Picked up at Wonderland Records in the summer of ’93 (the record stores of my life probably deserve their own posts as we progress through this project), Sebadoh’s Bubble and Scrape is a pretty good indicator of where my head was at as an 18 year-old just out of high school. That is to say, a music sponge that was experimenting in all sorts of directions. Like a good few records back then, I purchased it without hearing a note or really knowing anything about the band. I’d heard of Sebadoh, but had never heard them — I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know of the connection to Dinosaur Jr., who I obsessed over that summer. It just sort of struck me for whatever reason, and at that stage in my life I had plenty of expendable income.
That method of acquiring music led to some of my best discoveries (see Dino Jr. and the Jayhawks), and some pretty lousy investments as well. Bubble and Scrape is neither, but it is a pretty damn good record, if you can cope with some tracks that are just plain awful. There’s great songs on here, to be sure; “Soul and Fire” and “Think (Let Tomorrow Bee)” are favorites to this day. The problem is that the weaker songs aren’t just forgettably bad — they’re flat out off-key and irritating to listen to. Lou Barlow’s songs certainly take center stage, and I can only assume that the need to balance Barlow and Jason Lowenstein’s contributions are the cause of the album’s length –17 songs that should have been pared to about 12.
By the way, it’s a pretty good rule of thumb to be skeptical of albums that go past 14 tracks. This is hardly scientific and there are exceptions (and double albums don’t apply to this principle), but it seems that once you get past 14, you’re diving into an album rife with filler or ill-advised experiements. Even the 14’s can get dicey — 11 or 12 is really the optimum. We’ll test this as we go along, but I feel pretty good about this.