Sebadoh started out as the hobby of two guys hanging out in a dorm room with a four-track cassette machine and some weed, but by 1994, Lou Barlow's side project had matured into a real rock band, and on Bakesale, they sounded more like one than ever before. With Eric Gaffney gone, the spotlight was firmly on Barlow and his songs, and he stepped out with some of his best work to date; the navel-gazing confessions of "Not a Friend" and "Dreams" were more articulate and deeply felt than his previous efforts, and there's an edgy grace in his melodies, while he brings some scrappy but committed rock & roll guitar bashing to "License to Confuse" and "Magnet's Coil." Bassist Jason Loewenstein's tunes aren't as strong overall as Barlow's, but they're effective in context, and their minor-key twists and turns complement his bandmate's work very well. And though Sebadoh had clearly learned a lot from their years of lo-fi woodshedding, on Bakesale they were working in genuine recording studios with functioning equipment, and instead of having to struggle to hear the songs through layers of aural murk, here Sebadoh burst forth from the speakers loud and clear. And this version of the band stood up well to scrutiny; Barlow, Loewenstein, and drummer Bob Fay may not have been the tightest band on earth, but they had the energy and the commitment to make these songs work, and the simple, direct, and emotionally naked sound of Bakesale served them well, and the album ranks with the most powerful and accessible music they would ever release. Bakesale confirmed that in both theory and execution, Sebadoh had matured into a great indie rock band, and if their obsession with doomed love and fractured self-worth still seemed adolescent, they had at very least grown from eighth graders to high school seniors, and that's a pretty big leap if you're willing to look back on it.
by Mark Deming