“Discussing Sebadoh and the Concept of ‘Coolness’ in the ’90s”

Amidst this foreground of what can sometimes, seemingly, approach the realm of “detritus,” you’re likely to find a reliable local bloke playing the Gin Blossoms on a juke box, then promptly glaring at you and wondering why he’s not considered “cool” for his selection. Well, given the obvious fact that he probably doesn’t shop at Whole Foods, and so is apparently oblivious to their “’90s” station, this seems like way too ubiquitous of a predicament to be dismissed as completely irrelevant. 

Somewhere around the opposite end of the universe of this lies Sebadoh, a band that would likely spark terror or a mutiny if you were to play them in a grocery store. Seeming to thrive on and delight in not have a specific, defined blueprint for their music, they let songwriting multiplicity rule their studio work for the entire ’90s decade, more or less (which directly followed singer/guitarist Lou Barlow getting kicked out of Dinosaur Jr., incidentally), typically letting everyone write their own tunes and even sing them. 

On one hand, this makes for a pretty disorienting listen, of course. Still, the influences and techniques of all the band members are similar enough that the albums typically conjeal into respective wholes, given some ephemeral comedic effect and jarring contrast in styles, from track to track. 

Bakesale (1994), for one, is one of the band’s cornerstone albums. It seems to fit seamlessly into their catalogue while simultaneously representing their core identity vividly — a punk-rock aesthetic and artistic approach infused with a sort of hopeless-romatic songwriting bent and peculiarly robust knack for chord change and melody (or quintessentially “indie rock,” in other words) [1]. My favorite song of the band’s career is “Flame,” which comes from their 1999 effort The Sebadoh, and, in general, this particular albums makes a fairly strong case for top Sebadoh effort. To an increased extent, though, Bakesale just SOUNDS like the work of a band in its prime and at its stylistic apex — everything is the busy East Coast, complete with rude, raw humanistic analyses and a brisk, punk aesthetic informing what is, again, this sort of precocious knack on Lou Barlow’s part for writing these cutesy love songs. 

Ultimately, “Magnet’s Coil”; track three on Bakesale, will make my finest talking point here. On “Magnet’s Coil”; Barlow’s guitar chimes in loud, dirty and a little ugly, like The Jesus Lizard doing a sound check, or thereabouts — probably how Kurt Cobain WANTED his axe to sound on In Utero, more or less, short of the demands on the part of the record label to cater to radio. Sebadoh’s punk-minded approach bequeaths them this raw aesthetic, but from there things construct defiantly into genuine “cool guy” territory, handling the topic of a love interest and spanning topics from basic desire to the fleeting potential of a relationship to jibe with what we need on an everyday basis, in terms of interactions and emotional comfort. 

Just to be perfectly up front, Bakesale probably isn’t anybody’s starting point on Sebadoh. My introduction to them was The Sebadoh, and while this typically isn’t considered the band’s artistic apex, it did tailor a pop sensibility [2] that made it approachable for the average music fan. Harmacy (1996) is probably the album most would recommend to a Sebadoh virgin, what with its defiantly poppy and catchy songwriting interface, by and large. 

At some point, anyway, the whole thing becomes a blur. You find all these CD’s used, circa 2008, you spend endless hours with them on in your car, marveling before the otherworldly guitar sound at the end of “Wonderful, Wonderful”; thinking how “Too Pure” just perfectly encapsulates that East Coast Kevin Smith vibe, laughing at Barlow quipping, “What… that was alright!” at the end of “So Long.” And Bakesale continues to get buried in your consciousness, in the thick of it all, going by like a dark, dirge-y lo-fi dream, and then, finally, demarcating itself, and setting itself above the rest, just by pure virtue of how little impression it has made on you. It’s like the ambience of the Sonic Youth song “Quest for the Cup”: it makes the perfect background noise, the perfect soundtrack to whatever else you’re doing, at the time, which, naturally, takes precedence. But in the case of “Magnet’s Coil”; anyway, which I’m fishing out of the Bakesale pool just kind of by default, we get a broad, in-depth examining of a relationship and all its ins and outs, and when Barlow sings “But I don’t really wanna lose this”; you sort of just get the sense that he’s living out a wicked sort of sexual dream that, maybe, even the Gin Blossoms dude would die for, the fact that, in Barlow’s case, it didn’t overtly come with his meal ticket, making it all the more alluring, exciting and genuine. And though, no, this song probably couldn’t play in a grocery store, a bar or cafe would work fine, more or less, or, if we’re really being tenacious about it, as a selection by a cover band at some beer-soaked soiree. Yup, DD can coddle the ’90s with the best of ’em, you might say. 

[1] The band even has this song called “Gimme Indie Rock,” which I think remained a b-side, from early in their career. 


[2] My exact, annoying, repeated rap on this occasion is that I was looking for some Lemonheads and some Oasis on used CD and found something that exactly bridged the gap between the two. 


<script async src=“https://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js?client=ca-pub-5127494401132808”



<!– Google Tag Manager –>


new Date().getTime(),event:’gtm.js’});var f=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],




<!– End Google Tag Manager –>

<!– Google Tag Manager (noscript) –>

<noscript><iframe src=“https://www.googletagmanager.com/ns.html?id=GTM-5KV22KW”

height=“0” width=“0” style=“display:none;visibility:hidden”></iframe></noscript>

<!– End Google Tag Manager (noscript) –>