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There are certain voices within music whose presence instantly soothes me; Leonard Cohen, Neil Tennant, J Mascis, Lou Barlow...I just need to catch a whiff of those voices and I’m happily back in my old teenage fantasy lands far away from the tedious obligations and responsibilities that come with being a proper grown-up.
It’s a lovely surprise to get the new Sebadoh album to review this week, then. To be honest I thought these guys had called it a day long ago until their recent ‘Secret’ EP but the doubters can truly be silenced now - here’s 13 tracks of brand new Sebadoh. It’s quite a listener-friendly Sebadoh this time around, too. This record sounds like it’s been recorded in a proper studio on professional equipment rather than the sometimes rather scrappy and lo-fi Sebadoh of old, but the basic formula of the hook-laden indie rock power trio remains much the same with tracks like opener ‘I Will’ and ‘Oxygen’ somewhat recalling the smooth slacker polish of Barlow’s other other band Folk Implosion.
Loewenstein of course gets his oar in with the songs split roughly 50/50. His gnarly Meat Puppets-esque mid-album groover ‘Inquiries’ is a delightfully weird highlight and the ‘90s Americana-indie lollop of ‘Can’t Depend’ is a nice change of pace towards the end that makes me think of Soul Asylum and Buffalo Tom, and his closer ‘Separate’ is the most inspired cut on the record with some nifty harmonies and urgent post-grunge guitar chug.
It’s hard to say on first listen how this compares to the previous albums because I have such an emotional attachment to them but the fact that I’m glad rather than embarrassed that Sebadoh are back is a good start. However the clinical studio recordings and sometimes pedestrian songwriting mean it’s pretty sure never to replace ‘Bakesale’ or ‘Harmacy’ in my affections. Lou’s voice is as comforting as ever, though, and taken on its own merits ‘Defend Yourself’ earns itself a “not bad” from me.
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