Confused, Remorseful & Angry… It’s Awesome! or Sebadoh – Bakesale

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Back in ’93 a good friend turned me towards the lo-fi sounds of Sebadoh and their initial Sub Pop offering Bubble & Scrape. One listen to the fabulous opening number “Soul & Fire” and I became a forever fan.

Bakesale was released in 1994, and was a slight change of direction for the band in that they had refined the sound now and were becoming more accessible to the alt-rock hipsters. Lou Barlow and Jason Lowenstein were capable of breaking your heart at one moment and smacking you in the head another with their confessional lyrics and fuzzed out guitar work.

“What was that you just said, that didn’t make any sense to me, it’s not the way I see it man, I’m almost tired of listening to you” from the awesome “Not Too Amused” comes off all at once confused, remorseful and angry with the music only adding to the emotional impact. These are themes that play out over the course of the whole record.

Some critics call Bakesale Sebadoh’s finest moment; I’m not sure I would go that far as they have several records that have a giant place in my heart. However, it is certainly a great place to begin if you haven’t listened to them before and vinyl is definitely a great option.

Outside of the original ’94 release, Bakesale was re-mastered in 2011 and has a couple options. The first is your basic black vinyl which also came with a download card and is still available at all your finer record retailers. The second, long sold out edition was on grey splatter vinyl and was sold directly from the Sub Pop online store.

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If you are a fan of those essential records from the 1990’s, Bakesale definitely fits the bill. I’m just hoping Bubble & Scrape and Harmacy eventually see a vinyl re-release. Either that or I may have to start hunting down used copies.

Sebadoh is playing at Lee’s Palace in Toronto tomorrow night (May 27).

The Beauty Found In Power-Pop & Introspection or Best Coast – California Nights

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The early days of Best Coast were filled with simplistic images of happy places and troubles no bigger than a rival for someone’s affection or a need for the sun. Not that there is anything wrong with that; after all Best Coast was providing the kind of indie-pop, garage, lo-fi, reggae influenced tunes that kept us northerners warm all winter.  It was a return to the myth that California is the place of adolescent dreams come true, and no one will argue that once wrapped in a sonic blanket watching a fire burn.

Still it has been five years since the Best Coast debut Crazy For You and one can only live in dreams for so long? Eventually there is a reckoning…

Right?

The answer is California Nights. Gone is the warm washing fuzz of reverb on everything that had the words lo-fi and surf rock attached to their records, and in is a more ‘nineties-esqe’ alt-rock tone that could be slipped into a mix between the Lemonheads and Garbage. Thematically, this is also the case as Bethany Cosentino has switched gears and presented herself in a more realistic position as lyrics deal with insomnia, heartbreak and happiness in pill bottles. Actually, dare I say it, it seems Cosentino has grown introspective and the guitar work of multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno has risen to match. No longer are songs restricted to the quick “pop” length of two three minutes, but now the sound sometimes goes all ‘shoegaze’ and rides a guitar riff for all its worth. To some extent, the title track itself conjures more images of brit-pop than anything that could come out of a California night.

It isn’t all happy smiles as the sun sets to the west, there is anger and melancholia in the air as opener “Feeling OK” rightfully has you questioning the validity of such a statement. The song at its heart reveals that “OK” isn’t a satisfactory resolution to any question worth asking – especially one as loaded “how are you.” Even if one is asking it of themselves.

The triumph of this record is that it doesn’t live in a world of manufactured dreams come true, eternal sun, and beaches. The emotions behind it are universal and hence you can relate to it more. California Nights is proof positive that beauty can be found in the balanced mix of power-pop and introspection, and that’s a sunny thought all by itself. It’s worth every cent spent and more.

You can pick this album up at your local record stores or get some special packages from the band site – here.