I never knew Sebadoh. They didn’t introduce themselves. They never visited. I remember them emerging from somewhere as a side project for someone. I remember hearing they were an unfussy band, more interested in songs than recording perfection. I found them recently, long after their and my musical prime, but it seems we’re both ready for each other. I’m glad they came over.
Most people either know them pretty well or not at all. For the latter, I’m going to tell you a story. Sebadoh was formed as an outlet for Lou Barlow’s songwriting when in Dinosaur, Jr.. While Barlow wrote songs for Dino, he was, for various reasons, overshadowed by Dino’s guitarist J Mascis. After the first Sebadoh album came out, Barlow was fired from Dino Jr. and, suddenly, the side project was his main gig. Around that time (1989), I’d heard knowledgeable folks saying, “If you like XX, you’ll like Sebadoh” where XX stood in for any southern indie rock bands such as Guadalcanal Diary, Dumptruck, or the Connells. Did I listen? I did not. But, it may not surprise you that I always thought Sebadoh was itself a southern indie rock band. I was wrong. They’re form Boston. There you have it, the results of actual research on Wikipedia.
This 2012 Sebadoh EP, Secret EP, reminds me of my favorite parts of the back-then music that used to dominate my listening. Back then, it would have sounded too casual for my serious-thinking ways. Today, a more relaxed David realizes this is just simple fun that reminds of the past without taking me there. Album opener “Keep the Boy Alive” has the feel of a cross between an early REM song and fellow Athens GA band Dumptruck. Musically, it sounds like a large horse galloping through the fields. The lyrics are contemplative and sweeping. Whatever was intended, the lyrics seem to be about nurturing the joys of childhood through adulthood – a kind of love song to happiness. If you reminisce about odd things, “My Drugs” brings a feeling of REM doing a grunge cover. Again, about the past coming forward, but this time about about avoiding the problems of the past. If your a Hubner fan, this may remind you of a frenetic version of “I am the Kaiser”. Hold on, the past-brought-to-present isn’t over yet. “I Don’t Mind” brings the country-folk sounds of Tom Petty’s love child with Jackson Browne. Perfect for staring silently at the clouds during a congenial back yard BBQ. Naturally, the closer “All Kinds” brings the early REM sound again. Despite the references to distinct sounding fellow artists, the EP still sounds likes its own thing, but with an extra reminder that these guys were a band back then, too, soaking in the same influences. Back then, I’d shrug and move on. Now, I prefer this EP to revisiting the past.