The Return of the Kings of Jangle-Pop
For Sebadoh, it’s as if the last decade didn’t happen. Defend Yourself, their latest LP since 1999’s The Sebadoh, picks up right where this legendary three-piece left off. Young fans of today’s indie-pop may not be aware that much of the music they enjoy today was influenced by Lou Barlow, Jason Loewenstein and Eric Gaffney’s mix of hi-fi energy, lo-fi production and all-fi melody, but many of their favorites wouldn’t exist today if not for Sebadoh. With Defend Yourself, Sebadoh seeks to remind the world of this by doing what they have always done.
While the technology and experience exist to create a smoother, better-toned album, that wouldn’t be true to Sebadoh’s nature, and would serve to confuse fans who may have been expecting exactly what has been put to tape in these thirteen songs. The album starts with “I Will” and some gentle picking of a slightly out-of-tune guitar, and Barlow’s vocal tone, aped by so many in the last ten years, delivers a sweet, urgent melody. When the song takes off, it’s no less urgent and no less lovely, which is Sebadoh’s trademark: jangly, loud and beautiful. “Defend Yr Self” reminds listeners of the band’s post-punk beginnings, whereas “Let it Out” and “Listen” show their quieter side, which is at its essence the same as the other songs– just softer.
Not resting on their laurels, “Inquiries” introduces a punk-a-billy sound to the fold, and it adds some fun to Defend Yourself, as does “State of Mine.” “Can’t Depend” sounds suspiciously like old Dinosaur Jr., reminding us all of where Sebadoh came from to begin with.
Defend Yourself is not a breakthrough, and it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Bakesale or Harmacy, but on shuffle you will recognize these songs as unmistakeably Sebadoh, and you won’t be absolutely certain what year they were made. It’s still better than much of what’s being produced today, a reminder that when it comes to music, if the songs are written with care and feeling, the performances don’t have to be flawless.