Joyful Noise Records
Anyone else think that Sebadoh – or Lou Barlow’s music in general – is a bit like the later-period Mutton Birds? Nope? Just me? Okay. Anyway, I got that feeling again as soon as I started listening to Defend Yourself, particularly the first couple of tracks. Oh, I should clarify that this is no bad thing – I love The Mutton Birds, I rate McGlashan’s work outside and around the band as a songwriter too, so it’s just an observation. There’s something in the phrasing, and in some of the styling of the songs. Anyway…
By the time we get to Beat and the title track we have a slight hint of the final Husker Du albums, you know those ones you’re told not to like as much as the others but damn it all they’re still packed with some fine, fine tunes. Yeah, well same deal here really with Sebadoh’s first full-lengther in 14 years – it might not be as vital, as kooky, as cool as the band’s best grunge-era stuff but it’s certainly hard to fault.
Barlow is perhaps in good spirits and fine form due to a new relationship – he’s also had his fill of playing with strong post-reunion offerings from Dinosaur Jr, but at any rate the best thing you can say about Defend Yourself – and this really is a good thing, a really good thing – is that there’s no duds, no filler. So Oxygen arrives with its reminders of early R.E.M. and Inquiries almost has a Replacements-like guitar scramble with a country-hick pisstake vocal, then Final Days is just bloody good bar-band stuff but at worst it’s still solid, impressively so.
You might not need this, they might not need to have done it but this is no Pixies-like fuck-up; there is no shitting on the legacy, no screwed up, misplaced sense of worth. This is a couple of buddies laying down a few new tunes in the style of how they once played. It’s neither desperate to retrace the steps entirely, nor hopeful of breaking stride to become something wonderful and so new – it’s just a good album from a good band. Usually that would seem like the ultimate lazy kiss-off of a review, but here it’s a happy note to end on. Just as this would be if the band didn’t bother with another.