i'm a reasonable man, get off my case

 

Radiohead

 

Radiohead is a bunch of whiny Oxford bastards.

JUST LIKE PAUL WALKER!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

No, of course I'm not serious, I'm just being my cute little facetious self.

lineup: Colin Greenwood (bass & an all-around nice guy); Jonny Greenwood (guitars, keyboards, backing vocals, stupid guitar noises on the middle albums); Ed O'Brien (guitars, backing vocals, pretty much absent from the last couple albums); Phil Selway (the drummer); Thom Yorke (lead whiner, guitars, piano, stupid synth noises on the last couple albums)

review index: Pablo Honey / The Bends / OK Computer / Airbag/How Am I Driving? ep / Kid A / Amnesiac / I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings / Hail to the Thief (rough mixes)

missing albums: just some EPs

apex: The Bends
nadir: Kid A
overlooked: n/a


Pablo Honey - 1993

Rating: ***
Best songs: You, Creep, How Do You?, I Can't
Worst songs: Vegetable, Lurgee, and some other stuff is mediocre

 

Radiohead weren't ALWAYS the neo-art-rock band they are today. No, they started out as a rather mainstream alt-rock outfit. Let's face it: though "Creep" is a good song, it's a rather calculated bit of self-loathing, as if they were, y'know, TRYING to get a hit. Anyway, the opening trio of songs ("You", the aforementioned "Creep", and "How Do You?") are all excellent. And the rest is average. Period. FULL STOP. END OF SENTENCE.

You want more? You want more? Fine! "Anyone Can Play Guitar" has a nice chorus (though the line 'I wanna be wanna be wanna be Jim Morrison' sounds forced), "I Can't" sounds like the Goo Goo Dolls before they started sounding like that, and "Blow Out" is a neat bass-driven ditty. Is that better?

Postscript (12.06.01): Rating goes up 1/2 star, as I just love "I Can't" and "Thinking About You". There are a couple songs that really rather blow, though, like "Vegetable".


The Bends - 1995

Rating: ****
Best songs: High and Dry, The Bends, Planet Telex, Bones
Worst songs: Nice Dream

 

Surprise me with a stick, these guys actually made a good album!

The album opens with three awesome songs: the tremolo-heavy "Planet Telex", containing a great ascending melody, the title track is a wonderful modern rock tune (great guitar work on that one), and in the ballad "High and Dry", Thom Yorke actually hits an emotion other than 'angst' or 'depression'.

At this point the album starts to drag, starting with "Fake Plastic Trees", which is actually a decent song, once the rest of the band wakes up, but it's a bit of a letdown after the opening triumvirate. "Bones" picks up the pace a little, but "Nice Dream" is prototypical Radiohead: Thom whining incoherently over a dull guitar-heavy backing. Did this guy take elocution lessons from Michael Stipe or something?

After that, there's a couple more okay songs ("Just"? okay. "My Iron Lung"? okay.), then another highlight, "Black Star" (more great melodicism, especially in the verses), and the album finishes up with "Sulk", an a propos song title for Radiohead if ever there was one, and "Street Spirit", which actually allows the album to end on a high note.

Anyway, I'm willing to admit this is a good album, as there's only one really crappy song on here, and the less-than-stellar songs at least have something interesting going on in the mix, so you don't have to concentrate on Thom Yorke going on and on and on and on and on...

Postscript (8.18.01): Hey, that "Bulletproof" song is real pretty! And "Street Spirit" has really grown on me. Yes, I'm now giving this FOUR stars. Unbelievable, isn't it?

Postscript 2 (12.06.01): I love "Bones". It rawks. Rating's not changing, though, as I could quite easily do without "Just", "My Iron Lung", and "Sulk", not to mention "Nice Dream".


