Kodiak Deathbeds – Kodiak Deathbeds (Affairs of the Heart)
A few weeks ago, on a dull and rather inconsequential afternoon in early September, I was sat in the office idly updating my project RAID log in good old Prince 2 style when this album landed in my inbox. Yes, I use my work inbox for personal side projects, I have checked the company IT policy, it’s fine. The e-mail said “Kodiak Deathbeds” which was already an improvement on the e-mail I had received 3 minutes earlier bearing the title “Please update your project plan by 4pm”. There was only going to be one winner, the Deathbeds album would have to be relegated to the back-burner for a few days.
Unfortunately, project plans can take a serious amount of looking after, which is why two weeks elapsed before I finally plucked up the motivation to investigate the intriguingly titled Kodiak Deathbeds in some depth. Like most reviewers, I am always a sucker for a decent band title; there is something oddly rewarding about second guessing what a band will be like based upon their moniker alone. Kodiak, according to my generic search engine, is either a rather scary looking bear or an island off the coast of Alaska. Both sounded promising, but my synapses were still telling me this would be a raucous heavy rock band with a wild drummer and a bass player with a beard you could easily lose a Kodiak in.
The next step is always to examine the album cover closely for clues to the potential sound within. ‘Kodiak Deathbeds‘ is adorned with pictures of drawers and cupboards floating in a cloudy sky, well it’s hardly ‘Smell The Glove‘ is it? No, this is evidently a pseudo-arty college rock band with a drummer in a sleeveless cardigan and a bass player with a sculptured ginger beard. Guess what? I was wrong.
Kodiak Deathbeds are Black Mountain vocalist Amber Webber and Cave Singers guitarist Derek Fudesco who have teamed up to produce a side project with a name far more entertaining than their sound. Is that a tad harsh? No, I don’t think so but as Webber aptly reminds me “We’ve got our histories to blame...” and for me personally, my musical history doesn’t involve listening to a man strumming a guitar whilst his friend warbles in accompaniment.
OK, cards on the table time, there is absolutely nothing to dislike about Kodiak Deathbeds. This is 32 minutes of laid back, gentle folk-Americana, the like of which is becoming increasingly popular. It’s a palette cleanser, a timely reminder that music doesn’t have to be made by fashionable hipsters and full of beats, bleeps and brain-numbing white noise. Sometimes, simplicity can be the perfect anecdote to the perils of the modern world. And sometimes it isn’t.
On their own and in isolation both ‘Against The Wind‘ and ‘Never Change‘ are weary paeans to a modern world set against a back-drop of dustbowl America, not exactly sub-zero Alaska but the vast empty nothingness that characterises huge swathes of the country. This is an album of tracks which reflect a side of the US that most of us never get to see or experience. However, if this rather bleak desolation is representative of life in small town America, then this album has become contaminated by it too.
‘Wild Hearts‘ is tame, ‘Rattle and Roar‘ does anything but and if ‘Saturday Night‘ is this comatose chez the Deathbeds then I’d rather watch Strictly. Only during the opening chords of ‘Joseph‘ do they threaten to rock out slightly, the riff being vaguely reminiscent of Billy Bragg’s ‘The Busy Girl Buys Beauty‘.
There is no light and shade at play here, this is effectively the same track over and over again. It’s 32 minutes long, but feels so much longer due to their inability to change pace, key or vocal delivery. If you’re sitting around a camp fire and your friend starts to regale you with these songs as you peer into the embers you will probably shed a tear. If you’re sat in a dusty American bar surrounded by locals spitting on the floor and being served by a waitress called Darlene, you’d believe these were the most authentic tracks you’d ever heard.
But that’s the issue, Kodiak Deathbeds only work if you have that sense of place, and right now, I’m sitting in an office surrounded by IKEA furniture, an over-large yukka plant and a bloke finishing off a sandwich as part of his Tesco Meal Deal. Against this particular backdrop, Kodiak Deathbeds make as much sense as my never-ending project plan.
As Amber Webber cleverly remarks “this is lasting too long for me“. I couldn’t agree more.
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.