Review: Sebadoh – Defend Yourself
Published on September 18th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Defend Yourself is Sebadoh’s first studio album since 1999’s fizzling, crackling grunge-pop classic The Sebadoh, so perhaps it’s only natural that the fizzle and crackle have dissipated somewhat over the intervening fourteen years.
Though plainly served, the songs remain strong when you get down to the nuts and bolts of ’em. “State of Mine” seemed like a highly promising lead-in when we recently named it as our single of the week, saying of it:
“Lou Barlow and chaps are back and sounding all bouncy and exuberant in a way that’s very becoming of them. Scratchy guitar chords ascend heavenwards, where they meet plinky harmonics and breezy harmonies that add up to sheer deliciousness.”
There’s plenty more to like besides: “Beat” builds up a rumbling head of steam before giving way to spiky riffing, “Inquiries” sounds like evil Primus rodeo-punk, while “Final Days” is equal parts urgent and elegant.
There’s a subtlety to Defend Yourself that can get lost amid the crashing rhythm section and dissonant guitar, which may or may not have been why the mix was cleared of its more incendiary elements.
As the album wears on, it opens up to us; “Can’t Depend” is the first to err towards ‘lament’, its vocal more prominent than on any of the preceding tracks, then “Let It Out” comes over all arrestingly gentle with its softly-strummed acoustic, quietly shuffling drums and Barlow’s vulnerable-sounding voice.
“Listen” starts out sounding wounded before alleviating its despondent minor key with the reintroduction of a regular volume of drums, and the curtain comes down with “Separate”, which seems a fairly innocuous closer until it descends into Black Sabbath-style sludge then re-emerges as energised psych-pop…
…all within two minutes. You gotta love that. Some of the spark may be missing in this Sebadoh, but Defend Yourself doesn’t feel defeated by it.
Defend Yourself is out now on Domino.
Rocksucker says: Three and a Half Quails out of Five!