Sebadoh, ‘Defend Yourself’ – Album Review
Indie rock fans haven’t been treated to a new record from lo-fi godfathers Sebadoh since 1999, a year that saw the Backstreet Boys mark the millennium with their mega-seller of the same name and Britney Spears drop her debut album.
It would be fair to say that a lot has happened since then. While the world’s computers didn’t simultaneously melt down in a Y2K disaster, they did create a major dilemma for the music industry, as the business model shifted almost overnight from physical album sales to the digital-download and streaming-service model. This thrust independent artists that might never have been discovered into the mainstream, and suddenly, bands like Arcade Fire, Bon Iver and the Lumineers were finding massive audiences and even bagging Grammys.
Bands fans never thought would reunite or make more music — the Replacements, My Bloody Valentine, Ben Folds Five , etc. — did just that, and it was almost as if there was a new black-market for music, whereby big record labels weren’t as involved and artists could sell directly to fans — or even ask them to foot the bill for an album.
It makes perfect sense, then, that Sebadoh, who never formally called it quits, should come back now with the aptly titled ‘Defend Yourself,’ their first album in 14 years. One thing to keep in mind is that the band has been doing the post-label thing for pretty much its entire career, self-recording and -producing a lot of its own material. The trio, led by Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr. and Folk Implosion and rounded out by Jason Loewenstein and Bob D’Amico, who have both played in Fiery Furnaces, sound newly reinvigorated. On ‘Defend Yourself,’ they come armed with driving melodies aplenty (see: the lovelorn, emo-ish ballad ‘I Will’) and chunky, guitar-heavy jams like ‘Beat’ and ‘Final Days,’ which will remind younger audiences of Jimmy Eat World. There are also riff-a-minute mock-cow-punk tunes like ‘Inquiries’ and ‘State of Mine,’ the latter a sonic Bat Signal to Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar to bury the hatchet and get Uncle Tupelo back together.
All in all, there aren’t any huge surprises, and that type of consistency is what’s made Sebadoh such an enduring act. But given the present state of the music world, all should hail the return of the guys that made lo-fi popular in the first place.