sebadoh - bakesale

.:: As a songwriter, Lou Barlow is the Joni Mitchell of indie rock's low-fi chic. His simple, often acousticbased pop melodies are packed with twisted, unresolved feelings of romance, loss, obsession and self-doubt.Sebadoh are Barlow's Velvet Underground, wrapping his confessions in fuzz, hiss and distortion and setting them alongside complementary songs by band mates Jason Loewenstein and Eric Gaffney.

Although Barlow's is the band's strongest personality, the depth and dynamics of Sebadoh's music lie in the group's democratic approach: The members trade off on guitar, bass and drums, and their individual songs offer slightly differing perspectives.

That recipe has worked, more or less, over the course of numerous homemade singles, cassettes and albums on various indie labels. Last year's Bubble and Scrape was Sebadoh's zenith, its blend of folk, punk and basement experimentation offering a vivid portrait of the trio with more accessible songs and confident playing.

The more straight-ahead rock of Bakesale takes a step backward. Gaffney, an on-again/off-again member from the beginning, has officially left for a solo career, and his replacement, longtime pinch hitter Bob Fay, adds little to the group's sound; Fay's only contribution is the wispy "Temptation Tide" – interesting filler, but it doesn't belong on a Sebadoh album.

Bakesale is not without merit, though. Barlow's shredding "License to Confuse" kicks off the album with a wallop, offering an unintended apology for the currently disheveled Sebadoh: "I'm not attractive today/I'm not a sight for sore eyes."

He also checks in with his quota of melody and introspection, exploring the awkwardness and intrigue of rebound dating in the gently seductive "Skull" ("I don't know who you are/ But I know what I would like you to be") and the hard-rocking "Rebound." Loewenstein's strongest material – the driving "Careful" and the hypnotic "Not Too Amused" – hang on intricate guitar-bass interplay and a steady groove.

.:: It was only a matter of time before the return of the sensitive singer-songwriter. However, the 1990s style requires that the introspection be broken up with a little tomfoolery. Sebadoh are masters of the game. Lou Barlow is the inquisitive and earnest leader who delivers the heartfelt "Not a Friend" and "Together or Alone" with all the hurt and pain he can fit on his sleeve.

Jason Loewenstein is the guy with the captivating guitar line. Put together, they're something like Donny and Marie--one is a little bit sensitive, the other a little bit rock 'n' noise. And just to prove they're a democracy, they give drummer Bob Fay some with his lone composition, the surprisingly tuneful "Temptation Tide." --Rob O'Connor

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