Sebadoh, Bubble and Scrape

Jack Rabid

By Jack Rabid

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

One of the most celebrated practitioners of classic ’90s indie rock, Northampton, Massachusetts, trio Sebadoh finally put their damnably disjointed pieces together on their fourth LP — their first for a big indie label (Sub Pop). Their first hi-fi release after several no-fi noodlers and one mid-fi work, Bubble (recorded, oddly enough, in a slaughterhouse) realized the promise in the quantum improvement (and improved recording quality) of 1991's Homestead Records release, III.

Sebadoh’s first hi-fi release provides a clear glimpse at these indie-rock legends’ ultimate potential

As the last Sebadoh LP to feature founding member Eric Gaffney, it's a transitional work. On his second LP after joining the band, bassist Jason Lowenstein assumes a greater songwriting/singing role, his work rivaling the sneakily catchy material of the more established, older Lou Barlow (late of Dinosaur Jr.). This serves to all but isolate the barely-still-involved Gaffney (who liked recording alone and was rarely in town), the atonal-noise lover of the three. Limited to only six songs, Gaffney's contributions, such as the schizophrenic prog-psych of “Elixir as Zog” come across as a refreshing third angle, rather than an irritant impeding Barlow's burgeoning pop progress.

Moreover, Barlow's own writing has matured immensely. He's still capable of hook-laden blasts of neo-punk like “Sacred Attention," but what's more impressive are his folk-pop lovelorn laments, like the ’60s-pop sugar drama of the moving opener “Soul and Fire.” Perhaps most developed is Lowenstein, whose propulsive tunes, such as “Sixteen” and “Happily Divided,” exude new confidence.

Crucially, the fully realized production doesn't sacrifice a single dollop of edge, making Bubble a glimpse at the band's ultimate potential. Soon, with drummer Bob Fay on 1994's awesome Bakesale and 1996's watershed Harmacy, Barlow and Lowenstein would prove their indie mettle for all time.