Sebadoh: Bubble and Scrape
1993, Sub Pop
Lou Barlow knows heartbreak. Whenever a relationship comes to an end, I always catch myself singing the line “Saying goodbye was so much fun,” from Bubble and Scrape’s first track, “Soul and Fire.” I also immediately go back to one of my earliest memories of Barlow: he was discussing the subject on MTV’s “Sex in the 90’s.” There he was rocking a Joy Division t-shirt and talking about slashing some guy’s car tires because he was so devastated over a girl. Yeah, I knew even then Sebadoh would be the soundtrack for every breakup I would have for the rest of my life; I was maybe twelve at the time, and had no concept of love or otherwise.
Bubble and Scrape is, to steal a Sebadoh song title, a “Fantastic Disaster;” a true display of Barlow’s range as an iconic musician and genius songwriter – not to mention his ultra sensitive crooning vocals. There is nothing synthesized here, no computerized loops or sampled beats from another era, instead it’s a low-fi explosion of mid-90’s indie rock at its best. Barlow draws this album out linearly denoting highs and lows, a perfect balance of true rock anthems and teary-eye ballads: raucous “Sister” sandwiched between endearing songs like “Happily Divided” and “Cliché” is a perfect example of this lineup. And this theme continues up to the conclusion of the album, ending on a loud note with the delectably noisy “Flood,” but not before forcing you to run for the tissue box with “Think (Let Tomorrow Bee)”: “I’m weak to hide inside, to force what I don’t feel/If all we have is a question, there’s no hope to find a future/But something in me cries for you/It feels too real this time/I think I love you, though I don’t know what that means.” By the time you hear that very last note, you can’t help but stand there and feel mildly exhausted from being taken on Barlow’s emotional rollercoaster – but it was so good, you hit play again and go for another round.
Bubble and Scrape is a long list of love-gone-sour songs, but without the hokiness that can sometimes get in the way of a balladeer’s pining over an ex-lover or former relationship. It’s tender without being sloppy, and candid without revealing too much and losing its edge. And Lou Barlow teaches us all a very valuable lesson: if you can’t get the ones you love to love you back, do the next best thing: immortalize them in a song. And if that fails, slash some tires; nothing says true love like a misdemeanor and having to pay a hefty fine… no, I don’t know from experience.
By: Amanda Chatel
“Soul and Fire” live at Club Europa in 2007: