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Sebadoh - Bakesale

  by Richard Lewis

published: 21 / 2 / 2011

Sebadoh - Bakesale
Label: Select Label
Format: N/A


Richard Lewis examines ex-Dinosaur Jr. guitarist Lou Barlow's band Sebadoh's 1994 fourth album, 'Bakesale'

In 1994, just as Britpop was going interstellar, Sebadoh secured a UK Top 40 placing and much praise for the skewed charms of 'Bakesale', their fourth long-player. Considering the music press were fixated with the sounds emanating from Camden, Lou Barlow’s outfit along with fellow lo-fi luminaries Pavement were remarkably successful in keeping the US indie rock flame alight in the late nineties. Wrapped in a defiantly unglamorous sleeve, a photo of a toddler (a one-year old Lou Barlow) staring down curiously into a toilet, as opposed to swimming to the surface of a pool as on the cover of Nirvana’s 'Nevermind', 'Bakesale' proved to be the cover star’s calling card. On a far more modest scale than Sub Pop’s most famous sons, in a few years hence Barlow was to have his own flirtation with mainstream success, scoring a sizeable hit with side-project Folk Implosion along with Sebadoh playing a memorably scabrous live version of ‘Flame’ on 'Top of the Pops'. Here, Tim O’Heir’s production reins in the wayward acoustic manoeuvres of the band’s earlier work, bringing greater cohesion to the songs. As a result of this and the live sounding recordings, the album seemingly hasn’t dated since its initial release. Riddled with post-teenage angst without succumbing to the navel-gazing excesses of Alice in Chains say, Lou Barlow’s awkward temperament is expertly mimicked by his music, full of pregnant pauses, uneasy vocals and oscillating time signatures. Also able to power along efficiently when the song demanded it, opener ‘License to Confuse’, driven by an infectious unison guitar-bass riff, makes the three piece sound remarkably forthright. Split sixty-forty between Lou’s compositions and tracks by bassist Jason Lowenstein, ‘Careful’ and ‘Not Too Amused’ proves Lowenstein had the chops to pen his own tracks, which hinge on his abrasive lead-basslines. With his unusually easy on the ear voice, Barlow’s mainstream dalliance with the Folk Implosion becomes clearer as his plaintive vocals carry a tune more effectively than, say the drunken melodicism of Pavement’s Steve Malkmus. His lyrical preoccupations meanwhile mainly concern love’s various triumphs and pitfalls, a subject close to the songwriter’s heart, as he surely ranks as one of the only musicians unfortunate enough to have his wife run off with his divorce lawyer. (They later reconciled.) ‘Not a Friend’, prowling along like late-period Sonic Youth on their quieter tracks, displays the band’s sure grasp of dynamics, alternating between calm, resigned verses and tenser passages, allowing Barlow’s reflective lyrics (“I’m not sure if I trust you/I’m not sure if I trust myself”) ample room. ‘Shit Soup’, despite the willfully difficult title is compellingly tuneful, as is superb second single ‘Skull’ and the emotional soul-baring of ‘Rebound.’ That’s not to say there isn’t some scribble present however - bad metal parody ‘Give Up’ sounds like a track dashed off to possibly fill up a B-side, along with several undistinguished tracks towards the end of proceedings. Clocking in at a compact forty-two minutes with mellow closer, ‘Together or Alone’,(“I know romance isn’t everything/But I’m obsessing all the same”) the longest track on the LP at four minutes, a virtual epic by US indie rock standards, the song proves to be scruffy but heartfelt, a quality that sums up this minor classic as a whole. 'Bakesale' will be reissued by Domino Records on the 4th April.

Track Listing:-

Picture Gallery:-
Sebadoh - Bakesale

Sebadoh - Bakesale

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