In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.
With news of their first record of new material in 14 years being met with substantial buzz, it’s evident the name Sebadoh still has a ring of indie rock cachet to it. But it’s easy to forget the band’s inauspicious beginnings stemmed from Lou Barlow, tail between legs, meekly venturing out on his own after being dismissed from Dinosaur Jr. As such, a feeling of insecure paranoia hangs over The Freed Man, Barlow’s first proper attempt at stepping out from his former band’s shadow. A crudely constructed cassette of home recordings made with early Sebadoh contributor Eric Gaffney in 1989, the songs on The Freed Man showcase a vague shell of what more full-bodied records like Bakesale and Harmacy would come to offer. But the fragility of the songs is the tape’s greatest asset, and few tracks are more delicately tense than “Healthy Sick.”
Opening with an ominous bass drone that cuts in and out, the record’s lead track quickly settles into the gentle acoustics of a few simple guitar chords, with Barlow soft-spokenly trying to put the pieces back together. The song finds Barlow stuck between his growing need to break free of his old band’s chains and his hesitancy to take that crucial first step forward he knows he needs to make. “I know it’s only fear that makes me wonder,” he says, “but I wonder why I’m so afraid.” It’s anything but a brash coming out party, but in it’s own broken way, “Healthy Sick” might very well have been the perfect note for Sebadoh to step out on.