It’s been six years since Sebadoh put out their last record, so it would seem that the release of this ninth full-length, Act Surprised, is long overdue. But actually, that’s relatively quick for the lo-fi indie rock legends. After all, there was a 14 year gap/semi-hiatus between 2013’s Defend Yourself and its predecessor, The Sebadoh, so really, six years is nothing. Besides, the trio – Lou Barlow, Jason Loewenstein and Bob D’Amico – have a pretty good reason. “Lou is always being taken away and abducted by Dinosaur Jr. for these fun and exciting next-level rock’n’roll tours,” chuckles Loewenstein, “so when we get him back we have to relight the fire.” That’s exactly what the trio did, recording 15 new songs with Justin Pizzoferrato, the engineer behind many Dinosaur Jr. albums. Recorded at Sonelab in Easthampton, Massachusetts it marked a change in approach for the band, who had not only produced the previous record themselves, but who also gave themselves a bit more time than usual to get everything finished. Loewenstein’s focus is similar but his songs are more turbulent, a reflection of the anxiety he says he feels most of the time and which you can hear in the frayed, bass-heavy “Stunned” and “Battery”. That’s something he says is compounded by these days of advanced technology, especially the increasing dominance of mobile phones and the internet in our everyday lives. To that extent, Act Surprised is a vital album for the modern age. And while it retains the quintessential hallmarks that have defined Sebadoh throughout their remarkable 30 year career, it’s also a record that finds the band refreshed, rejuvenated, exploring new directions and right up there with the band’s very best.

Sebadoh - Flame (1999)