often confused and always ramshackle albums of stoner punk anthems, goofball non sequiturs, and moody, heartbroken post-grunge guitar rock. Following a 14-year dormancy since 1999's lackluster The Sebadoh, Defend Yourself revitalizes the project with surprisingly few huge changes.
The first Sebadoh record in 14 years slips out with little fanfare – surprising, since they bowed out on a creative peak with 1999’s incendiary single ‘Flame’. This 10th album lacks such bite. Sebadoh were always two different bands elbowing for the same space, and the clash between Lou Barlow’s melodic fuzz-folk and Jason Loewenstein’s free-form grunge has endured – the prehistoric Hüsker Dü of ‘Defend Yr Self’ gives way to the breezy ‘Oxygen’ like two incompatible mindsets colliding.
A dollar stretches a lot further in the studio today than it did in 1993. Inexpensive home recording used to wear marks of decay due to the flaws built into the physical process of making and reproducing a tape. Now, hiss, crackles, and pops are no longer a question of price, but aesthetic. How clean you want your record to feel is up to you.
Factory Floor FACTORY FLOOR. “Factory Floor” (DFA), the self-titled debut album by an English electronic trio, is a present-day blast from an austere past. At the end of the 1970s, the combination of art-punk aesthetics, primitive electronic instruments, do-it-yourself budgets and a British ….
For a project that began its life as a lo-fi home recording project for Lou Barlow and his buddy Eric Gaffney, replete with wretched sound quality and interstitial samples and bits of noise, it's strange to consider that Defend Yourself could be the messiest album of Sebadoh's career. It's not just the music found on it, though that certainly has its fair share of sloppy playing and wobbly tempos that just barely stay on the rails. The center of this album—the first by the band in more than a decade—is a cluster of Barlow compositions that address the end of his marriage.
After a 14-year hiatus, Sebadoh are back with Defend Yourself, their first full-length since 1999’s The Sebadoh (Sub Pop). To be fair, it’s not like the Massachusetts rockers have been twiddling their thumbs for the past decade-plus. Lou Barlow has kept himself immensely busy with the Dinosaur Jr. reunion, Sentridoh, and his solo career.
The musical landscape has changed dramatically in the 14 years since Sebadoh last released a full-length album. And perhaps the loose, untethered atmosphere that permeates the current scene is precisely what led the band to decide to record together again, the ramshackle results of which are featured on their spirited but decidedly uneven new studio album, Defend Yourself. “Failure is a state of mine,” sings Lou Barlow self-deprecatingly during the bouncy chorus of ‘State of Mine,’ overtly explaining the band’s modest expectations for their new album, just in case 25 years of Sebadoh inconspicuously flying under the musical radar didn’t make those lack of aspirations clear enough.
Superchunk I Hate Music (Merge) Sebadoh Defend Yourself (Joyful Noise) Is this what The Big Chill sounds like for Gen X's college radio subset? Despite a title that reads like perfunctory cynicism, Superchunk's 10th studio LP delivers a perfect strike at the heart of mature-stage alienation. Against the backdrop of a virulent fuzz-pop riff, Mac McCaughan kicks off "Me & You & Jackie Mittoo" by singing, "I hate music/What is it worth/Can't bring anyone back to this Earth." With Ray Davies precision, he sums up these melancholy times as assuredly as a besotted pub sage. Same with "Staying Home," a hardcore-infused broadside against going out, clocking in at just over a minute.