Bedhead, 1992-1998

Douglas Wolk

By Douglas Wolk

on 11.11.14 in Reviews

It’s appropriate that the title of this box set is in a form commonly associated with obituaries. From Bedhead‘s first breath to their last, they were the most austere band of ’90s indie-rock, writing songs that stared straight into the abyss. Texan brothers Matt and Bubba Kadane had been playing music together since they were children, and by the time they solidified Bedhead’s five-man lineup, they’d developed an aesthetic that wasn’t much like anything else in the scene of the time. Theirs was an art of omission: punk rock deliberately emptied of its speed, volume and color. Bedhead were slower and quieter than anyone else, most of the time, and the Kadanes sang so softly you had to lean in to make out their meditations on decay and despair. On the relatively rare occasions when they did turn up the volume (usually by subtle increments), they made it clear how much force they were holding back the rest of the time.

A huge dose of the band’s bleak precision

The extensive liner notes (by novelist Matthew Gallaway) that come with the physical version of 1992-1998 explain just how perfectionistic Bedhead were — they preferred to record over every take of their songs until they got one they were happy with. So their discography is a small collection of dust-gray jewels: three albums, two EPs, three singles (including “Lepidoptera”/”Leper,” a perfectly conceived dyad about a man and a moth), and the two previously unheard tracks at the end of this set. This huge dose of their bleak precision is hard to take all at once, but it also underscores a lot of the band’s conceits: the divine presence that might be absent, the fist raised against the darkness, the dust to which people return, the Latin words to which scraps of meaning cling.