Bakesale Deluxe Edition
Sub Pop

Flash back to ’94 and witness the sound of a band teetering on many edges. Lou Barlow’s Sebadoh co-founder, Eric Gaffney, left as the album was being recorded. As Bakesale racked up critical controversy, the band put out its first promotional videos and a fistful of singles, teasing fans and detractors alike with the kind of ambition that Barlow supposedly wanted no part of and Gaffney’s erratic tendencies had guaranteed Sebadoh would avoid. Album opener “License to Confuse” is an apt anthem, as Lou and his friends were simultaneously trying to prove their ability to make a focused, college radio–ready record (see “Magnet’s Coil,” “Skull” and “Rebound”) and their slack willingness to reject any fair weather fans such success might bring (see “Shit Soup,” “Give Up” and “Temptation Tide”). The result, of course, was a classic for fans of lower-case indie rock.

For most, the biggest attraction of this re-release package will be the plethora of rarities on the second disc. Most of these were scattered throughout a bunch of CD singles and EPs in 1994 and ’95, but haven’t yet seen the light of day in the digital age. Here’s a quick guide to the 25 bonus tracks, for those of you deciding how to spend your precious iTunes dollars.

More than a third of the tracks are instrumentals that range from disorienting (“MOR Backlash,” “Cementville”) to ridiculously boring (“40203”). Eight are acoustic or demo versions of the Bakesale songs, only two of which (“Not a Friend,” “Shit Soup”) are strong enough or revealing enough to be viable alternatives to the album versions. The oddest track is “Hank Williams,” which almost coalesces into an actual song before devolving into a fuzzy bongo-driven collage layered over what must be a television commercial for a Hank Williams compilation. That leaves us with seven actual songs that you might consider adding to your collection. “Lime Kiln” and “Fancy Ass/Destitute” sound like half-improvised takes the band must have given up on. “Punching Myself In the Face Repeatedly, Publicly” is as silly as it sounds and doesn’t have much replay value. That leaves “Perfect Way” and “On Fire,” clearly the prizes for fans of Sebadoh”s softer side, and “Social Medicine” and “Sing Something/Plate of Hatred,” both of which might have made it to the official release with just a little more work.

Probably nobody’s been yearning for a remastered version of this record, since its rakish power-pop sonics resist polishing anyway. And if you’re reading this and you’re old enough to remember 1994, you probably either own Bakesale or have a strong bias against it already. For everyone else though, Sub Pop’s putting this out as a well-timed reminder of the band’s legacy. Any young fan of No Age or Times New Viking should feel real solidarity with the reluctant indie rock heroes who made Bakesale, and I’m a fan of any release that allows me to imagine that.
Matt Slaybaugh

MP3: “Skull”