These past two weeks has got me seriously listening to Radiohead again. I couldn’t tell you what the catalyst was for me to put Radiohead back in heavy rotation was. It just occurred to me one day “I want to listen to The Bends on my way to work today.” Thus Radiohead became my traveling music.
Now how I got into Radiohead, as a group, is an entirely different story. Everyone can remember hearing Creep, because it was an inescapable hit. I dug the song, but wasn’t really feeling Rock at the time.
Romeo & Juliet
So years later my sister is way into Romeo & Juliet remake with DiCaprio, so I decide that I’ll get her the soundtrack. Personally I rather enjoyed the film and the soundtrack, and since she was actually showing some interest in “real” music, I thought I should foster that seed of taste that had been planted. We listened to the disc while we played video games, and would try to place the scene that the song accompanied.
Upon the umpteenth spin of the disc I realized that I only really cared for a handful of songs, with the most notable being Talk Show Host by Radiohead. Since I had been reading about Radiohead and I found a song that I was really feeling, I made a mental note that this was a band that I needed to get into. (I also made notes for the Cardigans and Garbage, but that’s another column)
Fast forward a couple of years and I’m at school. I’m watching MTV (back when it was semi watchable.) and I see a MTV News bit about an upcoming album by Unkle. In that news brief they play a portion of Rabbit In Your Headlights. Upon hearing that I was open! That song had such a sound, it really hit me. I knew that I had to pick that album up. I also realized that it was way past time for me to give Radiohead a shot.
I had heard most of the singles from OK Computer but I was really tired of hearing everyone declaring it was “the greatest album ever.” I hate when people declare that an album is so great that your mind explodes, because invariably that album become a touchstone for “cool” and it stops getting accolades for merit and become a fad.
Trip To The Soundgarden
Anyway I decided to jump headfirst into Radiohead. I went down to The Soundgarden and purchased Pablo Honey, The Bends and OK Computer in one fell swoop. I was clearly behind the curve, but I was trying my best to make up for lost time. Pablo Honey was cool, but I really wasn’t feeling it as much as I was feeling the two subsequent releases.
OK Computer was a dope album. I could really see what everyone was raving about. It just sounded cool and different. I enjoyed the album, but I had some songs that I enjoyed more than others (Karma Police, Climbing Up The Walls and No Surprises. To me The Bends was the superior album. Neither album had skippable tracks, but The Bends just seemed like more cohesive effort. It kept a consistent tone and had a real emotional quality that I connected with.
I’ve always been a “single” guy. I love the bonus of a remix, b-side or instrumental. But with Radiohead I became a fanatic; they were my new favorite band and I had to have every song that they released. This of course meant that I would have to venture into the territory of Import Singles.
Import Singles are a risky proposition. On one hand you get some songs that weren’t released domestically. But on the other hand you’re paying around $10 for a disc with possibly only three songs, and you really only want two of them. But if you’re a fan, and I am a big fan of music, it’s so worth it.
I tracked down as many import singles as I could find. Fortunately I worked right above a Borders, so after work I would stop by and scour their import single section for something new. When I went to The Soundgarden I would do the same. Hell even when I went home to Tucson I’d make stops at Zia just to make sure that not a single song had escaped by grasp.
Now the really cool thing about Radiohead singles is that not only are there B-sides (and loads of them) but you also get acoustic versions of album tracks. Hearing Thom Yorke’s plaintive wail in an unplugged environment is amazing. They’ve also released maxi singles and EP’s which were equally good.
Kid A & Amnesiac
When news about the upcoming Kid A started to come out, I was pumped. By that time I had pretty much purchased every Radiohead disc I could get my hands on. And let me tell you how Radiohead’s somberness really matched Baltimore at times. Radiohead provides the perfect soundtrack for Baltimore’s Fall & Winter.
I was way excited to actually be able to listen to a newly released Radiohead album fresh from the store. There was a lot of hype around the album and some people who had heard it weren’t really feeing it. I started to get worried that Radiohead wouldn’t deliver.
So when that Monday before it was released The Soundgarden stayed open until Midnight so that people could pick the album up. By that time was working a few blocks from the store so when I got off work I ran down to pick up my copy. Then I rushed home to give it a spin.
I was blown away. I could see how people thought it sounded different (which I chalked up to growth and evolution), but I couldn’t see why some people didn’t like it. I could appreciate it; it was still a “Radiohead” album and more importantly it was still music. I kept Kid A in heavy rotation for months. That album was practically my theme music.
When Amnesiac was released I did the same thing with the same results. Now maybe because I wasn’t down with Radiohead from the beginning I didn’t have the same expectations as those fans did, but I still know both albums contained some great songs.
I guess I was upset about the backlash that Radiohead got for trying something new. It’s very similar to what happened with D’Angelo. He had a critically acclaimed debut, but his follow up effort, which showed growth, wasn’t what people expected and didn’t get the accolades that it deserved. In both instances the artists defied expectation by being artists and turned people off because of it.
Hail To The Thief
When Hail To The Thief was released I underwent the same ritual I had done with the previous two releases. Again I wasn’t disappointed and again the public response was mixed.
Upon listening to my Radiohead albums again I’ve realized a few things. I can now appreciate Pablo Honey much more than I did when I first got it. There is no way that I can pick my favorite Radiohead album, because they all have different qualities. Some days I may long for the emotion of The Bends while others I may desire the disassociation of Kid A. They are all great albums that result in an impressive body of work. Plus some of my favorite Radiohead songs aren’t even on albums.
I dig Radiohead. I’ll buy anything they put out and anything they’re on. I find that they’re always sonically interesting. They may have a distinguishing voice, or theme, but not a distinguishing sound. To me they’ve proven to be one of the most consistent bands, but I might be wrong.
You feel gypped and I don’t blame you. Read these you’ll feel better;
The Home Team
Aaron & Jalen spend some quality time. And yes Aaron, I do have “a way” with the ladies.
Nick Gets his own personal shout out for sending me an insane Four Disc Mix of some 90’s
Goodness Hip Hop. You’ll see him tomorrow in the Bootleg.
Jeff’s creative links are better than any one of my columns. On top of that he’s a great writer. Read him and see for yourself.
Gordi is a rising star here at InsidePulse. Read him now so you can say “I knew him when”¦”
Gloomchen makes me miss Iowa, just a bit more. She also discusses old age, in a musical sense.
Tom’s still dolo, yet heavier than ever. Read and find out why.
The Away Squad
MSD has news on the most ridiculous beef in Hip Hop since Busta decided to toss darts at Jigga.
Ian’s got some Radiohead info, so you know he’s getting linked.
Jim is full of rants with some quality thrown in for good measure.
Tayo hooked me up with Fiona Apple. I mean a Fiona Apple song. Plus he’s full of quality.
Five Albums I’m Going To Pick Up In Seven Days
1. Bjork – “Medulla”
2. Badly Drawn Boy – “One Plus One Is One”
3. Interpol – “Antics”
4. Talib Kweli – “The Beautiful Struggle”
5. Theodore Unit – “718”
Five “Blast From The Past” Songs That Nick Slayed Me With (and this is just from Volume I
1. Lost Boyz – “Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz & Benz”
2. Az – “Sugar Hill” (and I own the album)
3. Madd Skillz – “The Nod Factor”
4. Das Efx – “Microphone Master” (Remix, right?)
5. Ill & Al Scratch – “Where My Homiez?”