“I wish this was the last show of tour,” frets Lou Barlow. “Then we could be all triumphant.” He laughs apologetically, fresh from a Dinosaur Jr tour of Mexico, and clearly wishing that his other band Sebadoh had managed to sneak in a rehearsal before this spate of European shows. Instead, we’re treated to a glorious mess; a night where the band are gigglingly reliant on reminding each other how their songs go. Were it almost any other band, the audience’s patience would be sorely tested. But hey, fuck it – as one audience member yells when Lou apologises for apologizing, “THAT’S SEBADOH!”
Things get underway with a couple of highlights from new LP ‘Defend Yourself’, their first full-length since 1999’s ‘The Sebadoh’. In that time, Lou’s mainly focused on bass duties with Dinosaur, whilst dabbling in some decidedly folkier outfits under his own name. It’s the latter influence that most audibly dominates his newer material, with the dreamy melodies of ‘I Will’ underpinned by a moderately-jaunty swing. We don’t have to wait long before the first selection of old favourites, however, and the familiar twang of ‘Rebound’ sets heads-a-nodding whilst marking an early attempt to stretch nostalgic grins to cheek-bursting extremes.
As usual, they kick up a notch when we hit the first selection of Jason Loewenstein’s songs. Always the underrated songwriter of the band, his uber-wracked garage classics stomp and snarl with genuine menace. An, um, ‘freeform’ approach to the recorded guitar lines of tracks like ‘Careful’ and ‘Unhinged’ makes some tense, off-kilter punk numbers feel positively unhinged; his fingers practically corroding the strings as his acid tongue spits hoarse bon mots into the night. It’s the exact balance required for the honeyed warmth of Barlow’s heartfelt pop – the great, underappreciated yin-yang of indie rock.
Sloppy as they undoubtedly are tonight, Sebadoh still know how to put on a good show. Admittedly their set list is largely improvised, and it seems odd that the current line-up (bolstered by drummer Bob d’Amico) neglects sort-of hits like ‘Gimme Indie Rock’ and ‘Flame’. Barlow himself remarks upon the ludicrousness of not having learned those particular crowd favourites, before delving into his treasure trove of lo-fi classics to produce innumerable spine-tinglers from their 90s heyday. The evening is summed up when they decide to honour a request for ‘Ride The Darker Wave’, before swiftly teaching the basics of the song to an amused d’Amico. It should be horrible. It should fall apart. But it doesn’t, and the ensuing sense of euphoric relief makes the whole damn venture feel all the more heroic. That, friends, is Sebadoh.
Words: Will Fitzpatrick
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