10/22/07 Newsflash: Yo check this out.

1/07/07 Newsflash: Radiohead is great because it's both epic and intimate at the same time.

9/22/03 Newsflash: Forget all this. The bottom line is it just sounds so good.

Ok Computer - First Thoughts

I can't remember the last time I actually anticipated the arrival of the next CD from a particular group. I always thought this was a teenage phenomenon. I would imagine huge lines of people extending into the parking lot, all waiting to get their copy of the new Bon Jovi album. Like people that have to go to a movie on opening night, it's sad. I thought. But the other day, it occurred to me to ask the guy at the music store when the next Radiohead album is coming out. And I assure you now that on that day, I will take my place in line, and Jon Bon Jovi will be standing right there with me. Let me just state it plain and simple for the record. Radiohead is the best 'rock' band at this time, period. Everybody knows it, but I'm sayin' it anyway. Their album entitled The Bends was a landmark or rockmark, if you will, and most recently, Ok Computer was more than just okay, it's the modern equivalent of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, Wall withstanding. Rarely does one see this amount of musical development in just three albums (some obnoxious music writer would say).

Ok Computer - More Thoughts

Time will tell if Radiohead will surpass Pink Floyd in the category of “introspective” or “headphones, please” rock. Although Radiohead gives a lot of pleasure, the message still seems a bit isolated, that is to say, not yet connected with the “existing body of work” like a great T.S. Eliot's poem. This could be a symptom of their age (or perhaps, the age), and something that may change over the next several albums. Everyone wants to be broad and creative nowadays. And this causes many artists to reject tradition. “Dig that hole, forget the sun.” But tradition itself is as broad as it gets. So is it time for Radiohead to start saying something about world wars, great literature and/or gender issues? I guess the problem is, as much as I enjoy listening to Radiohead, I feel a bit indulgent in doing so. Because the lyrics are so vague and easy to re-interpret, I find myself not being confronted with any moral or ethical challenges, which according to Confucius, should be the main criteria for choosing who we hang out with. For example, on track 11 OkC, I sometimes pretend ‘silent’ is ‘salad’ thus amusing myself and not really thinking about the intended meaning ('not caring one bit about the wicked world'). Now, obviously, this anxiety over self-indulgence is as much my white Anglo Saxon guilt as it is Radiohead's fault. But since it probably is WASP's and Catholics, with their equally ridiculous guilt, who make up the bulk of Radiohead's supporters, I think it's reasonable to ask them to throw in some moral lessons.

But it's a give and take. I do want some degree of vague and emotional enunciation to be sure. Maybe some sort of Holbrook can be worked out.* On the other hand, maybe they are presenting such challenges, and I'm just not paying close enough attention. That would, of course, be their fault again because their sound is either so damn good or so well-integrated into the lyrics that it's (comfortably) numbing me too well. If Bowie is caffeine, Radiohead is morphine. Masturbation would, of course, be Tylenol 3.
  • Track 4

  • Track 7
    Many fans have criticized this track. I say fuck 'em. I wouldn't change a thing about this album.
Note: Sam Holbrook was instrumental in settling a huge dispute between the band and Capital Records, who were insisting the new album be titled "Okay, Computer World." In exchange for letting them call the album "Okay, Computer," the band would have to give all top Capital executives free guitar lessons for one year. And get this. After all that, none of the execs showed up for their lessons anyway. Unbelievable.

Kid A Review
First Thoughts

Ok, Kid A is now out. I am in the process of absorbing it. This is weird stuff. I am lost. I grope for some foothold of familiarity. For a moment, I am afraid. No joke, I have sworn by Radiohead time and again and my entire rock-utation is at stake. You're damn right I'm afraid. But then I remember.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil; for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
This is the time for
faith. Radiohead fans trying (dying) to make converts should definitely start people on The Bends. This album will frighten away those who are not ready.
Track 1 Let it begin.
Track 2 On continue
Track 3 so reminds me of good Frank Zappa stuff.
Track 4 is like a like a "bird of rarest beauty" with a nice touch of The Shining at the end. Also, notice the little scream near the end of track 5 of Ok, Computer, which foreshadows this great song.
Track 6 is fairly accessible early.
Track 8 is very rhythmic.
Track 9 is hypnotic. It has a brilliant "round and round and round and round and round" along with some bonus squeals from a humpback whale.
Track 10 reminds you of the last track on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon with the notion of being crazy or at least on a different level.
Tracks 5 and 7 are not discussed here.
More Thoughts

