Thursday, July 28, 2011

25 With Sebadoh; 17 With Bakesale

Arguably the finest release by Massachusetts lo-fi pioneers Sebadoh, Bakesale has been reissued as a deluxe remastered edition. Deluxe is an understatement. The album sounds as fresh as it did 17 years ago, and with plenty of extras.

Looking back, it's almost hard to believe. What began as little more than a side project for one-time Dinosaur Jr. bassist Lou Barlow way back in the 1980s has become a timeless and influential masterwork. The cost, his his spot with Dinosaur Jr., was worth it.

There is no doubt today that his firing turned out to be a good thing. It freed him to focus on what would become the slow burn success of Sebadoh; Barlow composing and recording tracks with guitarist Eric Gaffney and drummer Russell Pollard. Three years later (five years from the unofficial forming), Sebadoh III and a full-time tour schedule with fIREHOUSE helped them all earn a solid reputation in rock circles.

The early years were especially pained for Barlow, with side projects not nearly as common as they are today. And despite being a talented songwriter, he could never put these songs out with Dinosaur Jr. because he preferred deference to J. Mascis.

Bakesale turned Barlow's lo-fi side project into a band.

There isn't any question that Bakesale marked a change of pace from the Sebadoh's earlier lo-fi releases. The album included several unpolished and beautifully noisy rockers, most under 3 minutes.

Sebadoh purists (at the time) were less receptive. Some blamed the sudden shift on the departure of Gaffney. Others blamed the addition of drummer Bob Fay. Little did anyone know that "blame" was the wrong kind of word.

As much the sound marked a change in the lineup, it also indicated that Barlow's side project had become a band. Along with Fay and Barlow, Jason Loewenstein brought his considerable talents on bass, guitar, and vocals.

His fingerprints are all over the album. In fact, Loewenstein’s contributions musically and lyrically are just as strong as any made by Barlow. It may even be that the combination of these two talents (Loewenstein and Barlow) is what brought everything together.

As mentioned, Bakesale isn't just a reissue. It feature 25 bonus tracks (one for each year), consisting of B-sides, four-track demos, and acoustics. Barlow originally gave fans a heads up with a handwritten note, posted on his website.

As a refresher for those who never heard the album, Not Too Amused builds its way up to something sonic while Drama Mine (dramamine as it was called as a demo) boasts riveting bass and guitar. Magnet’s Coil is propelled by a driving beat, but the standout has always been License to Confuse.

The plaintive lyrics scream: “I'm not attractive today, I'm not a sight for sore eyes. I'm not an Adam or Eve, I'm just a nervous young thing.”

Hearing the album again is a treat. But it's everything else that makes the deluxe remastered reissue a true gem. The bare bones versions of Not A Friend and Mystery Man notwithstanding, there are a few odd mishmashes that will be endearing to anyone who loves Barlow and company.

Bakesale by Sebadoh Cooks Up 8.7 on the Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

The original Sebadoh lineup (sans Fay, plus Gaffney) has reunited for a tour and all the reviews are solid. They will have three dates in Australia this September before taking some time off. After that, Sebadoh will head back out for the Weezer Cruise on the Carnival Cruise Line “Destiny” in Florida. An odd venue, but strangely it works.

The reissue helmed by SubPop is one of the best music deals this year. Sebadoh released it for a regular price even though the a wealth of tracks and includes a digital booklet. Bakesale by Sebadoh is on iTunes. The Bakesale CD is at Barnes & Noble. Bakesale (Deluxe Edition) is also on Amazon.
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