This trio, once the platonic ideal of indie rock's ragged, guitar-blasting side and its mopey, acoustic no-fi side (see also their self-parodic 1991 single "Gimme Indie Rock!"), hasn't put out an album since 1999. As lead singer and songwriter Lou Barlow puts it on Defend Yourself, "Things have changed." The 47-year-old Barlow recently ended a 25-year relationship, and you better believe it comes up here. The album bristles with post-divorce bummers both electric ("I Will") and gracefully acoustic ("Let It Out," "Listen"), while guitarist Jason Loewenstein gets heavy in the riff sense ("Beat"). When Defend Yourself starts attacking, it's as if Clinton never left the White House.
From The Archives Issue 1193: October 10, 2013