Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Rockaliser 30: Bedhead, WhatFunLifeWas (1994)

[Welcome To the Rockaliser 30, a month-long series devoted to classic albums that have been eclipsed, forgotten, misheard, or otherwise not given their propers. This is Day Twelve. Archive here.]

Galaxie 500 are legends, Low are elder statesmen, and Codiene have their own goddamn Numero box set. When will Texas slowcore get some respect? The crystal-clear trances of Austin’s American Analog Set were among the genre’s best. And that band wasn’t as impressive as Dallas’ Bedhead.

Bedhead (and their offshoot, The New Year) revolved around brothers Matt and Bubba Kadane, whose slowly swelling guitar lines are their groups’ most distinctive sound. Bedhead only recorded three albums, all good but none more indelible than their 1994 debut, WhatFunLifeWas.

In the 90’s, quiet verses exploding into loud choruses were a fixture of alternative hitmaking. It’s a style associated with the Pixies and popularized by Nirvana, although it predates both groups. Bedhead’s music spurns this formula completely. Theirs songs begin quietly, with chilly, forlorn guitar from the Kadanes, and extremely nondescript vocals. But, without exploding at any one moment, they grow in intensity and volume. By the end of “Living Well”--or any song on this album, really--the band leap up several decibels. Bedhead’s songs move linearly, beginning in slowcore territory, but never ending up in a state you’d call “hushed.”

Low’s debut, I Could Live In Hope also came in 1994. You can see why both bands were called slowcore, although it’s a label they each abhorred. But the differences between I Could Live In Hope and Bedhead's debut are instructive. Low work towards a quiet, slow reverie, and asked their fans to sit down at concerts. Bedhead aim for the same state of rapt attention, with similar modesty but at louder volumes. They never attempt to ratchet the rock up all at once, but have patience and they’ll get there soon enough.

WhatFunLifeWas’ secret weapon is its buried pop impulse, most audible on standout “The Unpredicable Landlord.” But the pop here is always latent, slyly suggested rather than shoved in your face. Power-pop this is not. Other tunes have a twinge of country (“To The Ground”), befitting their Texas roots. But Bedhead were not a group to beat you over the head with anything. Their debut has a steely restraint to it--its songs are quiet, clear and precise, until they grow into something entirely different.


  1. One of my favorite slowcore releases, and one of the few albums that make me proud of being from Dallas.

  2. Rarely have I run across song construction this solid/fluid. This thing has endless returnability...