OK Computer - 1997

Rating: ***1/2
Best songs: Climbing Up the Walls, Exit Music (For a Film), No Surprises
Worst songs: Electioneering, Fitter Happier, The Tourist

 

Following the mega smash success of The Bends, featuring the hit singles "Just", "Street Spirit (Fade Out)", and "High and Dry", Radiohead teamed up with veteran producer Nigel Godrich, a really British name if ever there was one. The album they produced was OK Computer. This is the story of that album.

I expect you're waiting for me to trash this one, right? Well, sorry, kids, it ain't gonna happen. I can honestly say that I like this album, though not as much as The Bends. Still, here's what I think sucks about this album: "Electioneering" is a stupid, thudding rock song. "Fitter Happier" = macintosh + piano noodling - point. "The Tourist" is an incredibly dull, anti-climatic ending to the album. It would've been a lot better had it ended with "No Surprises". Also, the universally-lauded mini-epic "Paranoid Android" is really disjointed and has as many annoying parts (falsettos, stupid guitar noises) as it does good parts (that acoustic guitar, the good vocal parts).

So what rocks? "Climbing Up the Walls" does! Spooky atmosphere! Synth bass! Creepy minor masterpiece! Best song on the album! Or at least my favorite! "Exit Music" is also a great acoustic guitar-driven song (with some kickin' basswork near the end, courtesy one Mr. Colin Greenwood), and some other tunes along the way ("Karma Police", "Let Down", "Lucky") prove to also be good, though I've had enough of talking about songs individually!

So anyway, yeah, this album isn't bad. Still, it's not "the best album of the 90s!!!!!!!11".

Why not? Because I say so.


Airbag/How Am I Driving? ep - 1998

Rating: **
Best songs: Pearly, Polyethelyne (Parts 1 & 2), Airbag
Worst songs: A Reminder, Meeting in the Aisle, Melatonin

 

Featuring a song from Oh, Computer! as well as six b-sides, this EP is, erm, a mixed bag. The track from Oklahoma Computers! is pretty good, despite the annoying noodly drumming, and two of the b-sides, "Polyethelyne (Parts 1 & 2)" and "Pearly" are convincing rockers, but also on here is a repetative instrumental that's basically the groundwork for Kid Aiiiiiigh ("Meeting in the Aisle") and some dull Yorke whining ("Melatonin", "A Reminder"). For hardcore fans only, and God knows there's enough of them.


Kid A - 2000

Rating: **
Best songs: Optimistic, Idiotheque, How to Disappear Completely
Worst songs: Kid A, Morning Bell, Motion Picture Soundtrack, In Limbo

 

Well, this is a switch, isn't it? From guitar rock to...whatever you call this. My problem with this album? There are only three or four tracks which sound like actual finished compositions, and the rest sounds like stuff the band came up with after a few days of jamming in the studio.

Good stuff: the singles "Optimistic" and "Idiotheque" are darned catchy, and "How to Disappear Completely" creates a neat wall of sound. Otherwhere, you've got the opener "Everything in its Right Place", which is a decent enough song, though Yorke sounds like a cat throwing up a hairball near the end, "The National Anthem", featuring an actual rhythm section for once, and a bunch of annoying horns, and "Treefingers" is a nice bit of Eno-ish ambience.

Bad stuff: the title track (a dull drum machine/synthesized vocal piece) and more Yorkshire whining in the last two songs. Also, "In Limbo" distinguishes itself in being totally indistinguishable. You never notice it's there! Well, you might, but I sure don't.

The rating keeps changing. Well, c'est la vie. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Ou est la grafeuse?


Amnesiac - 2001

Rating: ***
Best songs: Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box, I Might Be Wrong, Like Spinning Plates, Pyramid Song
Worst songs: Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors, Morning Bell/Amnesiac, You and Whose Army?

