no-cover

Sebadoh – [Album]

Like
230
0
Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A little background is required for reviewing Sebadoh’s debut album. It was 1988 and Lou Barlow, having been bounced out from under the oppressive regime that was quickly becoming J Mascis’ Dinosaur Jr. by the guitarist himself, went back to the absolute basics of his songwriting; once again making lo-fi basement tapes and refining his craft. He reconnected with Western Mass. scenester Eric Gaffney and the duo began passing a 4-track tape recorder back and forth – eventually cobbling together about fifteen songs each that ultimately became The Freed Man (named for the Friedman dormitory where both players lived with their girlfriends at the time – against house regulations). Cassette copies were duped and sold at a couple of local record stores for the princely sum of ninety-nine cents each. Local label Homestead signed the pair to a record deal on the strength of that demo and with a $500-dollar advance, they revamped the original recording for closer to mass consumption and the band’s path was set.

Nineteen years later and The Freed Man’s mythos has continued to grow as new generations of burgeoning independent rock aficionado discover the music. As if to accommodate new interest too, since the original release the album has come out four more times – each version a little different from the last – and, this year, what can only be considered the definitive version of the album has now seen the light of day.

The irony of Domino’s reissue of The Freed Man is that the most appropriate word to describe the sound of the songs is ‘freedom’. With no expectations placed on them now but those that Gaffney and Barlow would place upon themselves, the duo (usually recording separately on this album) easily, methodically and (usually) melodically trip their way through a self-described stinking garden of delights – fifty-two of them in seventy-nine minutes flat – that bows to no convention and is unmistakably the work of men making up the rules as the tape rolls. Often sounding like a massive sound collage (bits of TV commercials, Winnie The Pooh cartoons, cats purring, snippets of conversation and other found sounds) that has the benefit of a whole lot of heart and a magical number of great, arresting songs that may not seem so great if it wasn’t apparent that they were fumbling completely fumbling in the dark, but that’s one of the most endearing parts of The Freed Man; not just the music, but also the simultaneous discovery of it by both listeners and makers.

It’d be difficult to disagree that the less solid side of The Freed Man is Gaffney’s – songs including “Moldy Bread”, “Level Anything” and “Drift On Thru” are unmistakably the work of a player and writer infatuated with the concept of giving any song or sound a chance to work – but for each of those, there is invariably a song where the guitarist’s experiments fall together in an almost charmed way (“Ladybugs”, “Julienne” and “Made Real” are prime examples) and resonate with the most organic and natural tone conceivable. Often sounding like lyrical free-association poetry as well, Gaffney weaves stories and images here without actually being so direct as to just tell them; they flow out of the occasionally broken or misplaced track breaks and stuttering collages and makes them even better because those songs seem like happy accidents adrift in the detritus.

Barlow’s contributions, however, are a little more revelatory insofar as expressing that his fine song craft was already in place, but he had other thematic irons in the fire at the time that would go so far as to become the foundations for whole other projects. The found sounds and chunks of other material that lace Barlow’s tracks on The Freed Man begin to sound like prototypical, budget-free Folk Implosion as pastiche offerings like “Jaundice”, “Healthy Sick” and “Jealous Evil” inch ever closer to sounding like timeless, stolen moments and “Slow To Learn” and “Fire Of July” explore the darkest recesses of the singer’s thematic leanings. Of course, there is the requisite dismissal of Mascis in the scathing “Pig” that, almost two decades later, sounds a bit petty but probably seemed prescient at the time it was recorded and really, it’s a damned good song in its own right so is forgivable.

As an added bonus, this new incarnation of The Freed Man includes tracks sourced from other releases of the day that Sebadoh contributed to (“Loosened Screw” and “Nest” are dry runs from Freed Weed, tracks from singles and Sebadoh’s side of the Magic Ribbons box set also appear here) that all mesh well with the original spirit of the album and add a little more in the way of that odd, homegrown ‘scattered ideas’ vibe. There’s no debating that The Freed Man is a flawed record – it goes in a staggering number of directions at once – but that’s part of the appeal; it’s dirty, meandering, pure, ambitious, fearless and absolutely beautiful.

