You're probably thinking I must be really struggling if I'm going to bother penning ink, so to speak, on an honest-to-God INDIE-ROCK album like Sebadoh's third outing, correct? Really, isn't that the kinda recording folks waste their lives reading the whitebread outpourings of collegiate shmucks at Pitchfork for? Well, you're way off the mark. I'd love to spill the beans on some kick-arse jazz I've been devouring lately - everything from David S. Ware to semi-legit Don Cherry discs to the pensive clink of early Bill Evans - or the scorch of early jump-blues party starters such as Louis Jordan and Rosco Gordon (that's the goods!) or even to waste your time on all manner of ethno nonsense which has taken my fancy the last 24 months, most notably everything by Ali Farka Toure and a few smatterings of sound c/o Malian kora player, Toumani Diabate... but I won't!! Nope, I'm going to talk about III instead, for one simple reason: it's brilliant.
I bought the original Homestead CD in '92 and played it into the dirt back in the day, then promptly felt my heart sink as I saw the band turn to mush within a mere 12 months with the release of their Sub Pop debut. For myself, they simply lost the magic of what made them so unique, special and fucking weird. Their first three albums were most definitely not the spewings of your average rock band, but instead contained the rage and ill-humour of a thousand hardcore flunkies rolled into one and the musical inventiveness of their compadres of the day: everything from Jandek to Royal Trux to the Dead C, not to mention a heavy dose of SST damage (most notably the Minutemen, and that's not just coz they cover "Sickles & Hammers"). By the time they were shifting 100s of 1,000s of units with Bakesale, I could care less. I sold the Homestead CD in The Great Cull of '99 and, just last week, feeling in a nostalgic mood and spotting the Domino 2CD reissue from a few years back in a bargain bin for a mere $14.99, I took the gamble, hoping to rekindle the magic. It's still there.
III is a masterpiece, an amazing, scattershot selection of post-HC/SST undie rock which still stands out as one of the finest records of its day, seriously. What made Sebadoh work - and that includes their first two albums, The Freed Man and Weed Forestin' (when "they" were essentially a no-fi folk duo) - was the incredible sarcasm and bitterness of the lyrics, most of it by Lou Barlow and aimed squarely at J. Mascis, but much of it also detailing the awkwardness of being a natural-born fuck-up, as well as the combination of folk harmonies on the more stripped-down songs and killer (and totally non-generic) hooks and twisted guitar lines on the rockier numbers. The opener, "The Freed Pig", a barbed, spiteful attack on J. Mascis (they've obviously made up or realised that recording and touring as a reformed Dinosaur Jr. for the rest of their lives sure beats working for a living), possesses the kinda smart-alec lines I'll remember for future arguments w/ folks who are spoilin' for a fight: "So self-righteous, yet never right; so laid back, yet so uptight". Zapping my self back in time, I can see why this album hit so hard when it did: I was the most wound-up, misanthropic, insufferable a-hole one would ever come across, and III is the soundtrack to such a state of mind. It's 17 years later and, whilst most folks who know me would still say I've got a permanent bug up my butt about somethin', I'm not entirely dissatisfied with my lot in life. Somewhere along the way, I've found a niche, a hole, maybe a rut, which I can call my own... and yet III, in its own beautiful way, still reminds me of what it's like to feel like a natural-born fuck-up, wear it as a badge of honour and bask in it. Huh. I never even mentioned the term "slacker". Within a few years this whole routine became such a cliche I disowned it for a decade or so, but the best music always rises above whatever shitty context may drown it out for a few years and give you a clip over the ears many years later and make you realise why you dug it so much in the first place. III has so many great songs - and there's 23 of them with all the peaks and valleys a great double LP should bring forth: short songs, long songs, quiet songs, loud songs - that I needn't mention them. Spinning this incessantly the last week, I can state that by halfway through, every single time it's played, I'm in awe of how every song - words and music - nails it. They sound like they could barely even care, yet somehow every song, even the half-baked ones, sound like mini-masterpieces. You probably heard it here last: Sebadoh's III is an essential set of music. I surprise myself by saying that, but I'll swear by it.