 

A definite step up from Kid A, Amnesiac benefits from the presence of actual, y'know, SONGS. Instead of endlessly repeating loops, this time they use the electronic elements to make interesting little ditties, such as "Like Spinning Plates", which uses backwards synth textures to create a haunting mood. And, believe it or not, the opener "Packt Like Sardines in a Pretentious Song Titl" uses Kid A's repetative motion injury formula to good effect. Other highlights include the singles, "I Might Be Wrong" (is that a bluesy guitar riff in there? I thought the blues were below R. Head's excepting standards!) and "Pyramid Song" (off-kilter rhythms are off-putting at first, but grow on you and me alike).

Of course, as these songs were recorded at the same time as the Kid A krap, there are some tracks on here that are retreads of said album's banality: "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors" is just a dollop of electronic percussion and vocoder, and someone apparently thought that "Morning Bell" was so good, another version should go on here. Elsewhere, other mis-steps include more Thom whiiiiiiiiiining in "You and Whose Army?" and "Dollars & Cents", and a dull instrumental entitled "Hunting Bears". But hey, it could've been a lot worse, especially if the Kid A stuff had been the pick of the litter.

Okay, now for your homework assignment: using tracks from Kid A and Amnesiac, create one (1) solid 45-minute album. Be sure to include an album title! (Examples: Post-Modern Life is Rubbish, I Hate Being a Rock Star, Drummachinesandsynthsandohyeahaguitarortwo, Q: Are we not singers? A: We are whiners!)


I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings - 2001

Rating: ***
Best songs: The National Anthem, I Might Be Wrong, Idiotheque, Everything In Its Right Place
Worst songs: True Love Waits

 

Thanks to the miracles of **d**g*l*xy, I have this to review. Eight live tracks have been ripped from Radiohead's tour in support of Amnesiac and slapped onto compact disc for you, the consumer. Radiohead sure know their marketing -- you all bought the last two records because they're absolutely, totally brilliant works of post-modern art. Now you can buy them all over again! Yep, all that's on here is three selections from each of the last two albums, the ubiquitous "Morning Bell", and a flaccid new song entitled "True Love Waits". No "Exit Music (For a Film)", no "Bones", no "High and Dry", and absolutely NO "Creep". God forbid they should play their good songs!

Oh, but I kid. Actually, though they just had to choose tracks from the last two albums, they actually made some good choices! "The National Anthem" is spruced up and sounds a heck of a lot better without the shitty ear-piercing horn blasts, "I Might Be Wrong" features the return of guitarist Ed O'Brien, "Everything In Its Right Place" and "Like Spinning Plates" are interestingly deconstructed, and heck, even "Morning Bell" is palatable this time around! Oh, sure, I would've chose "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box" instead of "Dollars and Cents", but who am I to complain? D*wnl**d it like I did!!!


Hail to the Thief (rough mixes) - 2003

Rating: **1/2
Best songs: 2 + 2 = 5, Backdrifts, Where I End and You Begin
Worst songs: The Gloaming, Myxamatosis, We Suck Young Blood

 

Not the actual album, but an incredible simulation. Somehow, all the tracks from the forthcoming Radiohead release got leaked, then a few days later Nigel "I rock, you don't" Godrich denounced them as being mere rough mixes. Smacks of "publicity stunt" (or something like that) to me, but whatever. It's not like I'm going to actually buy a Radiohead album.

Anyway, rough mixes or not, this is another okay effort for the Radiohead Shoppe. The first six tracks are engaging enough: "2 + 2 = 5" features some neat percussive guitar playing, "Sail to the Moon" is a decent piano-based thing, and "Backdrifts" would've been worthy of inclusion on Amnesiac. Then after the pleasantness of "Where I End and You Begin" comes the unpleasantness. "We Suck Young Blood"? Well, I think the first half of that title is accurate. And there's also the obligatory annoying electronic percussion racket "The Gloaming", fuzzed-out irritating synth-led "Myxamatosis"... And the rest is either slightly dull or not bad. As a whole there's nothing as stand-up good as, say, "Packt Like (you know the rest)" or whatever, but at least they didn't include too many overtly crappy songs this time. But really, people, get a better band to obsess about.


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