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Preview: Sebadoh 

Noah Bonaparte Pais on the venerable indie band coming to Gasa Gasa Feb. 11

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Photo by Bryan Zimmerman

If relationships were indie rock bands, we'd all be calling up our grade school sweethearts, laughing over yellowed Polaroids and reliving make-out sessions in backseats and bleachers. Like Kim Deal, Lou Barlow missed his old flames so bad, he got back together with all of them. Perhaps "missed" is the wrong word for Barlow's feelings toward Dinosaur Jr. antagonist J Mascis; borrowing from Barlow himself, "dick," "asshole" and "Nazi" are three purported others. Dinosaur Jr. still works because Mascis and Barlow maintain their artistic tension, and Sebadoh still works because Barlow and bassist Jason Loewenstein need a place to channel their anxiety, their uncertainty and their ugliest and prettiest thoughts. Defend Yourself (Joyful Noise), Sebadoh's eighth album and first in 14 years, doesn't touch either end of that spectrum — there are no juxtapositions like III's "Scars, Four Eyes" and "Truly Great Thing" or "Limb by Limb" and "Smoke a Bowl" here, to say nothing of "As the World Dies, the Eyes of God Grow Bigger" — but the compression feels more like a trade-off than a letdown. In contrast to 1999's glossed-over swan song The Sebadoh and the band's messy and unspeakable (only whisperable and screamable) early work, this sounds like the Sebadoh of Bakesale and especially Harmacy: an uneven set whose stickiest track ("State of Mine") is also its prickliest one, a reminder of why, as Barlow once spewed, "No one could excite me any more than you." Getting back together — it's the new splitting up. Octagrape and High open. Tickets $12. — NOAH BONAPARTE PAIS


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