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Gimme indie rock
Lou Barlow and Jason Loewenstein reunite in Sebadoh

It was just over a year ago that Lou Barlow, the Boston-by-way-of-Northampton indie-rock singer-songwriter who got his start playing bass in Dinosaur Jr., seemed to have given up on Sebadoh, the band who’d sustained him through much of the ’90s. Instead, having resettled in LA, he’d turned what had been a side project of sorts — the Folk Implosion — into a rock trio who resembled Sebadoh in both sound and style. The album they released in March 2003, The New Folk Implosion (Artist Direct), abandoned the folk-hop sampling that gave the old Folk Implosion Barlow had formed in Boston with his friend John Davis a breakthrough hit from the Kids soundtrack (London) in favor of the kind of melancholy, guitar-driven singer-songwriter fare that had been Sebadoh’s bread and butter.

But Barlow has always followed his own path, and just when it seemed that Sebadoh were a dead issue, he disbanded the Folk Implosion and reconnected with long-time Sebadoh partner Jason Loewenstein for a loose reunion that’s now spawned a tour that comes to T.T. the Bear’s this Sunday. And just as the "new" Folk Implosion had mutated into something resembling the old Sebadoh before breaking up, the new Sebadoh bear a striking resemblance to the old two-singers/guitarists-and-a-beatbox Folk Implosion, with Barlow playing acoustic guitar, Loewenstein on bass, and a four-track providing minimalist backing beats.

What’s more, this new, two-man incarnation of Sebadoh mirrors the first touring version of the band. Sebadoh were conceived as a trio, with Eric Gaffney (and then Bob Fay) on drums. But when they were invited out on their first tour by Fugazi and fIREHOSE, Gaffney opted out, leaving Barlow and Loewenstein to their own devices. "That was in early 1990," Barlow recalls when I reach him in LA. "And Eric bagged out on the tour only a week or two before it started. So it was just Jason and I, playing acoustic guitar and electric bass, with a tambourine between us that we stomped on. That was the original Sebadoh touring line-up."

The genesis of the current Sebadoh reunion dates back to last year, when Barlow was asked to perform at a series of shows celebrating the 10th anniversary of the British label Domino Records. "The very first release on Domino was the Sebadoh album Bubble and Scrape. So they asked me to play solo at the anniversary event. I was just coming off what turned out to be the last Folk Implosion tour, and I’d been thinking about Jason a lot. So I called him and asked if he’d be willing to do it as a Sebadoh show. That turned into a tour of England and Holland and Iceland. It all worked out so well that I think we both felt it was something we could do again."

Now the story gets a bit more complicated. As anyone who’s followed Barlow’s career knows, his departure from Dinosaur Jr. in the late ’80s was not a pleasant business. He and J Mascis didn’t speak for years. Given Mascis’s misanthropic nature, that might not seem particularly unusual. But Barlow’s bitter feelings about his old pedal-stomping comrade-in-noise surfaced in the Sebadoh song "The Freed Pig" (later covered by the Breeders in a session produced by Mascis) and the single "Gimme Indie Rock," which features a witty and thinly veiled salvo aimed directly at Mascis. It became common knowledge that the Barlow/Mascis friendship had broken down in 1987, a full two years before Barlow was booted from the band. Alternative rock had its own intriguing if ultimately uneventful Everly Brothers–style soap opera.

Yet that feud came to a very rock-and-roll resolution last year when Barlow showed up to see Mascis perform with bassist Mike Watt and former Stooges Ron and Scott Asheton in England. "I apologized to J for yelling at him the last time I had seen him, and we had a nice time together. I even went up and sang with them: we did ‘1969,’ I guess. It was so loud, I couldn’t even hear it. It was so perfect, because I hadn’t been on stage with J in a long time, and nothing had changed: I couldn’t hear anything. I was just screaming my head off. It was pretty funny. I met his girlfriend at the time, who is now his wife. And I got all kinds of backstory on what had been going on. We just hung out. It was like, ‘Wow, I’m growing up and this is great.’ "

That’s bound to conjure visions of a Mascis/Barlow Dinosaur Jr. reunion, but don’t get your hopes up just yet. Barlow points out that he hasn’t even "thought" about anything like that, particularly since he hasn’t had any contact with the band’s original drummer, Murph. "I don’t know. I just don’t know how realistic it would be. I don’t know what’s up with Murph. And he was absolutely crucial to the band when I was in it."

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Issue Date: April 23 - 29, 2004
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