The last time Sebadoh put out a full-length record, Bill Clinton was president, 9/11 hadn’t happened yet, everybody was still wondering if Y2K was going to cause a global crisis, and a solid chunk of future Boston Hassle writers were still in elementary school. But it’s better late than never, so fourteen years later, Lou Barlow and company present Defend Yourself, Sebadoh’s eighth album.
From the chord progressions to Barlow’s familiar vocal timbre, everything seems so utterly nineties here– like, I just want to roll the windows down in a ’95 Camry and drive around the neighborhood and blast this album. There are cool, drawn out, fuzzy jams (like the end of “Once”) that lead into brazen power chord intros (the beginning of “Inquiries). There are the uptempo alt-rock tunes (“State of Mind”) and the more pensive, somber ones (“Love You Here”).
But fourteen years after the last album, this band is fourteen years wiser– and more cynical– and it’s apparent in both the lyrics and the tone of the songs. Though they sometimes nudge close to the line, not one of these songs thrusts into full-on rock-mode, favoring meaningful restraint over excess noise. A day at home is real unreal/Beautiful like a baby girl/Then a family needs me/Home/But I’m gone Lou Barlow sings in “Love You Here”. With age, their lives aren’t as overtly punk-rock as they used to be– and the subtlety of this album reflects that. But you can tell Sebadoh is a little uneasy about aging just by the album’s title– Defend Yourself. What are they defending, exactly?
This is DIY gem is released by Joyful Noise– and since it’s not a major label release, you can stream the whole thing on Bandcamp. If you really love it, pick up a physical copy directly from the band or grab one from your favorite local purveyor of records.