BEDHEAD: NOW, AS WAS, BUT ALWAYS
[W]e have an experience when the material experienced runs its course to fulfillment. Then and and only then is it integrated within and demarcated in the general stream of experience from other experiences…Such an experience is a whole and carries with it its own individualizing quality and self sufficiency.
- John Dewey (excerpt from “Art As Experience, Chapter 3: Having An Experience).
Bedhead was a dynamic band with a decent number of albums — some would say just enough, some would say not enough, either is fair. Their latest album was released in 1998, and there it ended. New things began, lives took turns and new music was made, but as a live entity, Bedhead no longer remained.
Archival record label Numero Group will release the band’s catalog as a box set in November, a revisiting for some, a discovery for others, but to all it will be a monument to the (almost) whole life of the band. It will contain never before seen, previously unreleased, and re-engineered recordings, but it will all be a portrait of what happened, and one can wonder, is that OK with the band? To view history is to view something objectively, unaltered, what actually occurred, but the natural instinct — the way that memory works, subjectively — is to change it, to think of what could have been, no?
“Because the band broke up so long ago, I probably do see the songs as tied to another time in my life that’s no longer all that accessible. But I’m not sure that I see some of the ideas and approaches that I attach to the songs as finite, or at least as fully explored,” notes Matt Kadane (former member of Bedhead and current member of the ever so superb Overseas).
To say there was another band like Bedhead is something that would fit into the category of “influenced by,” more than stating a contemporary. One could look at things such as Macha or Slint, or Sonora Pine in the sense of what some were calling slowcore, still that label is not sufficient in the fact that songs such as “Psychosomatica” or “Haywire” were definitely more raucous than would be associated with that style. If anything, I would say that Bedhead was deliberate, each note had a purpose, a specific place, every guitar line so meticulous, in a way, it was more of what they didn’t play, their restraint was the equivalent of a guitar solo. And rightfully so, as many songs the band composed dealt with those thoughts that come as afterthoughts, self talk, mild musings, the use of silence was similar to the use of feedback, pacing and tension were explored in a way rarely seen before or after Bedhead’s epoch of rock.
“Most of the quiet songs on the first record had been around for a while before we finally recorded them, since the late 80s in the case of a few, and there was a lot of paring down of those songs to get at what we thought was essential ,just because they were around for so long and were exposed to critical attention before being made more permanent on record. There was an early version of the song ‘Unfinished’ that had violin playing the main part and some strummed acoustic guitar at the end. Maybe a year into the song’s life we decided to ditch the guitar. A year after that we ditched the violin. From individual cases like that some basic principles emerged. Like the absence of chords, maybe especially in the case of songs that had their origins in a chord progression, or the absence of drums throughout a song and not just during a drum drop-out. We started to apply those principles more willingly in part in the belief that they helped to create some of the tension we thought the songs needed. But I also remember at the time thinking that a less-is-more approach was in some cases a way of giving the songs a more timeless quality. Pete Townshend somewhere talks about wearing white jumpsuits in the late 60s and early 70s in the effort to avoid being dated by fashion. Obviously that’s not a foolproof plan. But even so I think we were trying to do something similar. By avoiding playing songs a certain way, maybe especially in a way that ‘felt right,’ which we interpreted as a suspicious feeling that indicated being too influenced by what was happening at the time, we were trying to avoid so obviously dating the songs, and dating us. We did the same by avoiding certain sounds — by trying to keep the guitars unadorned by any sounds except those that could come from amps that had already been around for so long they could no longer be pinned to a particular set of years.”
The Bedhead box set is a great opportunity to experience one of the more unique, and I will biasedly state, better bands of the 90s. Their music is as vibrant and amazing as it was then, devoid of nothing, their music is representative of a band that made all the right choices in reference to their music, it is one of the few times you can see a band’s discography as complete, whole, the last song is the perfect last song.
“I’m satisfied with the music we made, with the records as artifacts, with some of the shows we played,” surmises Kadane. “I also wish we had been able to do more — to record more, tour more, reach more people who might have been interested. I regret our decision not to document the band visually. But on the whole I’m happy we were able to do anything at all.”