"I've got a license to confuse," Lou Barlow snarls on the opening track to Bakesale
. Which is funny, really: he's not confusing anyone; part of the charm of this album is that, musically, the band gives their all and leave no excess to distract or fog up the songs contained here. You see, certain bands--especially in recent times--have cropped up with certain gimmicks or alluring situational contexts that force the listener to consider whether it's the music
, at its core, that's really giving them the pleasure. All of this musical overanalyzation forces some of us to retreat into listening to albums that are good because they have no choice--the only appeal is not in the production, not in the band's history, but in the way they put chords and melodies together in a pleasing way. In this matter, nearly nothing compares to the indie rock of the 90s, where a number of bands (most notably Guided by Voices) made sure
you were listening to and enjoying the music, because there was nearly nothing else to pay attention to.
Though they've flown considerably under the radar, Sebadoh embody this as well or even better than most of their better-known peers--the group never overdoses on noise but hits hard with their scuzzy production; they also know the importance of a catchy guitar hook or even lyrics that do more than fill the space. "Skull" is probably the best example of their well-roundedness; a wistful, "Gold Soundz"-esque piece that flows smoothly and tosses out catchy melody after catchy melody without feeling rushed. On the opposite of the spectrum, however, is scuzzy "Careful", which uses an uncomfortable and blaring barely-riff and still manages to make it catchy. On songs like "Careful", Sebadoh skirt around devolving into noisy jams before surprising the listener with some sort of hook or melody to bring the song back down to earth.
In that respect, Sebadoh exercise restraint on all fronts: the songs never go on past their expiration date, the lyrics never devolve into self-deprecating mush, and, as you probably have already figured out, the production is so stripped-down that whether you like the songs or not is up entirely to the songs
themselves (although not so stripped-down that you have to enjoy them in spite of it). And, if you're the type that likes a good hook or melody, these songs speak for themselves. In terms of pure catchiness, Bakesale
is surpassed by few in its genre, and the band use their production for good, not evil (it lends the songs with a satisfying lo-fi crunch, unlike Slanted & Enchanted
, which lends the listener with a headache).
Though you'd be forgiven for thinking of skipping over it--after all, the album doesn't seem to distinguish itself from a league of 90s lo-fi indie rock bands--Bakesale
is really not to be missed. It's pure, no-frills indie rock with enough catchy hooks and crunchy riffs to make up for the fact that it may not exactly be "original"--but, hey, who needs that anyway?