Friday, April 23, 2010

Radiohead - Through the Albums

A brief history of my relationship with what has to be my favourite living band.

1. Pablo Honey: you bought it as a CD, cause that's what you did back in 1994 (yes, the album came out a year earlier; you've never been that quick off the draw, what can you say?). "Creep" was the hit song, the reason you bought the CD. A good tune still, though back then it could have easily been a Stone Temple Pilots song. For all you knew Radiohead were from Seattle, and there weren't two great songs on the whole album.

2. The Bends: and the world comes to understand that this is a very, very good band. Maybe the best in the world. Guitar driven, it both rocks and it also dips deep into ultra sad territory and with what has to be one of the most beautiful songs to be written in the last few decades with "Fake Plastic Trees."

3. OK Computer: The music critics got this one right away. I didn't. First few listens it was difficult, strange, a bit disturbing, nothing like the Bends. Where had the guitar driven songs gone? What had they done? Yet I knew, from the first there was beauty in there. Only the strictly guitar-listening-to fan was truly hurt, troubled, bothered, cause as with time, you came to see this was the best album of its generation. It's got it all: the complex and interesting, the gorgeously melodious, the ups, the downs. A full ride, a total album.

4. Kid A: obtuse is a good word for that first listen. It made OK Computer sound like bubble gum pop it was so awkward and tricky. As a musician friend put it, the opening track "Everything In Its Right Place" is an ironic name, since musically everything is in exactly the wrong place. I still have no idea what this means, but then, I can't play House of the Rising Sun on guitar, so why would I understand anything musically? Still, I like the idea. It makes a kind of impossible sense. And the album, too, with time, and just a hint of patience revealed its brilliance.

5. Amnesiac: neither time nor patience helped me on this one. Next.

6. Hail to the Thief: you gave it little time or patience. Radiohead's best days were now long behind them.

7. In Rainbows: in which all will be forgiven. No, perhaps they are not treading new ground. But for me this is just polished advance on OK Computer and more sonically comfortable, warmer than Kid A. It has been my favourite album since its release 3 years ago.


  1. I am totally confused by this post.
    This is your favourite living band yet you dislike two out of 3 of their most recent albums, arguably two of the most uniquely radiohead-y of the lot?
    And OK Comp, an album that opens with one of the most driving guitar (and cello) licks evah, lacked guitar-driven songs? Airbag, Electioneering, Tourist, let down? Some of rocks greatest complimentary dual guitar arrangements (thsi ain't your daddy's allman brothers).
    Amnesiac is certainly challenging, but epic in atmospherics and appropriating old-timey motifs (jazz, big band, motown) : Life in a Glasshouse? Dollars and Cents? Pyramid Song?
    Then Hail to the Thief? Guitar is back but for the 21st century, reeking of Beatles musical references. Where I end and you begin? Myxomatosis? Wolf at the Door?
    And what are your thoughts about The Eraser or Jonny Greenwoods side stuff, There will be Blood included?
    Tell us more... probably because you have to!

  2. 1. Since when is 'recent' a determiner of anything? I adore Miles Davis but don't like any of his last fifteen or so albums (spanning 15 years of music making). Al Pacino may well have been the greatest actor of the 1970s, and is a personal favourite, but I certainly wouldn't recommend any of this recent work. And while, to mix legendary Italian actor metaphors, Radiohead are by no means at the "Analyze That" stage of their careers, I wonder if they will ever relive their former glory.

    2. Amnesiac. You are the second, and I'm sure not the only, person to disagree with me on this one. Full disclosure: I am a layperson. I like music very much. I sing music very unprofessionally (though overly shower passionately) but I don't "know" music the way musicians do (the way my wife does). There are good songs on Amnesiac, to be sure, but ... I don't know. Different strokes for different folks. Perhaps a revisit is in order. It's always taken me umpteen tries to enjoy the music that stands the test of time (inexplicably good, lasting pop songs not included). Glad of the suggestions.

    3. The comments about OK Computer were not my own. I wouldn't have had the balls (nor the musical knowledge). This was a Q magazine, or maybe it was Rolling Stone, or some other rock criticism I heard; it also came from many guitar playing/guitar loving friends mouths. But oops (he he), maybe it wasn't OK Computer they were talking about at all. Could that have been the criticism of Kid A? This the danger of blogging. You post too fast, and some supposed old friend comes out of the woodwork to nail you for it.

  3. Insomnia? Merchant of Venice? GIGLI?

    Isn't it the purpose of blogging?
    And "supposed"? Ouch.

  4. lol. gigli. nice. also anything in which Pacino says the words hoo-ahh! that's 2 words. hoo. ahh.


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