sebadoh – bakesale

it’s always personal between us, you won’t say what’s on your mind

the simple yet satisfying rock of opener license to confuse is a short piece of instant gratification to begin, replete with a beat reminiscent of 1960s pop, full of hi-hats. it’s a great sign of the many strong moments in store. and it must be said; this is the pinnacle of anything lou barlow had to do with anything ever.

the first almost orgasmic song, perfect for a late-teen, comes three in – magnet’s coil. it’s a beautifully contained and balanced song, with lou characteristically singing in his slightly lower key than the music. it’s followed by an instant downer – the somewhat devastating anticlimax, not a friend – it concludes, i follow my heart, it leads me far from you. in hindsight, it’s all pretty obvious. but the combination hits a sweet spot nonetheless.

overall, the fantastic urgency of bob fay’s drums, and melodic and driving centrality of jason loewenstein’s bass, are perfect complements to lou’s voice and generally understated guitar work. on three pieces, eric gaffney was still playing drums, much slower and/or more predictably (except for the odd near-punk rock of give up).

on yet others, jason plays only with tara jane o’neil to create medium-paced, lighter rhythms between the vocals, guitar and drums. on the latter, since i’ve heard more louisville music of that era, there are some definite similarities i just didn’t know back then that probably came from her involvement. jason’s deeper singing is another foil to the sometimes sickliness of lou’s, as well.

but the standout songs are those that carry a kind of infectious pleasure – best among them being skull. when i got this album, i listened to that song over and over and over and over again. it was a high point, literally, between others that held equal weight for their capacity to refract the more angst-ridden moments of teenage years and young adulthood. in a similar way, rebound managed the off-track pop-rock that epitomised the first half of the 1990s. these two songs were lou being sweet and affected with a decent amount of attitude, the best he ever made that work. the third most awesome song was drama mine, which summarised why jason’s contribution was so essential to the brilliance of this album – the scream of the refrain, it’s like wasting everything on someone else’s dream. he could scream; lou really couldn’t.

albums of this era are increasing in prominence in my life at the moment. when i pondered what the fourth era of my collection might be, i didn’t consider that it would be a throw-back to the first era. and yet, with all that’s happening around me, politics, society and activism especially, i listen to an album like bakesale and genuinely feel transported to my 20-year-old self. the videos below help too.

it could easily have been argued that this album should feel cobbled together, rather than the oddly coherent yet diverse unit that it is (yes, another apparent paradox). and for what it meant to me at that time in life, i look back only fondly on the songs and the sentiments.

it will always make perfect sense.

there’s so much we could do, together or alone
i’m not afraid of being alone


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