Sebadoh - Bubble And Scrape - Review
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critics' view

Originally released on Nirvana's record label in 1993, Bubble and Scrape is still, fifteen years on, possibly a newcomer's best introduction to the sonic, low-fi scuzz-melodies of Lou Barlow. A peripatetic outsider who, prior to Sebadoh, left Dinosaur Jnr when they achieved relative mainstream success, Barlow's knack for profligate melody and a Fall-esque work rate took the band's appeal far beyond their cult college radio roots in Massachusetts.

Their first entirely studio recorded release, Bubble and Scrape is a genuinely democratic effort. Songwriting duties are shared between the three members, creating a feel akin to wandering the rooms of an abandoned, seedy motel where strip lights flicker and shadows advance and retreat. Barlow offers folkish nuance and fragile invective on tracks like Think (Let Tomorrow Bee) - one filter tip away from disintegration.

The vaguely trippy iconoclasm of Eric Gaffney is a raucous counterpoint. This was to be his last album with the band, and a sense of rallying valedictory zeal is ferociously stomped home on Telecosmic Alchemy. Nestled between this oscillation of volume are a quartet of songs from Jason Lowenstein, a late-comer to the group whose plangent offering Happily Divided is a delight. Menacingly strummed, its waspish air sharpens around Lowenstein's sardonic refrain of being "so excited, happily divided."

Many have dubbed Bubble and Scrape Sebadoh's first truly accessible album; a slightly Pyrrhic victory, and one that sounds a touch pejorative to their complexity on this record. Label Domino have done a superb job with this re-release; a huge glut of re-mastered and unreleased tracks are included, creating a decent testament to a band whose reputation for creative independence and defiance continues to grow.

Rob Crossan
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