London Highbury Garage

ust once maybe [a]Sebadoh[/a] could come onstage and play one of their good songs! Really well! Rather than arriving, playing a couple of chords of [B]'Gimme Indie Rock'[/B], not playing it, and the

Like so much with [a]Lou Barlow[/a], it comes down to a relationship. Specifically, ours: we’ve been together a good few years, us and [a]Sebadoh[/a]. Seen a few ups and downs, certainly, but this time Lou seems to have made an effort to sharpen up his act. Even got a new drummer, so maybe he means it this time. Yep, this time we’re going to pull through.

Trouble is, though, there’s a big gap between promising something and actually delivering it, and it’s this sticky residence that is home to Sebadoh. Developing, from sketchy beginnings, a pure, non-generic American songwriting talent. Working up a canon of desirable and heartbreaking works… and then somehow blowing it all when the opportunity to close the deal approaches. Again with the relationships: they’re a precarious kind of balance, weighing the good against the bad; it’s just that sometimes without even trying, they fall to the bad.

Lou? We want it to work maybe even more than he does. He still cares (at one point he complains – joking? Not joking? Who can tell? – about people talking at the bar. “You care,” he says. “But do you really care?”), but there remains a fundamental gap between our expectations and what Lou feels able to deliver.

It’s as though he has sought to pull Sebadoh back from the cusp of commercial breakthrough to its original scattershot brief. We’re still out there, doubly frustrated at what he gives out when – just to say it again – if you get the ten best Sebadoh songs, they’re better than the ten best songs by pretty much anyone else.

And eventually, after a lot of fumbling about, you’ll get to hear some of them: the astonishing ‘Beauty Of The Ride’, ‘Soul And Fire’ (Ah, Lou! About love coming to an end! It could be our song!) and ‘Skull’, about going out and taking loads of drugs with EVAN DANDO, and it’s impossible to deny their greatness. Lou, hirsute, digging a road with his guitar in the NEIL YOUNG fashion, paddling once again in the river of heartbreak.

Then you wake up to the personality and feel the frustration. Just once, you think. Just once maybe Sebadoh could come onstage and play one of their good songs! Really well! Rather than arriving, playing a couple of chords of ‘Gimme Indie Rock’, not playing it, and then having a bit of a sulk. This is ‘what you expect’ from Sebadoh, apparently. Or maybe just the sound of people making that allowance too far and that relationship equilibrium swinging into the bad.

Lou, you’re still not trying. Sorry, but it’s just not working out.