I don't know if anyone has said this already, but I actually find a lot of restraint on this album. Areas where the theme/melody is so good that it might be tempting to just ram it down your throat by repeating it more often and more blatantly. This would provide more instant gratification, but make a more shallow product. Instead, they use their notes to develop a richer, more complex and continuously stimulating sound. In this way, restraint in not repeating obvious themes enables more creativity in the remaining score. Anyway, this album gets better and better the more you listen, and can safely be said to be the best ?rock? album of the year. Rolling Stone Magazine makes a mockery of themselves by giving this album only four out of five stars. Are they now rating bands against their own potential? They gave Madonna four stars on the next page for Christ's sake. And if you read the review, you'll see that whoever wrote it has absolutely no idea what they're talking about. The reviewer doesn't say anything negative about Radiohead, but their attempt to discern the meaning behind the lyrics is silly. I am the only one who can do that. Meanwhile, their description of how much this album is a departure is only mildly useful. I assume that no one over the mental age of twenty takes Rolling Stone seriously anyway, and I am getting unnecessarily riled up. Actually, my main reason for going off is that perhaps someone at Rolling Spoon will read this and feel bad about themselves and their job, and possibly even committ suicide.

* I can't speak to restraint in music videos and other narcotics.

  • Is Radiohead good? I found this on Amazon just a few weeks after their fourth album: “See all 843 customer reviews...” That's EIGHT HUNDRED AND FORTY THREE.

  • Vote for your favorite Kid A Song [One] [Two]

Amnesiac Review
“Wait, you haven't even given us time to hide yet” - Mathias, Life of Brian
Hey, wait, I'm still working on Kid A. Oh well, I bought Amnesiac anyway, and I've thought about it some. As I see it, there are three ways non-music people can criticize a piece of music. First, they can comment on the main melodies. Are they good? They are good. Must they be good? They must be good. Next, we can comment on the overall mood created by a song, or dare I say, album. That is, what is the effect, how strong is it, and is it lasting? We can also talk about whether the album gets better with repeated listening. I have a friend who avoids listening to his favorite music during any mundane activity, so as to preserve its context as strictly an accompaniment for higher pleasure. What a freak. Or is he? Third, we can talk about the song in relation other songs. Here, a broad musical knowledge helps, but is not necessary. I will do all three of these things, all in due time. But first, let's talk about Thom (de Savoie) Torke's voice as an instrument.

I have long held to the theory that a good band will have the singer's voice loud and clear contrasted against the music. An example would be Marcy Playground. That is, you should feel like the singer is in the room with you, and their voice should not be hidden behind a wall of music. A lot of bad rock groups do just this, probably because the singer isn't any. We should actually be grateful that we can't hear the vocals. However, I noticed that several of Radiohead's vocals are not clear and contrasted at all. Far from it.

Then I realized Thom Yorke's voice, in these instances, is meant to act as an additional instrument (perhaps a woodwind) rather than a conventional voice and lyric thing. In this framework, it becomes acceptable, or rather desirable, to not be able to comprehend the lyrics. Meanwhile, there are other tracks, like track four, in which Yorke's voice is used in the conventional lyric sense. And here, it is appropriately more clear. I am undecided at this point whether there is a middle ground here, whether Yorke should use his voice for both purposes within the same song, or whether he should keep the two distinct uses separate. In fact, I might even like to see more incomprehensibility in the former situation and more clearly contrasted lyrics in the latter.

Track 1
Solid techno-type stuff. Real mood-setting and pretty-much a continuation of Kid A.

Track 2
Same thing but with strings.

Track 3
Back to Techno, but with better lyrics.

Track 4
As for lyrics, I am not one of those album insert readers. If I can't understand the lyrics, then they're fair game, and I can sing whatever the hell I want. So I have little idea what Yorke is saying at the beginning of this track, but I did catch the part about 'Holy Roman Empire.' Hey, that's wonderful. It seems like they took my advice from my earlier reviews on the need for historical references to make one's lyrics seem important. Bowie uses Himmler, Churchill, and Garbo (or Goebles, can't tell) all in the same song. Anyway, I'm ninety-percent sure he says 'Holy Roman Empire' in this song. It's historical. It's a reference. It's an historical reference. This is a key step in their lyrical progression. Maybe in the next album, they'll use it in a sentence. The epic sound as this track builds to its conclusion is really quite epic, and perhaps it might have even been saved for later in the album.

