Album review - Sebadoh, 'Defend Yourself'


Defend Yourself
Joyful Noise

It's been 14 years since lo-fi rock trio Sebadoh released a proper album, and it sounds as though no time has passed at all. The sound of Defend Yourself is as growly and deliciously fuzzy as 1999's The Sebadoh, perfectly capitalizing on a reemergence of '90s rock nostalgia. The time seemed ripe for a Sebadoh reunion, as front man Lou Barlow's other essential rock group, Dinosaur Jr., has been kicking ass and taking names at plenty of music festivals in the last two years. And upstarts like No Age, which owe so much of their sludgy goodness to Barlow's signature churn, rule right now. Sebadoh has been frozen in aural amber; no studio gimmicks to be seen on Defend Yourself, unless one considers the old-school straight-to-tape live recordings a gimmick. It's unfussy and swampy. "Beat" is all dissonant guitar and bass drags from Jason Loewenstein and lumbering drums care of Bob D'Amico. It's Bigfoot plodding to song. "Once" is a gruff instrumental with big cojones, sounding like something Thurston Moore would pen on a day he woke up on the right side of the bed. And "State of Mine" is a bit more cow-punk/alt-country-- you can do-si-do or mosh, if you'd like. There are plenty of elder statesmen reflections on Defend Yourself. In "State," Barlow ponders the hardest thing he's ever had to do, even though he hasn't "even done it yet." He follows up with "I was wrong," atoning for the trespasses of his youth (maybe an apology to J. Mascis for when he got kicked out of Dinosaur Jr. back in the late '80s?). Defend Yourself presents an interesting dichotomy of wallowing in old grunge-y standbys and coming to terms with middle age. The rock is a little weather-beaten at this point and is unlikely to win any new fans, but longtime supporters ought to have a reason to cheer.

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