Though hundreds of artists emerged from the American punk scene of the 1980s, few of them serve as better examples of its importance than Sebadoh. The band adhered to the era's D.I.Y. ethos, not as an ideology but simply as a default, releasing their own albums on cassette and making their own T-shirts, not with a silkscreen but with a magic marker because that was the easiest and most direct way. Meanwhile, indie rock's schizophrenic balance of rage and painful self-consciousness was perfectly embodied in mopey, bespectacled front man Lou Barlow, who became an unlikely icon for odd college kids of both sexes.

It was Barlow's songwriting, along with that of partners Eric Gaffney and Jason Lowenstein, which secured the band's legacy. A critic once offhandedly referred to it as "is-it-punk/is-it-pop." Musically, Sebadoh defined the evolution of '80s hard-core punk into the quirky, amorphous and unbelievably fertile genre called "indie rock." This phenomenon is clearly evident in Sebadoh's early material, which juxtaposes Gaffney's blasting noise with Barlow's vulnerable folk-rock, as if literally documenting the growing pains of both the art and the men themselves. Gaffney left the band in 1993, and this tour brings him back for the first time since. Barlow and Lowenstein turned to straight rock for Bakesale, often considered the band's best, or at least most consistent, album. Even this quite accessible and relatively well-recorded material, however, reveals a compromise between the juvenile simplicity of punk and the cheap sophistication of pop, yielding an aching, but oddly comforting, look at the ambivalence of post-adolescence in the age of irony.

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Daniel Mee