Lou Barlow has said that Sebadoh “were always going to make another record”. So why does half of Defend Yourself, the new album that the band had 14 years to make, feel so rushed?
‘I Will’ thankfully gets the album off to a rousing start, but as soon as the second track ‘Love You Here’ begins, the record’s problems become clear. Unlike Barlow’s work in Dinosaur Jr., where the songs are basically just an excuse for J Mascis to shred over, the success of a Sebadoh album depends entirely on the quality and diversity of the individual songs.
Unfortunately Defend Yourself’s forced lo-fi production suffocates the songs and makes them all sound the same. This leaves all but two in the first half forgettable. Only the aforementioned ‘I Will’ and the pleasantly R.E.M. inflected ‘Oxygen’ are worth your time.
But then, beginning with the jangly ‘State Of Mine’ and continuing until the end of the album, you realise that Defend Yourself isn’t a waste of time, just incredibly bottom-heavy. ‘Final Days’, ‘Listen’, Jason Lowenstein’s ‘Can’t Depend’ and fantastic closer ‘Separate’ all would rank highly on Sebadoh’s original run of albums. Best of all, Barlow’s acoustic beauty ‘Let It Out’ gives the album the diversity lacking in the first half and is the clear highlight of the album. So, judged on a song-by-song basis, the album is pretty good. It’s just the sequencing that’s off.
The last six songs on the album give hope to Sebadoh fans that the band can deliver a better album next time. Let’s hope they stick around long enough to do so.
BY LEONARDO SILVESTRINI
Defend Yourself is out now through Domino Records.