Release Date: Jun 14, 2011
Record label: Sub Pop
By the time Sebadoh released their fifth album in 1994, Lou Barlow was a low-fi hero – a man who buried his melodies under noise and was loath to repeat a hook. Bakesale was where Barlow brightened up a bit: By no means slick, it's still leaps and bounds more accessible than even Sebadoh's previous LP, Bubble and Scrape. Despite some cacophony, some tunes are downright pretty (a fact highlighted by the acoustic and four-track versions of songs like "Magnet's Coil" and "Not a Friend" on this reissue's bonus disc).
Sebadoh started out as the hobby of two guys hanging out in a dorm room with a four-track cassette machine and some weed, but by 1994, Lou Barlow's side project had matured into a real rock band, and on Bakesale, they sounded more like one than ever before. With Eric Gaffney gone, the spotlight was firmly on Barlow and his songs, and he stepped out with some of his best work to date; the navel-gazing confessions of "Not a Friend" and "Dreams" were more articulate and deeply felt than his previous efforts, and there's an edgy grace in his melodies, while he brings some scrappy but committed rock & roll guitar bashing to "License to Confuse" and "Magnet's Coil. " Bassist Jason Loewenstein's tunes aren't as strong overall as Barlow's, but they're effective in context, and their minor-key twists and turns complement his bandmate's work very well.
Some albums come and go from your life. Sebadoh’s seminal 1994 album Bakesale was one of those records I needed when I was an awkward and addled university student. Then, at some point, the record left my possession. I no longer needed to be drawn into its pensive and confused power. Bakesale was ….
1994 was a hell of a year for losing drummers. Pavement had dropped Gary Young the year before and put out the seminal Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain without him. Dinosaur Jr put out Without a Sound, their first record without Murph behind the kit. And Sebadoh released Bakesale, their first record without drummer Eric Gaffney.
Despite the prominence of band leader Lou Barlow (sometime bassist of Dinosaur Jr. and co-founder of Folk Implosion), Sebadoh can get some short shrift in the annals of lo-fi indie rock. But it’s kind of hard to stand out when you get put up alongside Pavement, Silver Jews, Superchunk, and the like. When you stand among big shadows, it’s possible to be under-appreciated, and sometimes it seems that’s what’s happened to Sebadoh.
This Bakesale reissue is actually part of Lou Barlow's second unexpected reunion of the last decade. The first, of course, was his thought-it-would-never-happen rapprochement with longtime estranged partner J. Mascis in Dinosaur Jr. And then Sebadoh, the one-man-project turned full-blown band, found its second and best-loved line-up coming together again late last decade.
In 1991, Nirvana exploded from grungey obscurity into the musical stratosphere with a willfully commercial record, featuring on its cover a naked baby swimming towards a dollar bill. Though Kurt Cobain strove to conceal it behind such attempts at irony or sarcasm in order to maintain some remnants of integrity, the image is symbolic of the singer’s later regrettable unwavering and determined ambition. Three years later, Sebadoh released their most commercial outing to date featuring on its cover a grainy photograph of a naked Lou Barlow, aged one, reaching into a toilet, which is perhaps symbolic of the fact that Barlow was never going to quite get it right.
Phantasmagoric extras time out at an hour's worth of EPs, singles, and demos: Germanic techno ("Cementville") to acoustic rebounds ("On Fire") and all manner of sonic madness ("Hank Williams"). Real bonus: remastered reminder that fifth Sebadoh LP Bakesale (1994) corralled such kitchen-sink clatter beginning with the can-opener riff to first salvo "License To Confuse." Mom Barlow's LP cover snapshot entertains an alternate metaphor, but the Dinosaur Jr. Jr.