Friday, July 5, 2013

The Secret EP Foreshadows September

Although the bigger release happens on Sept. 17 when Sebadoh puts out its first full length in 14 years, there is plenty to like about the 5-track Secret EP. It will also be the first time the band has self-released since the 1990s.

The album, Defend Yourself, will be put out by Joyful Noise Recordings in the United States and Domino in the United Kingdom. If the brisk sellout of the limited edition 10" vinyl EP foreshadows the story, the long-time bandmates will have plenty to celebrate.

The Secret EP revives the Sebadoh experience.

Lou Barlow (Dinosaur Jr.), Jason Loewenstein, and Bob D'Amico originally released the Secret EP "in secret" by quietly posting the songs on their bandcamp page months before the official release. They then released the green vinyl edition to see who was paying attention. Only 300 were produced.

The motivation is pure. After the reunion with Dinosaur Jr., Barlow looked at producing new material as a duty. He knew the music was missed, fans were happy to tell him Sebadoh would be welcomed back on their playlists and turntables.

"With both bands, the songs are delivered in a fairly relaxed way," Barlow told Spin, "But the major difference is that J has an assistant and an incredible array of vintage amplifiers. With Sebadoh, we use whatever semi-broken-down [gear] I have lying around."

No one would know it listening to the EP. Keep The Boy Alive picks up the familiar mix of guitar fuzz to accompany those distinctive Barlow vocals. What's different is that the trio was looking to make the music soar, which they do with a track about life, death and preserving youth through all of it.

Maybe surprisingly, Sebadoh didn't lead the teaser EP with it. They opted to share three-quarters of the minute-and-a-half slacker track All Kinds. Not everyone will appreciate it, but it plays tight and delightful  and will leave you wishing it was a longer song. It's timeless, and easily counted among my favorites.

My Drugs is an addiction-laced ditty about how someone can get stuck on drugs. There is a sinister side to the song, which starts off blissful before spiraling out of the control for the darker side. Even on the front end, Barlow sings about how he will always stand by friends but he abandons them all by the end.

From My Drugs, the EP drifts into Arbitrary High, which takes on a heavier and hazier tone. The better track is I Don't Mind, which is probably the most relaxed track on the album. Instead of writing to the experience, which Barlow is known to do well, I Don't Mind is much more tender in the telling.
I Don't Mind might even be the best songwriting on the album. While the instruments don't necessarily stand up to be noticed as much as they convey a mood, the lyrics are touching and even heartbreaking.

For me, the best part of the EP is hearing Bob D'Amico play material that he can call his own. Stepping in for founding member Eric Gaffney in 2011 kept the reissue movement alive that led up to this point. The Secret EP and future release of Defend Yourself truly makes him part of it with Barlow and Loewenstein. (D'Amico and Loewenstein also play together as the duo Circle Of Buzzards.)

The Secret EP By Sebadoh Warms Up 7.9 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Although Defend Yourself might revisit some of the tracks in September, The Secret EP is well worth the download. Two years ago, it didn't seem likely that the band would begin working on new material. Reissuing Bakesale seemed like enough. Count me among the ones happy it didn't stop there.

The Secret EP by Sebadoh can be found on Amazon. You can also download the EP from iTunes. Finding vinyl copies will eventually be challenging. The best bet is to visit the band direct. You can also keep up with Sebadoh on Facebook.
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