The Sebadoh backlash was inevitable, even understandable, but that doesn’t mean it ain’t misguided. Sure, the new The Sebadoh (Sub Pop/Sire) isn’t as good as the last album, Harmacy (1996), just as Harmacy wasn’t as good as its predecessor, Bakesale (1994); sure, Lou Barlow’s left the cred-littered streets of Boston for the glitz of (shudder) Los Angeles. But The Sebadoh is still a good album, and a good album is a good album no matter what it follows. Since 1990 Jason Loewenstein and Barlow have worked their way up and down the noise-melody axis with a gawky finesse that’s been often imitated but rarely surpassed. At their best–that would be Bakesale–they finally conquered that middle ground, cohering like a full-fledged rock band instead of a really interesting approximation of one and writing songs that had body as well as soul. The Sebadoh sounds like an attempt, albeit not an entirely successful one, to recapture that perfect balance. It does betray a sense of exhaustion with the form–perhaps the most valid thing its critics have jumped on–but even if Barlow has written better variations on “Love Is Stronger” in the past, this year’s model is still pretty affecting. So are the rockers, most surprisingly “Colorblind,” whose blunt antiracist stance comes as a bit of a shock but turns out to be an apt call to action (or at least an acknowledgment). Of course whether The Sebadoh–or the Sebadoh–will come off this well live is another story. Anyone who’s witnessed the band’s notorious onstage temper tantrums has every reason to doubt it: I once walked out on a show five songs into it, and that was one song before they did. You pays your $15 and you takes your chances. Wednesday, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Charles Peterson.