Lou Barlow 3: Sebadoh Family Circus


Since my birthday is Saturday, this will be my last post for the week. GBV folks can come back 'round Sunday night or Monday morning for their next dose. For now, I'm closing up my little Lou Barlow love fest today.


I know this sounds odd, and I only mean it in the most metaphoric of ways, but in an odd way Sebadoh's albums are kind of like the comic strip "The Family Circus." What I mean is there is a pattern or blueprint to the kinds of songs on your typical Sebadoh record*, much in the same way the guy who draws the Family Circus has 5 or 6 jokes he reformats over and over again. You've got "Dolly (sometimes one of the other kids get this honor, but Dolly is usually the bullheaded dipshit) mispronounces something humorously," "Billie draws the strip himself," "The dead grandparents looking down on the family," "Not Me!," and the crushingly unfunny wordless strips that map out the path of one of the kids for the afternoon.

(*For "typical Sebadoh record," please see the HARMACY album. While there are a ton of great tracks on this record, it just doesn't seem to work as a whole album. BAKESALE works as a whole album, as does III and THE SEBADOH. HARMACY feels disconnected, like a collection of b-sides.)

Sebadoh make that process work. Family Circus guy, not so much. With Sebadoh, you can always count on a certain set of songs. In addition to the Lowenstein/Gafney tunes, you'll always find these standards among the Lou Barlow songs:

1. The Indie Rock Prom Song

A good example of the Indie Rock Prom Song is "Willing to Wait" from the HARMACY album. Wasn't this tune on an episode of FRIENDS? I swear to God, I think it was. Anyway, that's the prototype. The full band version of "Brand New Love" is a good example. Any time Lou sounds like he's going to cry because he's so deeply in love, that's a prom song.

2. The "Riff" Intro Song (where Lou plays the song's signature riff before the whole band joins in)

These songs are almost always automatically irresistible. Look back on "The Freed Pig" from a few posts back and you'll see the blueprint for this type of Sebadoh song. There's usually some great, smartass lyric involved as well. Another great example, again from the HARMACY album, is "Ocean." (This is actually a different mix of that song, from the OCEAN EP.) In the first 5 seconds, you get the guitar riff that the entire song is going to be built on.

The "Riff" song doesn't always have to rock, though. Take a song like "Skull", from BAKESALE. One of the best damn Lou songs ever, with some of his corniest lovey-dovey lyrics ("There are dragons to be chased"?).

3. The "You Dumped Me and I'm Alone in My Closet Damning You with Much Earnestness" Tune

This makes up a good majority of Lou's early output. Every Dashboard Confessional-loving crybaby needs to wipe their stupid little cherub cheeks and kneel before the god of exposed human emotion. Chris Carrabra is the Real World version, Lou is the reality. Check out "Not a Friend," an acoustic version of the BAKESALE moaner from the 4 SONGS CD. Lou's not asking you to cry with him and sing along. He's a dick and he knows it, and he's not putting on any amount of hair gel to pretty himself up for you.

And since we've got a BAKESALE theme going, I'll throw in an awesome acoustic version of "Magnet's Coil."

4. Lou Rocks Out so Much You Think It's Jason (Whole Hog)

Sometimes I stumble on a Beatles song where I can't figure out if Paul or John is singing the lead vocal. I get the same glitch every once in a while with Sebadoh, and "Gimme Indie Rock" and "Whole Hog" are great examples of this phenomenon. Sure, that's Lou on the verse of "Hog," but is that him screaming the chorus? God, this song would be fun to play in concert. For the curious, this song comes from THE LOUNGE AX DEFENSE & RELOCATION CD. Lounge Ax was a legendarily cool club in Chicago (owned by Sue Miller, wife of Wilco's Jeff Tweedy) that finally closed its doors a few years back. This CD also features great otherwise unreleased tracks from Guided by Voices, Superchunk, Archers of Loaf and more.


Sebadoh Fan Page
Some idiot gives Sebadoh III a D.
Buy Sebadoh CDs right now. Fucking NOW!
EMOH review from Pitchfork


I used to cut out the Family Circus in college and put new, filthy quotes beneath the pictures. This guy kind of does that too.
Dyfunctional Family Circus


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