By Gilbert Garcia
With their Dallas-based band Bedhead, brothers Matt and Bubba Kadane explored the emotional possibilities of droning, interweaving guitars and dramatic ensemble dynamics. In 1998, they let Bedhead die a noble death, and - along with longtime cohort Peter Schmidt (Funland) - formed the New Year with Come guitarist Chris Brokaw on drums, Saturnine's Mike Donofrio on bass, and Josh McKay as a utility player.
On this, the New Year's sophomore release, the Kadanes continue in the spirit of Bedhead with an orchestral, three-guitar approach that lends extraordinary beauty to delicate pieces like "The End's Not Near and the lightly syncopated "Chinese Handcuffs."
Matt Kadane has always treated his voice like just another enigmatic element in the middle of the sonic mix, an overheard mumble that conveys feeling by withholding it. It's emblematic of his band's creative strategy: requiring you to meet this music halfway, rather than assaulting you with histrionics. On The End Is Near, however, Kadane seems more upfront than usual, and the more you focus on him, the more this album feels like a song cycle about physical and spiritual decay, and the inevitability of death.
This is most evident on "Disease" - which equates illness with being condemned to Hades - and "18," the disc's riveting centerpiece. This song contemplates the differences between being 18 on the outside, and feeling 18 on the inside, finally determining that each new day just puts you one step closer to being a corpse. Building to a long, explosive, feedback-drenched coda, this track puts the punctuation mark on a moody masterwork. •