Sebadoh – [EP]

Saturday, 18 August 2012

After thirteen years' worth of relentless renovation and several complete re-thinkings of form, style, taste and composition, it's good to know that some things are true, and that includes the fact that Lou Barlow and Jason Loewenstein remain two of the best songwriters in rock n' roll. Even now in 2012, the duo's talents exemplified by Sebadoh's body of work remain undiminished by time; the reissue endeavors that the band has undertaken and the tours they've done in support of them have proven the staying power of their legacy, all that has really been absent has been some new music to prove that they've still got the magic. Fans have waited patiently for the band to re-enter the studio, and that patience is rewarded with the release of the Secret EP; Sebadoh's first release of new music since the band's self-titled swan song in 1999.

Truly, Sebadoh shows precisely no age or wear as they start with “Keep The Boy Alive,” a Lou Barlow-helmed track which successfully recaptures the spirit of the best underground rock love songs (the combination of Barlow's gentle-to-the-point-of-being-tearfully-spoken tenor coupled with explosive rhythm guitars has never sounded so good) and drives it through listeners with no peripheral glances or novelty. That the song is straight-faced is actually one of the best selling points of it; unlike so many other bands who have returned to active duty recently (see Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden and, poetically enough, Dinosaur Jr.), Sebadoh doesn't seed this first song (or any other the others on this EP) with any contrived nudges to old glory, they just fly hard and straight in the face of fear. It's glorious.

The sense that the band is here in all its glory unchanged endures as Jason Loewenstein picks up the mic and manually shifts Sebadoh into a slightly punkier gear for “My Drugs” and, between it and “Keep The Boy Alive,” long-time fans who have waited so patiently will be in a state of euphoria. Again – as was the case for Barlow with “Keep The Boy Alive” – Loewenstein's authoritative voice (less methodical and measured than Barlow's, and more geared to rock abandon) blasts through with perfect clarity  on “My Drugs” and has the perfect sort of raucous drive to put steam in any listener's stride. “My Drugs" is the perfect counterpart to “Keep The Boy Alive” and it's hard not to hum along dew-eyed as lines like “Make the same mistakes/ over again/ I can't break the chain/ Going 'round again” burrow their way into the pleasure center of every fan's brain.

With the poles of “Keep The Boy Alive” and “My Drugs” established, Sebadoh does another lap between them with “Arbitrary High” (another Barlow gem which begins with the prize line “I don't believe I'm good, but I can be adequate”) and “I Don't Mind” (which concedes “I know it's not what you wanted” – even though that's exactly what it is) before ending on a laughable, tossed off bit of rock genius in the form of “All Kinds” before abruptly cutting out. As it goes, listeners will find themselves stammering after it in protest that there has to be more but, when nothing comes they'll be hurriedly reaching to start it over; they'll feel compelled to do so until they're able to take it all in.

As often as a listener will replay this EP and as much enjoyment as they'll take from it, there's no question that what's here is insufficient – it's good and there needs to be more. This Secret EP is an excellent tease, but every fan will need a more substantial, full-length answer for it. There will be a lot of very interested fans waiting rabidly now, so here's hoping that it won't be too long in coming.


Further Reading:
Ground Control –
Sebadoh Rides Again – [Feature Article]

Sebadoh's Secret EP is out now. Buy it here directly from the band. Hard copies will be available at the group's shows.

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