Pedaljets arose in the mid-1980s out of the same rough-housing Kansas indie scene that birthed The Embarrassment (whose Bill Goffrier came east to co-found the great Big Dipper). The band was, at one time, a raucous r ‘n r contender in the hunt for the next ‘Mats, Husker or Meat Puppets. They shared stages with all these bands. Yet Pedaljets made just two albums in its heyday, the grungy, rackety debut Today Today in 1988 and the rushed and less satisfying S-T in 1989. They split a year after the second record, worn out with touring and disappointed with their showing. The Pedaljets’ sophomore effort apparently rankled so much that the band actually reformed to re-record it in 2006.
By 2006, naturally, the music industry was already well into its retro-obsession with short-lived post-punk legends, having raised the middle-aged ghosts of Mission of Burma, the Pixies, Gang of Four and countless other bands that could be your life (if you didn’t already have a life). So, Pedaljets kept going, playing local shows, recording and finally, in 2012, releasing their first new material in 23 years, a single of “Terra Nova” backed with “Riverview”.
The two songs lead off What’s In Between, the Pedaljets quarter-century-gapped third album (another version of “Terra Nova” also closes out the album). And, let’s be clear, they have more than a whiff of the 1980s in them. “Terra Nova” comes from the land where the Pixies meet Devo with its menacing, new wave bassline, its twitchy staccato guitar. “Riverview” leans more towards Americana, a boot-stomping road-house vamp under close R.E.M.-into-Jayhawks harmonies. “Conversations,” one of the best of the new songs, splits the difference between Paisley Pop and sloppy Mats-style mayhem, a Brit-pop melody scuzzed over with beer-sticky American rock bravado. Even so, the song that popped first for me was a quiet one, the radiant but also simmering “Goodbye to All of That.” It’s the song that wraps a young man’s chiming guitar dreams in an older man’s ruefulness. It stays low to the ground but also somehow soars. Its criss-crossing shouts of “Goodbye to that” pierce the strum and clatter with a close-to-tragic resonance.
If you go back as far as the Pedaljets do, you’ve said goodbye to a lot of things, some you miss more than others. Let’s all be glad that these guys are also saying “hello again” to a worthy if not quite star-making band.
DOWNLOAD: “Goodbye to All of That” “Terra Nova” “Conversations”