For all the ink spilled about Sebadoh being a lo-fi slack-rock band (and certainly some of it was self-generated), much of the seminal Sebadoh III, originally released in 1991, could pass as near classic rock. Most of the songs on Sebadoh’s highest achievement fall into two camps. There are the studio rockers, on which the band members click with a precision that belies their non-shit-giving rap. “Violet Execution” is one of Eric Gaffney’s penned and led songs, but it’s Lou Barlow’s walking, chord-progression-resolving bass line that steals the show and makes the song an heir to Byrdsian/Early R.E.M. jangle. Then there are those songs Barlow recorded in his own bedroom, strumming an acoustic, sometimes improvising household objects for percussion. These achieve an intimate, Nick Drake level of mysticism.
In these ways, then, Sebadoh III, a pillar of ’90s indie rock, really was an instant classic, worthy of this beefed-up re-release to mark its fifteen-year anniversary. Just like it’s been said that the Ramones simply took Beach Boys prettiness and rapidly sped it up, the members of Sebadoh can bury their tunes in as much bong resin and garage fuzz as humanly possible, but none of that can truly hide the underlying beauty of the music.
Even in its original form, Sebadoh III was a sprawling, magical mess. Often mentioned in the same breath as Pavement‘s Slanted and Enchanted, it’s easy to forget that this was Sebadoh’s third full-length, not its debut, so should more rightly be compared to Wowee Zowee. But even that wide-ranger had only eighteen tracks, compared to III‘s twenty-three.
Like any good reissue these days, this comes with a heaping helping of extras. The highlights of the second disc are its bookends. “Gimme Indie Rock” is Barlow’s legendary cataloguing of the scene going on around him — basically Michael Azzerad’s book This Band Could Be Your Life condensed into a rock song. And “Showtape ’91” is Barlow as standup comic, recording a bunch of fake intros for the band. He repeats funny ways the band’s name has been mispronounced and calls out, in addition to less original “indie” bands that are signing to majors for the big bucks, ass-kissing fanboys and, of course, his own band — “incompetence masking as inspiration” is one crack. Only a band that unserious about itself could stumble into a masterpiece like Sebadoh III.
“The Freed Pig” MP3“Gimme Indie Rock” MP3