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Issue #47 - September/October 2013 - MGMTSebadoh

Defend Yourself

Joyful Noise

Sep 26, 2013 Issue #47 - September/October 2013 - MGMT Bookmark and Share

Lou Barlow can certainly roll with the punches. Being booted from Dinosaur Jr. just on the way to 120 Minutes semi-stardom would have been enough to demolish a lesser artist, but Barlow shifted his focus to Sebadoh, the home-recorded side project he shared with Eric Gaffney, and turned it into an indie rock dynasty all its own. Jason Loewenstein would join the band for the breakthrough Sebadoh III, and with shifting lineups they’d put out three more classics over five years before shelving the band at the turn of the millennium.

Fourteen years on, Barlow and Loewenstein-with drummer Bob D’Amico-have reassumed the Sebadoh mantle, and are more or less able to pick up where they’d left off. Even better, Defend Yourself is a conscious throwback to the undefeated years, leapfrogging the sound of 1999’s major label flop, The Sebadoh, and holding closer to the band’s early- and mid-‘90s triumphs. From the chordal burst 30 seconds into opener “I Will” through the late-album pairing of the low-key pop tracks “Let It Out” and “Listen,” the new record flashes so many of the song styles Barlow and company had long ago finessed to near-perfection. In particular when it comes to catchy college rock anthems, Sebadoh are in top form here: “Oxygen” and the aforementioned opener should be surefire sing-alongs at shows.

Across Sebadoh’s discography, the band has balanced its sensitive rock tracks with more aggressive, non-conventional noise; strings of meticulous songcraft with bursts of unchecked emotion are peppered throughout. The new album comes up a little short on those loud, grimier moments of release; the blown-out bass line in “Beat” or the trebly lead work in “Defend yr Self” are the closest we get. It’s this small dearth that leaves Defend Yourself feeling somewhat incomplete, but it’s hardly a deal-breaker. (

Author rating: 7/10

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