Sebadoh - III
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Sebadoh was the result of the demise of the great Dinosaur Jnr, Lou Barlow's acrimonious split from the behemoth that it had become. Sure, Sebadoh had been a part-time project of Barlow's, but as he was now faced with more free time he poured his energy into the band he'd formed with drummer/songwriter Eric Gaffney which then added drummer/songwriter Jason Loewenstein to complete the new trio.
Sebadoh "III" was the final act of this trio before Gaffney left under a cloud due to the media's focus on Barlow's work and failure to mention his contribution to the band. This became the bands seminal release as this setup and was split between Gaffney's electric tracks and Barlow and Loewenstein's acoustic songs. Sure, Sebadoh went on to create further great records ("Bakesale" and "Harmony" instantly spring to mind), but "III" influenced so many other artists and helped kick start the lo-fi genre of the 90's, without which we'd have no Beck or Liz Phair, that it's become a modern classic.
It's a typical Sebadoh record is respect to the huge number of songs on here, it was 23 tracks long as an original album but it's now augmented with a second disc. These 18 include out-takes a rare demos (how can you tell the difference between a Sebadoh song and a demo for it??) and kicks-off with the group's 'Gimme Indie Rock!' EP. What you make of these extra tracks will be dependent on your view of the Sebadoh back catalogue as a whole, but it's nice to finally hear the EP in its full glory.
The music on here varies and oscillates widely between the alt-folk of Barlow's introspective song writing and Gaffney's fuzzed out, feedback driven rock which can border frighteningly close to metal in places - see "Limb By Limbs" yelled vocals. "Total Peace" is a beautiful slice of lo-fi folk with it's bare acoustic guitars and Barlow's voice floating over the top of it, a lullaby for friendship and loneliness. As a complete contrast to this is "Sickles and Hammers" only lasting 50 seconds, it's a huge nod to the Minutemen, with it's hard driven guitar riffs and mad drumming it's almost there to clear the musical palate before "Total Peace's" introspection.
Then you have "Supernatural Force", this is as close to Dinosaur Jnr as you're going to get here - a jaunty fuzzed up guitar line with its duelling vocals and simple stripped back approach. There's also the broken up and unmastered "Rockstar" with its bare amount of setup, just detuned guitars and Barlow's vocals prominent and yet unfocused, which has more in common with the drone works of Sonic Youth than anything else.
The best thing about this wildly ambitious album is that all the tracks barely last longer than three minutes - only "As The World Dies, The Eyes of God Grow Bigger" runs considerably longer than this at six - so even if the song doesn't do anything for you, it'll be over quickly and another wicked slice of twisted indie rock will be along soon enough. This is a masterpiece of lo-fi and home brewed musicianship which can act as an introduction to so many different aspects of alternative music; whether it's the post-Dinosaur Jnr work of Lou Barlow or as an introduction to the lo-fi movement itself, I can't recommend this album highly enough.
CD Times spoke with Lou Barlow about his career thus far; from Dinosaur Jnr to the Folk Implosion. The full conversation can be found here.