There is nothing wrong with Sebadoh. Absolutely nothing. Their only downfall is the fact that they were unlucky enough to open for Neutral Milk Hotel on some of their Asian dates, so they will be forever known to me as “that band I had to listen to before the greatest band ever played.”
I got to hear Sebadoh last month in Taipei, and even though yes, it was something I just had to bear before I got to see Neutral Milk Hotel, it wasn’t torture. I know, such high praise for Sebadoh! Not torture! But really, they were good. I was talking to a guy before the show who said he’d seen Sebadoh in Taiwan before, a few years ago, and they put on a really good show, so I didn’t think it would be awful. And it wasn’t.
To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what Sebadoh was all about. I’d heard of them but couldn’t place any songs — just knew they were moderately successful in the alt scene in the 90s. However, I was familiar with Lou Barlow for two reasons: 1) he got kicked out of Dinosaur Jr which is cool and 2) he was in The Folk Implosion, a band that released this super 90s-esque song called “Natural One” which I loved and was just everything I remember about alternative music in the 90s. Also, the video had these gross and yet weirdly erotic shots of worms in it. I definitely remember that. Anyway (stay with me down this rabbit hole), a few months ago on a new music episode of NPR’s All Songs Considered, someone had done a cover of “Natural One” and it was the first time I’d heard it in ages, and I thought, “Let’s relive 6th grade!” and went to download it, and of course had to find out what the Folk Implosion was up to, bringing Lou Barlow to mind. So then when I got to Taipei and saw that Sebadoh was opening, I was like, “Hey, Lou Barlow! That’s what you’ve been up to.” So before I continue, please take this moment to enjoy “Natural One” and pretend it’s 1995 again.
So yeah, Sebadoh. They were pretty good. They did sound like mid-90s alt rock, and not in a bad way, just not in a terribly modern way. They played old stuff but also a lot of new stuff, but I’m totally taking their word for that because I wasn’t familiar with any of their stuff. Less lo-fi than they used to be, I think. What I did like about them is that Lou Barlow and Jason Loewenstein switched lead and vocals every once in a while. Barlow was definitely more indie/alt rock, while Loewenstein had a harder edge when he played. But I like bands with more than one front man/woman, because it really does add variety as long as there’s still cohesion. Honestly, I didn’t feel strongly about them one way or the other. Except, of course, for the fact that they were actually playing and Neutral Milk Hotel was not. I mean, they put on a solid show and I probably would have really liked them and been totally into their sound at any other show at any other time. But not that night. But still, Sebadoh, yeah, there you are. Poor guys. They are not getting a fair shake from me.
Oh, and hey, look at that, they’ve got a new album out called Defend Yourself. Check it out on Bandcamp.