||"Scars, Four Eyes"
||"Sickles & Hammers"
Sebadoh III rules. Their third proper album, and their
first full-length that wasn't wholly made up of home-recorded,
mail-exchanged 4-track tapes, III is an epic voyage through
confessional lyrics, uncut-diamond quality pop gems and beauty
found in chaos, at least as much as '90s indie rock could bring.
All these elements were wrapped in such unfashionable qualities
for the time -- folk texture; straight-forward, everyday confession
and self-loathing with very little poetic gloss that came across
as poetic anyway; nerd-noise; intentionally lo-fi recordings that
breathed with intimacy and realness, not gimmickry -- that somehow
displayed their inadequacies by way of sincerity and individuality.
Self-described as "folk core," the DIY punk ethos was
injected with 'sensitivity' and rewrapped in diary-entry 4-track
recordings. The three-piece band of Lou Barlow, Eric Gaffney and
Jason Loewenstein operated as an idealistically democratic unit,
each band member writing and arranging their own songs, making
for an album of wildly creative schizophrenia that tapped into
ideas and perspectives that would reach far into the future of
the indie rock idiom, and that still resonates today.
Released in 1991, around the same time as Nirvana's Nevermind
and before Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted, III
would later prove to inspire the minds of creative types in a
different way than their peers; both their sound as well as their
aesthetic would prove influential. While Nirvana and Pavement
spawned many fly-by-night, blatant copycat bands, Sebadoh managed
to project a spirit and approach, ultimately realized in III,
in subtle ways beyond their unique poly-sound. Inclusion of the
album's "Spoiled" in the outtro to Harmony Korine's
'95 debut film Kids, plus him hiring Folk Implosion (Barlow's
side project with John Davis) to write an original soundtrack
for the film implies that it wasn't only Herzog's later films
that influenced Korine toward an interest in raw spontaneity and
appreciation for beauty in everyday absurdity.
On a lighter note: Besides the slew of horrible record covers
influenced by Sebadoh's blurry family photo artwork (e.g. Nada
Surf, Blind Melon's canary yellow ballerina, just like the one
on the inside cover of III, etc.), they can also be credited
for helping to usher in the whole wave of folk singer/songwriters
that is still growing today. Consider that at the time of the
release of III, the word folk was a four-letter word in
more ways than one, yet they championed it wholeheartedly. It's
also worth pointing out that their cover of Nick Drake's Pink
Moon, first released on their mid-'90s EP Rocking the Forest,
was many an indie rockers' first ever experience with the deceased,
then obscure and out-of-print, loner/crooner.
Okay, enough back-history. The true charm of III would
have to be the completely democratic, epic variety of songs. Smarting
from the ego battles of Dinosaur Jr., it seems that, according
to Lou Barlow, in Sebadoh, everyone's voice counted! III
comes across as the thinking man's loner version of Minutemen's
Double Nickels on the Dime gone folk-Ween God Ween Satan,
plus an open-hearted, collaged love letter sentiment that didn't
quite exist this way beforehand. In non-geezer indie rock speak,
that means the record killed with some rollercoaster variety,
killer songwriting that worked together as an engaging listen
from track one to track 23. Along the way, III manages
to tug at the heartstrings, make you laugh and widen your eyes
with fear ("Blood on the Walls! Blood on the Walls!").
Context helps, but Sebadoh's third album is a true indie
classic and I don't even need to get into this reissue's bonus
CD with 18 tracks of singles, alternate takes and unreleased material.
A list of probable subscribers: Deerhoof, Animal Collective, Adam
Green (confirmed), Rusty Santos, Xiu Xiu, Dead C, Shadow Ring
and so on. [SM]