So here we have the second Domino deluxe reissue of one of Sebadoh’s early landmark albums. The trend brings to mind the way Matador is trawling back through Pavement’s albums, adding heaps of studio ephemera. I complained that doing so had the effect of tipping Wowee Zowee into almost interminably random territory, but stuffing The Freed Man (heretofore unavailable on CD) even fatter than it already was actually works. Wowee Zowee was Pavement’s most lengthy and unwieldy album, yet it still managed to remain a cohesive unit. The Freed Man, on the other hand, seem liked it was always meant to be Lou Barlow and Eric Gaffney doing straight stream-of-consciousness. Here, mess is definitely more.
What’s startling about The Freed Man, almost twenty years later, is how much a precursor it was to noise-collage albums like Beck’s Odelay or the Avalanches Since I Left You. I’d always associated the terms “indie rock” and “lo-fi” with Sebadoh, but never avant-garde. There’s almost as much random found-sound snippets packed into The Freed Man — Disney cartoon clips, Sesame Street lines, sociological quotes, Barlow family chatter — as there is actual tunage.
On the flip side, Barlow has always been Barlow, obsessed with the same topics. They’re all here: self-doubt, self-deprecation, dumped-by-Dinosaur anger, hopeless romanticism, indie-rock-insider commentary, high praise for pot and beer. In short, the human condition condensed into fifty-two tracks of aural oddity.