With J Mascis’ songwriting dominating the releases of Dinosaur Jr., bassist Lou Barlow began putting his own songs to tape, eventually giving his “side project” the name Sebadoh. Barlow and bandmate Eric Gaffney self-released a couple cassettes before one of them, The Freed Man, received an official release on Homestead Records in 1989. Sebadoh’s Homestead debut coincided with Barlow’s exit from Dinosaur Jr. and Jason Loewenstein joined Barlow and Gaffney around the same time in what was now Barlow’s full-time gig.
Early Sebadoh releases were blissfully schizophrenic, a head-spinning mix of experimental sound collages, blistering Punk Rock and emotive lo-fi Indie Pop gems. In the early ’90s, Sebadoh signed to Sub Pop Records and put out a pair of albums — Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock and Bubble and Scrape — that are among the finest Indie albums of the ’90s. Gaffney left after the brilliant Bubble and Scrape and Sebadoh’s sound became more focused, with Barlow’s ripening songwriting talents commanding most of the attention on 1994’s Bakesale and 1996’s Harmacy. Sebadoh’s release of The Sebadoh in 1999 was followed by a break as Barlow and Loewenstein worked on outside projects.
Sebadoh returned to the road in the ’00s, including stints in support of various reissues that reunited the “classic lineup” of Barlow, Gaffney and Loewenstein (during this time, Barlow also rejoined Dinosaur Jr., which continues to tour and release new albums). Gaffney eventually left, replaced by drummer Bob D’Amico.
Last fall, Sebadoh released the comeback full-length Defend Yourself, the band’s first album in 14 years. The album recaptured some of the dizzying sonic diversity of Sebadoh’s early Sub Pop recordings, but also finds Barlow and Loewenstein’s songwriting skills as sharp as ever. The album is also endearingly raw, a sign of the band’s return to self-recording (“raw” being a relative term here; home-recording has come a long way since Barlow and Co.’s early 4-track cassette efforts).
Sebadoh’s Cincinnati show this week is a free one, so if you’re planning on attending, be sure to show up early — MOTR is sure to reach capacity fairly quickly.
SEBADOH performs Friday, Feb. 21 at MOTR Pub. Click here for more info.