It used to be, when Sebadoh put out an album, that you'd have to wade through a dozen sloppy, unproduced indie-punk songs to find the refined but awkward pop gems that singer Lou Barlow was born to play. It wasn't that you hated the punk stuff—you had to admire Sebadoh for letting each of its players control the direction of a few songs, regardless of continuity—but you kind of resented it for outnumbering stunning tracks like 1993's best single, "Soul and Fire." But two years ago, after five such albums, Sebadoh released Bakesale, a home run from start to finish: The almost-commercial pop singles ("Skull," "Magnet's Coil," "Not a Friend") ran alongside scrappier material ("License To Confuse," et al) that was just as memorably melancholy. The edgy songwriting of bassist Jason Loewenstein took about 20 steps forward, too. The new Harmacy, which features more songs by Loewenstein than by Barlow, is awfully solid as well. It doesn't have Bakesale's considerable staying power as a whole, but the strong balance of soft pop songs ("Too Pure," "Perfect Way," the elegant pop ballad "Willing To Wait") and abrasively punky rock songs ("Love To Fight," "Mind Reader," "Can't Give Up") still holds together somehow. Considering the Top 40 success of Barlow's "Natural One"—a Steve Miller Band soundalike recorded with his other band Folk Implosion—it's time for any number of these songs to be embraced by the same sadly Sebadoh-starved audience.
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