By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
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"We are all still friends--friendship has nothing to do with this," Matt writes, explaining that the band can no longer sustain itself with its members spread across the country: Matt is in graduate school in Boston, guitarist Tench Coxe is in New York, while Bubba, bassist Chris Wheat, and drummer Trini Martinez remain in Dallas. Because of the distance, he writes, "it is nearly impossible to learn new songs, and none of us wants to play in a Bedhead tribute band. More to the point, we don't want to tour anymore, and it is by touring that we have compensated for being spread across the country. If it weren't for the distance, would we still be breaking up? I think all of us agree that if it weren't for the distance, we would have broken up and killed each other, in that order, three years ago."
Unlike the end of Course of Empire, which disbanded last month amidst so much frustration with record labels and radio stations and a career spent fighting battle after battle, the demise of Bedhead is not accompanied by so much melodrama. In the end, it's just a band breakup, one of those "inevitable and ubiquitous" (so says Matt) things that happen when the gas runs out and it's time to abandon the car on the side of the road. "It's not like we're married," Bubba says, matter-of-factly.
The band has, in seven years, created a rather estimable catalog that includes three magnificent LPs (1993's WhatFunLifeWas, '96's Beheaded, and the recent Transaction de Novo), two EPs (4SongCDEP in '94 and The Dark Ages in '96), and two singles on Direct Hit Records. No one could ever accuse Bedhead of dicking around, even with its members separated by so much distance.
And each one of those albums and EPs and singles was truly remarkable, the sound made when a whisper turns into an explosion. Theirs was a melancholia that was at once serene and devastating. Rock and roll's standard tools (guitar, vocals, bass, drums) were turned inside-out and upside-down till guitars sounded like string sections and the drums sounded like a roller coaster off its tracks (especially on "Psychosomatica" off the Steve Albini-produced Transaction de Novo). With the exception of, well, Ronnie Dawson, no other local musician in this city's history has compiled a better back catalog. And no other Dallas band ever puts as much of itself into its songs--the Kadanes' were confessionals, but never so revealing you couldn't put yourself into the song without feeling like an unwelcome guest.
In the end, it was the Kadanes who decided to end the band, shortly after Bedhead returned from its European tour earlier in the summer. (The last Bedhead performance was a radio session for VPRO, Holland's national radio based in Amsterdam, on May 20.) After all, they wrote the songs, sang the words, played the guitars, taught the rest of the guys their notes, and defined the sound--they were Bedhead, in essence. That is not to discount the other members' contributions, not at all. Without Coxe, Wheat, and Martinez, Bedhead would not have sounded the same--they were as essential to the making of music as the electricity needed to power the instruments, amps, and DAT machines. Coxe--a member of the local rock scene for even longer than the Kadanes, having played in End Over End and Three on a Hill before joining Orange Schubert, Bedhead's precursor--provided the third guitar that pushed the Kadanes over the edge on songs such as "Bedside Table" and "Exhume." And Wheat and Martinez were the rhythm section that gave a little muscle to the songs' fragile bones.
Bedhead will still release one more single through the now-defunct Trance Syndicate label, which Butthole Surfers drummer King Coffey closed down in recent weeks. "Lepidoptera/Leper" (one side recorded by Albini, the other by Leaning House Records owner Mark Elliott) will hit stores in October, marking the final Trance and Bedhead record. After that, who knows--the Kadanes will likely record together, but for what label and under what name remains to be seen. (There are also some jazz recordings and other live tapes still in the vaults that may or may not see release at a later date.)