[CD Review] Sebadoh, 'Bubble & Scrape' (Domino/Sub Pop)

In many ways, early-'90s alt-rock resembled '80s hair metal. Guns N' Roses dubiously paved the way for such also-rans as Pretty Boy Floyd, and Nirvana made records like Sebadoh's Bubble and Scrape possible. This expanded reissue of the 1993 original shows that Bubble and Scrape was a failed experiment in sonic democracy.

Lou Barlow used the 'Doh to escape the dictatorial (emphasis on the "dic") treatment by J Mascis in Dinosaur Jr., so the band became an outlet for his emerging songwriting, as well as drummer Eric Gaffney's and bassist Jason Loewenstein's iffy trips to the mic, plus rambling experimentation with tape loops and noise in vogue with the era's post-punk scene. Remember, in 1993, the SubPop catalog had Nirvana, Mudhoney and the bluesier Metal Machine Music of Earth in heavy rotation, and Bubble and Scrape embraces all of them, even if it's only the Nirvana part—Barlow's frank but artful elegies to dying relationships—that is worth repeat listening.

Gaffney's stratospherically incompetent songs, mercifully limited to two-minute blasts of his shrieking over spazzy Mudhoney licks like a Tad roadie at sound check, age the least gracefully; he can only manage to hone his more-is-more aesthetic into a garage-y Ministry greatness once or twice. Loewenstein fares better, and he's more represented in the bonus material, albeit in even-lower-fi form; his "Messin' Around" is a standout. And the inclusion of "Reject," a proto-power-pop cover of Ohio starch-core punks Necros, shows Barlow could rock out, even if it's the masterly "Soul and Fire"—his "Pale Blue Eyes"—also included here as a bonus bedroom demo, that foreshadows his folk implosion in the face of all this exploding, dated blues.

 
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