July 24, 2013

Song Review: Sebadoh's "I Will"

I wasn't old enough to appreciate Sebadoh during their first time around, but was fortunate to catch Lou Barlow and Jason Lowenstein team up for one of their first two-thirds reunion gigs at a benefit show in Northampton where the role of a drummer was filled in by a cassette player. Coupled with J Mascis' subsequent fully-amped solo set and Sonic Youth's typically skull-fucking headlining show, it was this night in particular where the homegrown indie roots running through my local surroundings would indefinitely attach themselves into my dumb college kid ears. That was 2004. Nine years later, Barlow and Mascis have since reconciled long enough to put out three superb post-reunion full-lengths with Dinosaur Jr., and now Barlow is going the extra mile by efforting Sebadoh's first new full-length since 1999's The Sebadoh when Defend Yourself arrives via Joyful Noise on September 17th in the U.S. and a day earlier on Domino in the U.K. Earlier this year, the lo-fi indie rock pioneers (which now feature Fiery Furnaces drummer Bob D'amico behind the kit instead of a cassette player) quietly released a collection of damaged, disjointed pop-rockers in the 5-track Secret EP, but Defend Yourself's first single "I Will" is an autumnal version of Barlow and company where the aged mind begins to rear its wise head in retrospect. Despite the fact the new LP was recorded under low tech standards with busted gear in the frontman's home studio, decades of DIY-ing it in some shape or form have also firmed up his technical proficiency to make for a smooth sound where its uneven corners used to be. Yet, shedding some upbeat brightness all over the production only serves to illuminate the darker, sadder subject lying beneath the clean shields of reverb, with that being Barlow's divorce story as he watches his lover fall away from his dedicated hand. These shades of blue happened 25 years ago, but "I Will" connects just as firmly with its emotional sound as it would before any of Barlow's past breakups -- whether it be relationship-wise or artistically.

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