The New Year
The End is Near
Touch and Go
ut seriously, was there ever any need for a name change? Perhaps the greatest transformation between Bedhead and the New Year were some slightly more up-tempo songs. Revving up the engines past Low MPHs to Pedro the Lion territory, however, means little when the voice and musicianship is the same.
But hey, this isn’t a terrible thing at all for those who don’t want them to change. Matt and Bubba Kadane have their formula established and, for the most part, perfected. We don’t ask Led Zeppelin to put away the guitars every once in a while and we shouldn’t ask anything more of the New Year. Especially they’ve been able to mine this depressed, tender song category so well.
But maybe we should? On The End is Near, the group seems to follow the same pattern as before, but with less than appetizing results. Blame it on Matt: eschewing his former untrained vocal for something resembling professionalism hasn’t done much for the emotion (or conscious lack of) behind the delivery. In fact, it may have stunted it. Take for example, The New Ye…Bedhead’s “More Than Ever” whose vocal thrives on Kadane’s innocent warble cutting through the bleak instrumental backing. With the slight nasal affectation employed here, it might border on insufferability. Or it might be “Disease”. Unfortunately, his professionalism hasn’t gone transferred to his lyrics: perhaps the less said about them the better.
But, the music might be part of the problem too. As previously stated, a lot of it’s been done before. By them. If we take the songs of Transaction De Novo as a slightly screwed (and sometimes not even that) version of this album, we wouldn’t be far off. And, as previously stated, that isn’t necessarily the issue at hand. The problem lies in the lack of immediacy that pervaded their first record as The New Year. Newness Ends sounded rejuvenated. Here they sound tired, struggling to adapt to it, treading water while trying to figure out what all of it means.
But, it’s not all bad. In fact, a lot of it is strong material. The Kadane brothers are extremely skilled songwriters. The first three tracks shine like little they’ve recorded before, despite “Sinking Ship”’s reliance on a feel similar to the previous album’s “Half a Day” and “The End is Near”’s painfully obvious Elliott Smith-isms. But it’s something like the final track’s opening chords that say it all. The song jumps out to a quick start, rushing the first two notes to the listener. And the third holds for what seems like an eternity, ensuring that this is, indeed, Bedhead and not a new beginning.
Janus may be looking backwards, but he also does the opposite.