Describing any record as accessible can be troubling for fans and bands alike – too often it’s a dread word or shibboleth used by long-time devotees and music journos too afraid to tear down a sacred cow as its traipses muck across a prized back catalogue in the name of mainstream acceptance. Bakesale, Sebadoh’s fifth album from 1994, somehow manages to buck the trend, dispensing with the irksome plunks and scrabblings that permeated (or, indeed, comprised) earlier recordings and leaving behind a scruffy clutch of casual, barely-be-bothered indie rock gems.
Typically loaded with wryly observed heartbreak, the album revolves around the Lou Barlow/Jason Loewenstein songwriting axis, the pair tag-teaming their way through a mix of crotchety, drug-fugged rockers (License to Confuse, Magnet’s Coil); bruised, slower-paced odes to loves long-since lost (Not Too Amused, Together Or Alone); and those like the dreamily shambolic Skull that fall somewhere in-between. The only exception comes in the shape of Temptation Tide, penned by newcomer Bob Fay (and co-voiced by his partner Anne Slinn), who perched atop Eric Gaffney’s still-warm drum stool for this record and the next.
As with the earlier reissues of Sebadoh III and Bubble & Scrape, this revisitation comes significantly expanded and embellished. Along with the album proper a second disc neatly compiles an array of hard-to-find EPs and straggler tracks, rescuing neophytes from dirty-thumbed fuddlings through Berwick Street used bins and allowing those who’ve grimly clung to dog-eared copies of the original singles to put them into long-overdue semi-retirement.
Barlow, in the newly-penned liner notes, suggests Bakesale isn’t the best Sebadoh album but is at least his most fondly-remembered. Whether others will agree with this faint praise is the stuff of esoteric indie nerd debate that could easily last until the end of time – or at least until the coffee stops flowing at Rough Trade East. What can’t be denied, however, is that the album easily deserves its place in the hearts of those who admire fellow fuzzy-edged slackers Superchunk, Pavement and Guided by Voices as much as those new to the game, who’ll find echoes of the band’s sound fizzling through modern-day collegiate grungesters like Milk Music or Gun Outfit.
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