Happy New Year, everybody! On this slow-and-easy Sunday, we recognize that, as Judaism prescribes, a few dusks ago we entered into the year 5771, and are currently headlong into the ten days of repentance that mark the beginning of every year. Sounds like fun, no? The gentile brothers Kadane, though, they never “repent” as much as they simply lament, which is really much closer to the heart of this Jewish season, not that there’s anything necessarily Jewish about the New Year (the band). Guitarist Peter Schmidt, maybe, but it doesn’t matter. The point is that repentance, while official, is only the religious way of describing it, whereas culturally the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are about reflection, where we take stock of our lives and set goals and evaluate progress and that kind of thing. For Jews, reflection and lamentation tend to go hand in hand. And as with any entrenched basket of hocus pocus, it is what you make of it. Personally, I couldn’t think of a more appropriate video to herald this time of year than the one for the New Year’s “The End’s Not Near.”
I realize that lyrically, while the song plays with notions of religious modernity, it’s not directly correlative to the act of self-reflection, per se. The video, though, is a flawless visual metaphor: Trying to ride a bike with no hands on the slippery, twilit pavement of an endless vacant parking lot surrounded by industrial detritus. The setting sun, the barren sprawl, that’s America for ya, and then the no-hands style of bike-riding — see, it’s all about balance and confidence. If you think you’re going to fall, you will, but if you’re confident enough in the path ahead and your centered-ness on the bike, it’s like second nature. What could be more apt to the task of trying to make sense of your life, past, present and future, all at once? Further to the vast expanse of pavement in the video, the song itself, a modern classic, has been pretty well paved over, recognition-wise. If you google “The End’s Not Near” right now, you’ll find that of the first 40 results, only four pertain to the New Year, who wrote the song and included it on their masterful 2004 LP, The End is Near. The rest regard Band of Horses, whose admirable cover of “The End’s Not Near” wound up on one of those soundtrack compilations for the TV show The O.C.. “The saints who don’t want to be found,” a.k.a. the New Year, are probably fine with that, and are enjoying some easy royalties. 2004 really wasn’t very long ago, though, and the New Year remain one of the best bands currently making records. We were huge fans of their 2008 self-titled LP; hopefully we won’t have to wait until 2012 to get another, though it would make sense. With all this calendar-oriented business, maybe they’re thinking Mayan.