Out Here

Before and after
Beheaded
Bedhead
Trance Syndicate

Tie You Up/Who is Brad?
Stranger Than Fiction
Hub City Productions

Post-punk, post-rock, hell--Bedhead is nearly post-apocalyptic in the open, isolated vibe it conjures up on Beheaded, an album of mood music for a Twilight Zone episode set in the desert, all long camera shots taken through broken windows.

It's a dreamily bleak walk in the quieter footsteps of the Velvet Underground and Dream Syndicate, and while the path may be well-worn, the feet walking it are new. It shows in the enthusiasm with which the band elongates melody or pours on the crunch after the contemplative intro to "Left Behind," or the immediacy behind the lament of the haunted soul in "Felo de Se" who finds that "the questions won't leave me alone."

Guitars strum drily along with Kadane brothers' wan vocals; frontman Matt sings the majority, but sound-alike brother Bubba continues to expand his singing role, tackling three songs. Their low-key presentation masks a passion buried deeply; just when a song's narrator seems completely detached, the music swells and guitars crash behind him; suddenly it seems as though he might just give a damn after all, that the void is really just of his own creation and therefore reversible, should he ever tire of whispering into it.

The early work of Stranger Than Fiction was a different, more dramatic reaction to that emptiness; following a vaguely Gothic lead, the spaces between were a source of discomfited expression rather than deadpan reportage. Although the seeds of that sensibility will probably always live at the heart of the band's sound, 1994's Fate found the members learning the tricks necessary to grab a little air time or to get folks to dance.

The trend continues with this two-song maxi-single. Although it won't be available in record stores, it will undoubtedly find its way to your radio: The band has learned its lessons well, and Brad is reportedly a fair indication of the new album due out this fall. The two tunes--"Tie You Up," a plea from an older lover to a much younger partner, and "Who Is Brad?" a song born out of a beloved's dream-time mutterings--are well-enough produced, smooth streams of cushioned vocals punctuated by sharp guitars, but they really have no new tale to tell. They're reminders of how important a band's relationship to the music can be. Who's shaping who? The music that streams out behind Bedhead as the band moves along Beheaded is uniquely Bedhead's own, a product of the band's playing it; for Stranger Than Fiction it still sounds like the music got there first, and the band is trying--gamely--to catch it.

--Matt Weitz

 
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