Track 5
This is a good manly guitar song. More moaning and perhaps even some groaning too. This is the one you'll be hearing on the radio. Then some idiotic D.J. will cut it off twenty seconds early to tell you that was from the new Radiohead album, the name of which they don't even remember, and next up is that awesome new song from Blink 182, the name of which I don't even remember.

Track 6
The music here is like that surf guitar with its 'machine-gun stoccato picking sound' (Dick Dale). Start with this tried and true foundation, add on some trademark indecipherable moaning, and voila, another good track. Yorke's moaning is like ketchup; it just makes everything better.

Track 7
Here, in this alt-take of the same song from Kid A, the band creates a surreal carnival mood similar to the last track on Blur 13 [sample.wav] by using pipe organ-like accents and a sort up-and-down see saw sound (I actually think of a spooky merry-go-round). The thing that really makes this song is the base line, which for lack of a musical term, kicks ass. I believe the music from either of these pieces would make an excellent soundtrack for the fantastic Joyce story 'Araby' in The Dubliners, as the young child wanders through a late-night carnival tent just as it approaches closing time. The lyrics in the Radiohead version, however, take the song in its own Shining direction with 'cut the kids in half' and 'money bears.' Want to see a money bear with a freaky aspect? Try this.

Track 8
Lots of symphonics and sort of a winding, large sound. It's good. This could be good music to play at any religious cult gathering. The guitar line is sort of the same as that one on that track on Kid A, isn't it?

Track 9
I forgot what this track sounds like. No, no, don't tell me, I'll figure it out myself. Check back later.

Track 10 (read about track 11 first)

Track 11
Something here reminds me of King Crimson's Starless and Bible Black, the song that closes the King Crimson album, Red. Now Radiohead obviously has a major advantage over King Crimson in production value and the overall advancement of the alt rock genre, a good portion of which Radiohead themselves can certainly take credit for. It's obviously difficult to compare two groups so widely separated in time. But both songs have this eerie little wind sound going on behind the front-music. The album credits would imply that King Crimson uses the oboe whereas Radiohead uses the clarinet to generate the soft background lines, which as I think about it more, are probably the only thread that connects the two songs. I wish I hadn't brought any of this up. Radiohead's version is like super-refined New Orleans street jazz, whereas King Crimson's follows more the Pink Floyd, Stanley Kubrick design of highly deliberate orchestration. If someone asked me to think of a U.K. precedent for the mood of the song, I would have to mention Steve Winwood's old band called Traffic. I think they had some songs with that drunken pub tone, and Radiohead sort of duplicates this, but the lyrics of the song are definitely thought-provoking and catchy. Um, like, whatever.

The point of all this is not to attempt to diminish Radiohead's accomplishment. But I just think it illustrates an important point that everybody has to have influences. People do great things. Radiohead does great things. But it's only because they stand on the shoulders of others who have gone before. And that's Okay.

Track 10
Here, they've taken the 'underwater' thing that Trent Resner did on Downward Spiral, only they've successfully Yorke'd it up with some trademark moaning and the first big label use of the word 'spinning,' which, in my opinion, is an all around great word. So yes, it's the same mood as the NIN song, but hey, what has Trent done for me lately? Not much. So screw him. Lesson: if someone drops the ball or otherwise fades away, it's perfectly fine to go ahead and bring their drug to market without them. Hey, the show must go on.

The Bends - Revisited
Let's not forget about this album. I almost did after all this time. But fortunately, a friend reminded me.

I Might Be Wrong - Live

Hail To The Thief
Track 1 – 2 + 2 = 5
Seems like a nod to OK Computer’s Paranoid Android. Fast guitars, whaling vocals, rock and roll drums. And I don’t begrudge them one pent. In fact, I wonder if it’s even an inside joke to begin with such a track (a play on ‘give the people what they want’).

Track 2 – Sit down. Stand up.
This song really kicks ass. Its tooth-spitting vocals are phenomenal.