Artist:

www.sebadoh.com/
www.myspace.com/sehbahdough
www.facebook.com/realsebadoh
www.twitter.com/#!/realSeBADoh

Album:

The deluxe reissue of The Freed Man is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

no-cover

Sebadoh – [Album]

Like
0
0
Sunday, 30 September 2007

A little background is required for reviewing Sebadoh’s debut album. It was 1988 and Lou Barlow, having been bounced out from under the oppressive regime that was quickly becoming J Mascis’ Dinosaur Jr by the guitarist himself, went back to the absolute basics of his songwriting; once again making lo-fi basement tapes and refining his craft. He reconnected with Western Mass. scenester Eric Gaffney and the duo began passing a 4-track tape recorder back and forth—eventually cobbling together about fifteen songs each that ultimately became The Freed Man (named for the Friedman dormitory where both players lived with their girlfriends at the time—against house regulations). Cassette copies were duped and sold at a couple of local record stores for the princely sum of ninety-nine cents each. Local label Homestead signed the pair to a record deal on the strength of that demo and with a $500-dollar advance, they revamped the original recording for closer to mass consumption and the band’s path was set.

Nineteen years later and The Freed Man’s mythos has continued to grow as new generations of burgeoning independent rock aficionado discover the music. As if to accommodate new interest too, since the original release the album has come out four more times—each version a little different from the last—and, this year, what can only be considered the definitive version of the album has now seen the light of day.

The irony of Domino’s reissue of The Freed Man is that the most appropriate word to describe the sound of the songs is “freedom.” With no expectations placed on them now but those that Gaffney and Barlow would place upon themselves, the duo (usually recording separately on this album) easily, methodically and (usually) melodically trip their way through a self-described stinking garden of delights—52 of them in 79 minutes flat—that bows to no convention and is unmistakably the work of men making up the rules as the tape rolls. Often resonating like a massive sound collage (bits of TV commercials, Winnie The Pooh cartoons, cats purring, snippets of conversation and other found sounds) that has the benefit of a whole lot of heart and a magical number of arrestingly great songs that may not seem so great if it wasn’t apparent that they were completely fumbling in the dark, but that’s one of the most endearing parts of The Freed Man; not just the music, but also the simultaneous discovery of it by both listeners and makers.

It’d be difficult to disagree that the less solid side of The Freed Man is Gaffney’s—songs including “Moldy Bread,” “Level Anything” and “Drift On Thru” are unmistakably the work of a player and writer infatuated with the concept of giving any song or sound a chance to work—but for each of those, there is invariably a song where the guitarist’s experimentations fall together pristinely (“Ladybugs,” “Julienne” and “Made Real” are prime examples) and resonate with the most organic and natural tone conceivable. Often sounding like lyrical free-association poetry as well, Gaffney weaves stories and images here without actually being so direct as to just tell them; they FLOW out of the occasionally broken or misplaced track breaks and stuttering collages and makes them even better because those songs seem like happy accidents adrift in the detritus.

Barlow’s contributions, however, are a little more revelatory insofar as expressing that his fine song craft was already in place, but he had other thematic irons in the fire at the time that would go so far as to become the foundations for other projects. The found sounds and chunks of other material that lace Barlow’s tracks on The Freed Man begin to sound like prototypical, budget-free Folk Implosion as pastiche offerings like “Jaundice,” “Healthy Sick” and “Jealous Evil” inch ever closer to sounding like timeless, stolen moments and “Slow To Learn” and “Fire Of July” explore the darkest recesses of the singer’s thematic leanings. Of course, there is the requisite dismissal of Mascis in the scathing “Pig” that, almost two decades later, sounds a bit petty but probably seemed prescient at the time it was recorded and really, it’s a damned good song in its own right, so it’s forgivable.

As an added bonus, this new incarnation of The Freed Man includes tracks sourced from other releases of the day that Sebadoh contributed to (“Loosened Screw” and “Nest” are dry runs from Freed Weed, tracks from singles and Sebadoh’s side of the Magic Ribbons box set also appear here) that all mesh well with the original spirit of the album and add a little more in the way of that odd, homegrown “scattered ideas” vibe. There’s no debating that The Freed Man is a flawed record—it goes in a staggering number of directions at once—but that’s part of the appeal; it’s dirty, meandering, pure, ambitious, fearless and absolutely beautiful.

The Freed Man is out now on Domino

More on Sebadoh: www.sebadoh.com

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of
avatar
wpDiscuz