By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
The Dark Ages
By now, Bedhead's sound has fallen into a familiar formula without the negative connotations "formula" implies: The songs almost always build to a slow climax, forming gorgeous discord from an almost disarming quiet. The songs overtake you, sneak up from behind, attack and then run off, but they always leave behind something that's unexpected and unnerving: snatches of Matt Kadane's barely heard and mumbled poetry that remain like the residue of dreams ("At night when there's no moon/No one has a history") and nightmares ("It's hard to react/When everyone's behind your back/It's hard to know when you're being attacked"), the finely textured sound of three guitars that collide and coalesce into one organic, overwhelming drone.
This is music as poetry, sound as emotion, silence as compelling power. Sometimes Bedhead's music isn't music at all, but a whisper created with guitars and bass and a drum that shuffles in the background like a heartbeat on life support; it's no wonder Bubba Kadane likes to insist Bedhead isn't a rock band but merely a band that uses the conventional trappings of rock and roll to create something so far removed from the genre it might as well be jazz. This three-song EP (the title song was taken from a 1995 Trance Syndicate compilation, and the full-length Beheaded follows this summer) fleshes out the formula until it becomes a form unto itself--dizzying in places, chilling in others, aching all over without ever overstating its point.
This is a small serving of Bedhead--which also features Tench Coxe on guitar, Chris Wheat on bass, and Trini Martinez on drums--that further hints at the Kadane brothers' songwriting range and the band's willingness and ability to follow their lead. In 15 too-short minutes, it encompasses the title song, the otherworldly instrumental "Inhume," and the country-tinged "Any Life" that adds a sly and lush slide guitar to the drone (it's the sound John Cale and Lou Reed might have made had they been raised in Wichita Falls). The songs themselves are hard to get ahold of because they reveal little even when you can make out the words; sometimes you get the feeling they might as well all be instrumentals.
When Matt Kadane dryly and dispassionately recites his lyrics to "The Dark Ages," he contradicts himself and confuses the point. At first, he admits, "I can't stand the way I was that day/Speechless with so much to say"; then, just a couple of lines later, he shrugs, "Maybe it's not too bad things didn't happen that way." Such are the songs of Bedhead, though--the music and words open to so many interpretations, their meanings obscured behind mumbles and roars that deceive and misdirect. In other words, either you get it or you don't; either you feel it, or you won't. Pity the listener who doesn't.