Track 3 – Sail to the Moon. [Radioflack]
The tone of the refrain is lifted from Roberta Flack’s ‘The First Time'. Also, they already did the ‘shining weird’ twist on track 4 Kid A and to better effect. So this track is derivative of their own work. It does sound good though. And I could even make out the word ‘president’ in there somewhere. At least I think that's what he said.

Track 4 – Backdrifts
The pulsatile in-out sound here recalls Pink Floyd’s legendary ‘One of These Days’ from Meddle. The ‘nothing we could do’ is a great line. This song is fine. The keyboard ‘from a farther room’ also sounds a little like a trademark Blur sound.

Track 5 – Go To Sleep
Forgot my opinion on this one.

Track 6 – Where I End and You Begin.
Great track. Good soundscape. Oscillating. In and out. High-pitched squeeky noises like a benign sci-fi puppy. Like if K9 from Dr. Who could make a modern rock song.

Track 7 – We suck Young Blood
Thinly veiled reference to late seventies L.A. Rams Linebackers Joel and Jack Youngblood. You’re not fooling anyone here guys.

Track 8 – The Gloaming
Nice rhythmic sound. Rhythmic? Now that's very descriptive. Why am I not writing for Rolling Stone Magazine?

Track 9 – There there.
This is the most groovin' song on the album. Great percussion reminiscent of John Bonham on Led Zeppelin’s classic ‘Four Sticks’. Great vocals. “Just cuz you feel it, doesn’t mean it’s there.” This is good new old school Radiohead. I am particularly moved by the discernably British sounding ‘walking disaster’. And if I'm not mistaken, there are several references to Homer's Odyssey. I had told them to start doing this a few years ago, but now they've really come through.

Track 10 – I will.
A Thom Yorke lullaby? Hell, why not.

Track 11 – A Punchup at a Wedding
This track typifies the Radiohead experience. At first I wasn't too impressed. Now many listenings later, and I love this song. Note how the content of the lyrics parallels the music in certain key parts. The music sort of hesitates after he initially places the bull in the china shop. Then it restarts as "I turn round stay frozen to the spot." I suppose it's difficult to explain why, but in all art forms, from music to poetry to painting, it just seems to strengthen the meaning when it is echoed by the physical structure of the work.

Track 12 – Myxomatosis
Don’t really care (i.e. have no earthly idea) what the lyrics are saying, but the squonk-box sound is really a neat and powerful one. The song just rolls on like a steamroller, but not some lame James Taylor steamroller, but like a V8 lawnmower on nitro. “I don’t know—which blades I’ve missed—I don’t know—which blades I missed. I got ticks on my tosies. I got ticks on my tosies. Nicks on my tosies. I got Nixon some roses.”

Track 13 – Scatterbrain
Love the little ending where the keyboard bit is pushed out of the nest and has to fly on its own.

Track 14 – A Wolf at the Door
Vocal layering is brilliant. Tone is brilliant (anger/anguish sliding with each refrain into swooning/seventies softness echoed perfectly by a seventies-esque percussion of symbols).

Amazon Links to Albums

Watch Videos
Radiohead Sites

Radiohead Humor (No, not them of course, other people)

Note: Look at Beasty Boys Hello Nasty track number 15, on which they do Lenny Kravitz better than Lenny Kravitz. But if you like Radiohead's brooding lyrics and multilayered texture, you might enjoy certain King Crimson songs. Try asking a friend about borrowing it. Specifically, try A Young Person's Guide to King Crimson, which is out of print.

More Amazon Gems
larrychrist@hotmail.com from Concrete Jungle , April 4, 1999
Like most television commercials, trite trash
I bought this video and anxiously brought it home. It was awful. I couldn't believe I had wasted almost twenty dollars on a video collection of such low quality. I ended up selling it to my neighbor down the street for an issue of Playboy with the articles missing and 13 Spawn pogs.*
* Is that even legal? I'm not sure what a Spawn Pog is, but if it's what I think it is, then that's disgusting!
Thom Yorke:
While the band's promotional efforts for Kid A remained low key, Thom Yorke claims that the band's approach will change entirely with the release of 'Amnesiac'. "We are definitely having singles, videos, glossy magazine celebrity photo-shoots, children's television appearances, film premier appearances, dance routines and many interesting interviews about my tortured existence."

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