Bedhead

1992-1998

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Of the various subgenres that rose up out of the tangled cross-currents of early indie rock, '90s slowcore was one of the more overlooked, due in part to the unexcitable nature of the music itself. Marked by drowsy, guitar-based tunes stretched into turtle-paced tempos and stripped-down arrangements, slowcore was a lazy cousin to shoegaze’s textural experimentation and also drew from the icy distance and general emotional exhaustion of goth staples like Joy Division or Bauhaus. Rather than relying on tension and outbursts, slowcore bands like Low and Codeine found their catharsis in the slow-burning din of their minimal, protracted compositions. Among the most restrained and exacting of the '90s slowcore bands was the Dallas, Texas quintet Bedhead. Forming in 1991 and releasing only three records and a handful of other tracks before a breakup in 1998, the band was centered around the intricate guitar weavings and often barely audible vocals of brothers Matt and Bubba Kadane. 1992-1998 offers up all known studio recordings made during the band’s short existence. While subtle beyond imagination and often times mired in a pristine kind of lethargy, Bedhead's sound was more dynamic in restraint than any of their more aggressive contemporaries with post-Nirvana loud-soft-loud screamfests. The 1994 debut full-length WhatFunLifeWas sounds particularly fresh-faced, with distorted rave-ups like “Haywire” and “The Unpredictable Landlord” sitting awkwardly alongside the pseudo-country shuffle of “To the Ground” or the angular Slint-isms of “Foaming Love.” The band reached their zenith in 1996 with Beheaded, the most consistent statement of their three albums, offering a picture of melancholic power that was relentless in its simplicity and confidence. The creeping melodic build of “The Rest of the Day” and the muted wash of “Smoke” hide depressing lyrics under post-rock time signatures and layers of perfectly interlocking guitar lines. Arguably their best-sounding album, the Steve Albini-recorded 1998 swan song Transaction de Novo doesn’t quite deliver as cohesive a feeling as Beheaded, though it does hold some of the band’s best songs (“The Present,” “More Than Ever”) and stays interesting when they break out of their usual slow stance with a (relatively) upbeat tune like “Extramundane.” Early lo-fi recordings made in the band’s practice space and a neighborhood church account for some of the most striking non-album material. While better-recorded versions of tunes like “Bedside Table” would appear with more clarity on proper albums, the rough 7” versions better capture the wiry nervousness that hid in some of their more produced material. Likewise, their take on Joy Division's “Disorder” from the 19:10 EP highlights the isolation the band’s sound inhabited; even covering one of post-punk’s most urgent anthems of existential torment, Bedhead sound on the edge of collectively falling asleep. In this sleepiness, however, there's never boredom or numbness. The self-imposed parameters of minimalism, lurching tempos, and anguished, muttering vocals are all well-designed attempts at deeper emotional connection, demanding commitment and close inspection to even begin to crack the veneer of these songs to see the devastating beauty within.

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