Sebadoh: Bakesale

bakesaleCan’t believe this was their fifth album. It’s kind of amazing that I missed this…I think I kind of had to work at it. I remember this album cover very well as a huge poster in our college radio station over the course of my sophomore year of college. This was basically impossible to avoid in the world of college radio in 1994 and 1995, but somehow I did. I think I was turned off by the album cover (where’s the angst?), or by what the hell kind of band name is Sebadoh, or, if I knew it at the time, that it involved a former member of Dinosaur Jr., a band whose slacker aesthetic did not appeal to me in my very intense years of the early 90’s.

But let’s not kid ourselves. It’s been 20 years since this album came out and I’ve changed in ways that, among other things, allow me to appreciate a roly-poly baby (that’s Sebadoh band leader Lou Barlow, by the way) playing in a toilet. It should not have taken Dig Me Out reviewing it for me to give it a listen. But it did, and I’m at least grateful for that, because I really like this album.

Slacker and lo-fi are commonly used to describe this band and CD. Slacker I get, as a lot of the melody’s done in a harmonic delay and the lyrics are kind of 20-something Reality Bites pity party. But lo-fi I don’t get. This is, I believe, a remastered version I’ve been listening to on Spotify, but still, the way each instrument owns its own space (the bass carries a ton of melody for this band) is wonderful and very accessible. There’s not a lot of high-end, sure, but it works in that they’ve left the perfect range of frequencies open for Barlow’s tenor to get through.

I hear Pixies (“License To Confuse”) and Dinosaur Jr. (throw a dart) all over the album, but honestly the best way to describe this is just mid-90’s indie. What’s now become singer songwriters moping on their iPads in Brooklyn used to be three or four band members moping on instruments in Massachusetts or Ohio.

Almost all the songs are great, really well orchestrated (tambourine and guitar harmonics make effective appearances on “License To Confuse” and “Not Too Amused” respectively), and, with their rich, jazz-influenced chords, hit a really sweet spot emotionally. As I mentioned, the lyrics are dark and mopey, but wonderful at the same time. I love the line “I’m not too amused by humans” in “Not Too Amused,” and the lyrics of “Together Or Alone” are so fantastic that they prevent the song from being mixed, because I just don’t think I can put something that open-vein personal on a mix for somebody else. Consider

Because today I don’t feel worthy
You seem so beautiful and strong
These unsure hands could never soothe you
Too afraid of doing something wrong
And this confusion wears me down

Well, hello there 18-year-old KEN, I don’t remember you being so brilliantly articulate.

Sebadoh took what Pavement was doing, added an edge and emotional range, and set the standard for what would follow, both in the glory days of the mid-90’s and the shlock that’s clogging up podcasts now. On Bakesale they cover a bunch of stylistic ground, from jangle to metal, but their artistic statement is always clear and always theirs.

Mix: “Magnet’s Coil,” “Not Too Amused,” “Rebound,” “Drama Mine”
– “Careful,” “Not A Friend,” “Dreams,” “Skull,” “Got It,” “Mystery Man,” “Together Or Alone”
– “License To Confuse,” “S. Soup,” “Give Up,” “Temptation Tide”
Song Notes: After the jump

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