By Tom Reardon, July 2019 Issue.

Sebadoh – Act Surprised

Several months ago, Sebadoh’s Lou Barlow played a living room show here in Phoenix at a cozy little house near 7th Avenue and Osborn. It was a beautiful night full of great songs and Barlow’s soft-spoken, somewhat shy, and mischievous sense of humor. After his set, Barlow casually mentioned there would be a new Sebadoh album out in May and the small, but devoted, crowd let out a collective gleeful gasp at that prospect.


forward a few months and Act Surprised is here and gosh darn it, at first listen,

it’s great. Then, you listen again, and you think, “Well, this is certainly

good, but where have I heard this before?” One of the most charming things

about Sebadoh’s early work was the low-fi element to their recordings that made

you feel as if you were listening to the band play live in your living room.

With Act Surprised, the production is top notch, but it was

recorded by Justin Pizzoferrato, who has helmed several Dinosaur Jr. albums and

to be honest, Act Surprised sounds a little too like a Dinosaur Jr.

record. There is still the great interplay between Barlow’s sweet songs that

are often yearning for acceptance and bandmate Jason Loewenstein’s heavier and

darker songs, for sure, but I kind of miss the old days when the Massachusetts

boys would record on a four track in their garage. Essential listening, though,

for Sebadoh fans.

Bad Religion – Age of Unreason

Kind of like the Ramones, Bad

Religion is great at continually recreating the same song, over and over. I

know what you’re thinking, “Blasphemy, Mr. Reardon!” and you’re probably right,

at least when it comes to the Ramones. What do I know? Well, I know that I

don’t like this new Bad Religion album at all. It sounds tired and very much

like the last 10 Bad Religion records that I promptly listened to and forgot

about immediately. Not since 1988’s Suffer have I enjoyed a Bad Religion

record and I really like 1982’s How Could Hell Be Any Worse, but I feel

like the big ol’ balls on that first full-length that the band swung to and fro

with punk rock abandon have continued to shrivel to the point where an album

like Age of Unreason can come out 37 years later and there aren’t any swimmers left

in there able to impregnate a fleeting thought in a youthful mind ready to

explode. You’re way better off spending time with a band like The Coathangers

or Plague Vendor than listening to this drivel.

Morrissey – California Son

It’s one thing when Weezer

does a covers record, but Morrissey? I had to hear this. “Morning Starship,” on

Morrissey’s California Son reminds me a bit of Ted Cassidy’s iconic

Lurch character from The Addams Family sitting down at the harpsichord

to play a song for Morticia and Gomez to dance to rather than the original

version by Jobriath, which sounds very dated these days. If you’re into

Morrissey, nothing on California Son will surprise you as he goes

through this record featuring some of his favorite songs from the ‘60s and

‘70s. All the requisite preaching, maudlin and wistful pleading, and

mellifluous yearning for a better world are here, present, and accounted for as

he churns through twelve tracks here turning other people’s words into his own


One thing that is apparent on California Son is

that like a fine wine, Morrissey is apparently mellowing with age and many of

these songs will swirl around your brain like a nice cabernet dancing with your

tongue as you enjoy its velvety loveliness. “It’s Over,” for example, is a

perfect example of this quality of smooth Morrissey shifting nicely into the

Roy Orbison penned break up song.  It

sounds great and like a warm blanket, you can cuddle up with it and bask in its

misery before it transitions to the almost farcical version of Laura Nyro’s “Wedding

Bell Blues” that features some catty backing vocals by Green Day’s Billie Joe

Armstrong. This is a fun record, for the most part, and should be taken as

such. Your

mom might even like it.

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