Shuffle: The joy of repetition

As you should know by now if you have been following this column, whatever I write is inspired by whatever comes up on my iPod in shuffle mode. This week I was minded to interrupt the flow and to play ‘Bedside Table’ by Bedhead – the live version from ‘Live 1998’ four times in a row. I’m not usually minded to do such things and can clearly remember the occasions when I have done it when I’ve become obsessed with a song or indeed a whole record (or a side of a record -ask your parents).

I’ve mentioned before that I once played ‘I Break Horses’ by Smog (from ‘Kicking a Couple Around‘) on repeat and this happened over the course of at least a week. It somehow stopped me from moving on to something new. The song just flowed not through me but within me, so that I became part of the song. It went beyond appreciating the song into obsessiveness. I was in love with it. I still love the song today and now I am itching to listen to it again, and I will.

Back to Bedhead. They are a band from Texas, formed by the brothers Matt and Bubba Kadane – around from 1991 to 1998, they played a very melodic slow-core version of indie rock. When Bedhead disbanded the brothers went on to form The New Year; they also play in Overseas with David Bazan of Pedro the Lion and the great Will Johnson of Centro-matic, South San Gabriel. Their songs are slow-burners, hypnotically clean, and often build to explosive climaxes. ‘Bedside Table’ does. The great thing about Bedhead was the clarity, the melodies aren’t buried under a ton of fuzz or distortion, the vocals are quite deep into the mix but it doesn’t take a lot to find the beauty. They pace the songs really well and usually, detonations are signposted, which strangely does not diminish the impact – the fact that you know that they are going to take off and soar predictably still has a massive impact.

As ‘Bedside Table’ builds I want my head to be in a speaker to mainline the music straight into my brain. It is a simple pleasure and one that I can take time after time, like riding a rollercoaster and winding up for the big fall, the thrill utterly predictable and utterly compelling. I highly recommend all the Bedhead and New Year records.

This repetitive tendency has also manifested itself a few times over the last few weeks. After being out of the country for two and a half years and not cancelling my Uncut subscription I have a lot of catching up to do. Going back into the office a few days a week gives me the chance to listen to the CDs on my commute. The first song that caught my attention and stayed on repeat for a whole journey was ‘How Do I Keep Loving You‘ by Julia Jacklin.

It really stood out from everything else, I was surprised at how anodyne a lot of things sounded how nothing stuck out, how I thought I hadn’t really missed out on very much. Then this came on and I had to keep listening to it. It perfectly balances the subject and the performance. More recently another standout and a candidate for repeat is ‘Take Me Back Where I Belong‘ by Joana Serrat (which I can’t find on YouTube so we’ll have to make do with ‘Pictures‘ which is frankly not as engrossing but is also from her new record ‘Hardcore from the Heart‘ (out soon on Loose) ‘Take Me Back Where I Belong‘ builds slowly and descends into a beautiful maelstrom of dream pop. I made her ‘Dripping Spings‘ record my choice of Americana album of the year in 2017 and she is delivering on the promise that she showed.

I’ll leave you with Steve Reich’s ‘Music for 18 Musicians’ performed with eighth blackbird, because the joy of repetition can be found within a piece of music, not just listening to the same piece over and over again. Enjoy.

About David Cowling 142 Articles
Punk rock, Go-Betweens, REM, Replacments, Husker Du, Minutemen, Will Oldham, Smog, Whiskeytown, Ass Ponys but probably most of all Howe Gelb, led me on this journey.
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