Archive for the 'Music' Category

Radiohead: In Rainbows

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

In Rainbows coverIt’s been about 20 hours since I downloaded “In Rainbows,” Radiohead’s latest. I have probably listened to the whole thing about six times now, and several tracks more than that.

Radiohead is the sort of band that almost begs superlatives. Perhaps it’s that they’re the only and obvious heirs to the Pink Floyd – Kate Bush continuum that many of us cling to (disclaimer: Floyd mostly leaves me cold 20-30 years on; and Kate mostly disappointed me with “Aerial” a couple of years ago). I was going to write a review of “Hail To The Thief,” Radiohead’s 2004 and most recent release, but never got to it. The gist of my review was to be the “Buddy Holly test,” that is, what would Holly think? And ultimately, I think he would have recognized and approved of the rollicking despair of tracks like “There There.”

Well, I’m really not sure what Buddy Holly’s reaction would be to “In Rainbows.” I tend to think it would be both strong approval and a sort of astonishment at where the music has gone. Both positives. Call me hopelessly devoted, but to these still-fresh ears this collection of tracks sounds like the best this band has released since the fabled “OK Computer.” All are good; “Bodysnatchers,” “Nude,” and “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” are really striking; but “Reckoner” and “House of Cards” are otherworldly recordings from this world, at once transcending Radiohead’s previous heights and consolidating all the band’s strengths. This is the collection of songs I think many of us were hoping for but having trouble imagining following Amnesiac. “HTTT” was great but a holding pattern. This is Radiohead’s next great leap forward, as “Kid A” was, in that they have finally fused their brilliant melodies with their sonic experiments in a way that is not only cohesive but something new.

Today there are no other bands. There are no other albums. When I listen to Radiohead, I often think of the ending of Vikram Seth’s “An Equal Music”:

“Music, such music, is a sufficient gift. Why ask for happiness; why hope not to grieve? It is enough, it is to be blessed enough, to live from day to day and to hear such music — not too much or the soul could not sustain it — from time to time.”

Classic Xmas

Sunday, December 24th, 2006

I had a thought today: listening to these same carols and ditties year after year after year is like tuning into a “classic rock” station and hearing The Dark Side of the Moon or “Stairway to Heaven” or Ten for the twenty millionth time. We need some new Xmas music, badly.

Thom Yorke: The Eraser

Monday, July 17th, 2006

I have a theory about this CD: it represents ideas Thom Yorke brought to the Radiohead table that were rejected by the band (including, perhaps, Yorke himself) in favour of going back to the drawing board, and/or better demos from the singer, along with ideas from his bandmates. Although “solo” projects often signal a dilution of energy for bands, this bodes very well for the next full band effort. The better parts of “The Eraser” remind me of nothing so much as pretty much what I would have expected from the next Radiohead album, sans band. In other words, I get my pseudo-Radiohead fix (especially from “The Eraser,” “Analyse,” “The Clock,” “Harrowdown Hill,” and “Cymbal Rush”) and look forward to a new band release hopefully within a year or so. (Where I agree particularly with Pitchfork is that Jonny Greenwood’s Bodysong is a better listen.)

Ford Pier: Pier-ic Victory

Monday, June 26th, 2006

This near-masterpiece, by Ford Pier, may be the most obscure and underrated CD I own. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone else who owns it (with the obvious exception of Veda Hille, in whose wonderful band Mr. Pier played for many years). The songs are frenetic, inventive, insightful, often hilarious, and tuneful. There are at least two potential singles (“Charmed, I’m Sure” and “Why On Earth”). I’m not sure whether it’s available anywhere other than from Six Shooter Records (unfortunately the site is frame-based so you will have to search out the Ford Pier and on-line store pages manually).