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The New Year | Newness Ends (Touch & Go)
Dallas band Bedhead split in 1998 after a seven-year career that spawned a trio of well-received albums. The mainstays, brothers Matt and Bubba Kadane, have now regrouped as The New Year, adding Codeine drummer Chris Brokaw, old Bedhead Peter Schmidt on guitar and Saturnine's Mike Donofrio on bass along the way, and have recorded an album of songs that were originally intended to form the fourth Bedhead LP. Given the choice, I'm very glad that they chose to record them as The New Year's debut. So what's the difference between The New Year and Bedhead? What is it that makes Newness Ends a more refreshing and fulfilling listen than, for instance, Transaction de Novo, the final Bedhead album? Bedhead songs were all about restraint and an elegiac beauty, generally played at a funereal pace - the drawback being that they were (almost) all played slow, with little feeling of contrast. The New Year take the best elements of Bedhead - the intricately interwoven bass/guitar patterns, the hushed vocals, the grace and the subtlety - and add to them variety, immediacy, colour and songs that crash through the gears. Heck, Gasoline is almost singalong, a description that could never really have been applied to their previous incarnation. There's much more developed orchestration this time around: throughout the record acoustic guitars are to the fore, flitting in and out. Tracks like Alter Ego are waltz-like, One Plus One Minus One Equals One sounds doleful enough for Bedhead but it's got pretty flourishes tagged on while The Block that Doesn't Exist is drum heavy. The finale, Newness Ends is bruising, loaded with emotion. Credit must go to Steve Albini for bringing to bear his understanding of the rock dynamic and his spare production but above all it should go to the Kadane brothers who had the vision to dismantle a successful group, refine the key components and reassemble it better. The New Year for the new millennium.
CWAS #8 - Summer 2001