Standing alongside Pavement, Guided By Voices, Superchunk, and Memphis' own Grifters among the top tier of indie-rock bands during the genre's early/mid-'90s heyday, Sebadoh may have been the scene's most direct major players. In another time or another place, frontman Lou Barlow might have been his generation's James Taylor, the sensitive singer-songwriter who makes the college girls swoon. Sebadoh got its start as a low-fi, home-recording outfit in the late '80s but hit its stride in the mid-'90s, first with the relationship-spanning conceptual song cycle Bubble & Scrape (told backward, like an indie-rock Irreversible) and then with the crystalline Bakesale, which jettisoned indulgent noise entirely for a near-classic batch of tightly wound relationship songs. Barlow has since hit it bigger with his other band, the Folk Implosion, but is back on the road with longtime Sebadoh collaborator Jason Loewenstein for a reunion tour of sorts. They'll be at the Hi-Tone Café Sunday, May 9th, with ace local indie inheritors The Coach and Four.
I'll swear on a stack of 45s that "All the Kids Are Right," by Illinois hard-rock duo Local H, is one of the greatest anthems in rock-and-roll history -- sardonic, poignant, hilarious, and driven heavenward by the crunchiest power riffs since Kurt Cobain blasted off this mortal coil. On that alt-rock equivalent to "The Dream Is Over," singer-songwriter/guitarist Scott Lucas gazes out at the increasingly bored, ever-shrinking group of kids in the audience at the crappy club he's playing (apparently, they found out that girls show their tits at Limp Bizkit shows and headed for the door) and sings a hymn to the end of an era: "You heard that we were great/But now you think we're lame/Since you saw the show last night/Thought that we would rock/Knock it up a notch/Rockin' was nowhere in sight/And it's never good when it goes bad." Elsewhere on the same record, 1998's Pack Up the Cats, Lucas acknowledges another hard truth: "I'm in love with rock-and-roll/But that'll change eventually." Or maybe not. The band is still on the road, still playing presumably before sparse audiences, and will be at the Hi-Tone Café Wednesday, May 12th, with Detachment Kit.
I've always been leery of any band a club promotes with the line "featuring former members of [insert 1980s college-radio band here]." I was especially skeptical when I saw that The Low Budgets, "featuring members of the Dead Milkmen," were coming to Murphy's. If there were ever a band that got more credit than it deserved, it's the Dead Milkmen. Oh sure, the first time I heard the line "It's a boring day/I've got nothing to do except/Get a load of retards and drive 'em to the zoo," I laughed until milk came out of my nose, but I was maybe 16 and susceptible to mistaking gross pre-Farrelly Brothers humor for pure genius. Musically speaking, the Milkmen were pretty inept, and once you stripped away the comedy (as the Dead Milkmen did on later releases), it became pretty obvious. The Low Budgets (who have dubbed themselves "value rockers") only boast one of the original Milkmen, Joe Jack Talcum (also of Joe Butterfly). He's the talented one. Better still, their songs owe less to the Dead Milkmen than to bands such as Pavement and the Ramones. Giddy indie-rock hooks adorn basic three-chord punk songs with lyrics that are silly without being sophomoric. Considering you can't drive a block without hearing some hip-hop tune about how good it is to be rolling in money, there's something really swell about blasting a song that repeats the line "Your card has been declined." Talk about keeping it real. The Low Budgets hit town on Monday, May 10th. --Chris Davis