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Bakesale (ベイクセール)

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Album Review

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. And though Sebadoh had clearly learned a lot from their years of lo-fi woodshedding, on Bakesale they were working in genuine recording studios with functioning equipment, and instead of having to struggle to hear the songs through layers of aural murk, here Sebadoh burst forth from the speakers loud and clear. And this version of the band stood up well to scrutiny; Barlow, Loewenstein, and drummer Bob Fay may not have been the tightest band on earth, but they had the energy and the commitment to make these songs work, and the simple, direct, and emotionally naked sound of Bakesale served them well, and the album ranks with the most powerful and accessible music they would ever release. Bakesale confirmed that in both theory and execution, Sebadoh had matured into a great indie rock band, and if their obsession with doomed love and fractured self-worth still seemed adolescent, they had at very least grown from eighth graders to high school seniors, and that's a pretty big leap if you're willing to look back on it. [In 2011, Sub Pop reissued Bakesale in a special deluxe edition that paired a remastered edition of the album with a disc of rare singles and unreleased demos. There's an amusing irony that one of Sebadoh's most straightforward and tuneful albums is accompanied by an hour's worth of the sort of indulgent four-track murk Sebadoh seemed to be actively moving past, though as such things go, there's plenty of adventurous lo-fi sound collage to be found, as well as some prime examples of Barlow staring down his neuroses. The package also includes a booklet with essays from Barlow and Loewenstein, cover mock-ups for the original LP and singles, and the not-so-startling revelation of just who that baby on the cover really is.]

Biography

Formed: 1989 in Amherst, MA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

As much a collective of musicians as a band, Sebadoh was the quintessential lo-fi band of the '90s. Formed by singer/songwriter Lou Barlow while he was the bassist for Dinosaur Jr. in the late '80s, Sebadoh's music was a virtual catalog of '80s alternative rock and '90s indie rock, featuring everything from jangle pop to noise-rock experimentalism. After being kicked out of Dinosaur in 1989, Barlow turned his attention toward Sebadoh, a home-recording project that he and drummer/songwriter Eric Gaffney...
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