Sebadoh

Defend Yourself

Written by: TL on 24/11/2013 16:52:35

Being credited alongside the likes of Pavement for starting the trend of lo-fi recording in 90's rock, Dinosaur Jr. bassist Lou Barlow's own brainchild Sebadoh is an institution in indie rock which peaked and went on hiatus years before there was anything called Rockfreaks.net. In 2013 however, the band has suddenly sprung back into activity, returning with an eighth LP called "Defend Yourself" that is admittedly my own first encounter with them - perhaps unsurprisingly since their last album prior to that, 99's "The Sebadoh", came out when I was thirteen and not even remotely aware of the tenets of alternative music.

For my money though, "Defend Yourself" opens strongly with "I Will", which grabs hold of the listener the moment the distortion is engaged and the tempo is turned up, welcoming you with warm fuzzy chords and a forthcoming sentimental attitude. As it quickly turns out however, this is only one side to Sebadoh anno 2013, as "Love You Here" bleeds a more stoned feeling melody into the soundscape which is elaborated fully with the angular, almost entropic riffs of "Beat" and "Defend Yr Self". If you've never heard the band, the best way I can explain it, is that it feels like they take various currents most people will recognise from the 90s and coat them with the quirky indie rock authenticity which is typical to their peers in Pavement and Dinosaur Jr, making for a record that at different points feels like underground reflections of more famous bands: Here I'm thinking of R.E.M. when things are the mellowest, and of old Foo Fighters or even Pearl Jam when the guitars are really churning.

Because of the way the album starts at its friendliest and then immediately gets dense, it can be a little hard to access, but "I Will" is a great song on its own part, contrasting a light instrumental feel with lyrics surging with the emotions of a situation where you're leaving one lover because you've found someone else. "Love You Here" seems even more doubt-ridden though, the lyrics expressing guilt with not being around for one's loved ones, while the following two feel like more incoherent reflections that match the darker, frustrated melodies. Generally, the album gives me the feeling that the more melodic and laid back Sebadoh is also the one most interested in letting you understand what's going in the lyrical universe, with "State Of Mine" being another example of this mode, being fairly open in its self-defense of being a bit of a screw-up and fearing to let your kids leave the nest, while the jagged "Inquiries" is a lot more of a "what the fuck?" type of listen.

There's something for fans of different sides to the band then, as I don't mean to say that the likes of "Beat" and "Defend Yr Self" don't have their merit, in fact they're both pretty great example of unfiltered guitar noise at its rawest and most immersive, though I'm sure that some will find them a bit grungy and dated sounding. That said, the stylistic diversity is actually one of the album's stronger suits, which helps it because while it likely speaks to many different kinds of existing Sebadoh fans, I only really think it's "I Will" that makes a strong enough impression to lure many new fans to the band. So while I actually think it's pretty cool that the band is back in action, representing a combination of the fuzzy and the laid-back that's largely absent from the bigger leagues of current music, "Defend Yourself" feels perhaps a bit too satisfied with being just that, because it doesn't really flash with the noticeable bits of lyrics or the catchy turns of songwriting that a Stephen Malkmus for instance demonstrated more consistently on his album of two years ago, "Mirror Traffic". Overall then, it's a fair continuation for fans and a decent introduction for newcomers, but probably not the band's strongest work if I had to guess.

Download: I Will, State Of Mine
For The Fans Of: Pavement, Dinosaur Jr, old Foo Fighters, Cloud Nothings
Listen: facebook.com/realsebadoh

Release Date 16.09.2013
Joyful Noise / Domino

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