Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Arctic Monkeys- Suck It and See REVIEW


I first heard of the Arctic Monkeys in 2006 during that tremendous moment in the spotlight when debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not was named on the Top Five Albums of All Time by Britain’s New Musical Express. Of course the album was nowhere close to this upper-echelon of musical accomplishments- in fact, artists such as The Killers, My Chemical Romance, and Coldplay rounded out the list. However, this didn’t stop the Arctic Monkeys from practically parasailing in on the lethal hurricane of hype generated by the Strokes- a Perfect Storm of Exposure and Planetary Alignment deadset on making these guys the next Beatles, Elvis, and Jesus Christ combined while simultaneously blowing up the internet. When removed from the thunderous PR and examined within a vacuum, the band was revealed to be a ridiculously talented group of musicians lead by 19 year old Alex Turner (“Him?” the doubters cried. “He is but a child!”). Over time, the outrageous level of exposure surrounding the Arctic Monkeys threatened to even transcend the group as a whole. If there was ever a band that seemed fated to evaporate, it was these guys. The thing is though- Alex Turner and the guys never really went away. They quickly followed their debut album in 2007 with Favourite Worst Nightmare, another catchy affair seemingly made to set in stone the argument that, at the very least, the band was capable of replicating themselves. Humbug arrived in 2009- a distinctly darker, murkier, and ultimately looser collection of songs. The new Messiahs of Britpop seemed to be more focused, developed, and dare I say… grown up. I was curious where they would take their sound next.

Alas I was apparently one of the few who found Humbug to be an interesting direction for the Arctic Monkeys. Because, two years later, here we are with Suck It and See and it’s pretty clear the band is choosing to ignore any artistic statement they made on that previous record. An smothering exercise in ironic kitsch, Suck It and See is the “That’s what she said” of contemporary music. The hardcore Monkeys fans will no doubt fawn over this record. But as a less rabid member of the fanbase, I find Turner’s songwriting excesses grating when left unbridled. He is obviously an exciting wordsmith highly capable of delivering acidic, edgy lyrics- the three previous LPs are peppered with dynamic examples of this. But listening to Suck It and See is akin to watching that forgotten 1991 Bruce Willis/Damon Wayans actioner, The Last Boy Scout- rampant quips, one-liners, and witty turns of phrases reign paramount against a mind-numbing background of sound and fury. Only The Last Boy Scout was a knowing self-parody of the action genre, while Suck It and See seems to exist out of pure defiance. Perhaps the band was attempting to release Suck It and See as an indicator that the mellow edginess of the Humbug exercise was all a dream. Musically, though, they are as good as ever. The rhythmic hooks boast the usual combination of harsh and delicate romanticism while guitarist Jamie Cook is exceptionally lean and efficient. Several tracks on Suck It and See, such as album opener “She’s Thunderstorms”, “Piledriver Waltz”, and “Black Treacle” stand out as some of the band’s finer moments. But Turner’s lyrical indulgences become inevitably distracting. Turner is no stranger to flirtacious theatrics- but he is inadvertently spoofing himself here. And too often Suck It and See will drip with smarmy irony as a result (“Call up to listen to the voice of reason/and got his answering machine,” Turner sings on “Reckless Serenade”). A little of this winky self-awareness goes a long way, a lot of it can become borderline suffocating. So where does this leave the Arctic Monkeys? Cheekiness aside, Suck It and See should undoubtedly be more successful than Humbug. It is more fun in the traditional sense- plus these songs are bound to kill when translated to the live circuit. And it’s important to remember, considering their discography, just how young Turner and Co. actually are (twenty-five!). Still though, I’m a little disheartened by the direction of this latest effort and hope it is not indicative of an impending trend. The Arctic Monkeys are too good to become a novelty act. And this is a statement I can make with zero irony.


STANDOUT TRACKS INCLUDE:






Monday, May 30, 2011

The King of Limbs- FAMILY TREE: SEPARATOR/IN LIMBO

The months following The King of Limbs’ February release have been exceptionally kind to Radiohead’s eighth studio album. At this point within the Radiohead canon, it’s a fair assumption to label an initially difficult album as a “grower”. This has been the case numerous times over their career. Even In Rainbows, which is universally regarded as their most accessibly brilliant effort, had to first carve its niche (remember first hearing that “15 Step” time signature?). However, this grower mentality is not restricted to albums. Many of Radiohead’s songs can at first be polarizing before gradually morphing into the familiar, then the comfortable, before suddenly emerging as a vital necessity to the everyday life of the listener.

The King of Limbs, though, was the grower to end all growers- filled to its thirty-seven minute brim with eight smaller growers. In it’s aftermath, I have taken much solace in The King of Limbs. For a collection of music that I initially found so deliciously isolating, it now somehow exudes a cozy warmth- while of course still maintaining that defining griminess. The whole thing is like a melodic contradiction (comfortable isolation?) that few bands could pull off- let alone attempt.

Earlier this month, I wrote a somewhat brief in-depth analysis on The King of Limbs detailing what the album meant for the listener, the band, and the overall trajectory in relation to both. In that analysis, I determined that not only was Limbs an extremely metafluential album- but I also proposed that each Limbs tune boasted a “sibling track” hidden somewhere within the Radiohead discography. The King of Limbs: FAMILY TREE will be an ongoing column where I find these yins and yangs and discuss their thematic similarities. Considering we are essentially dealing with long-lost siblings, I feel that “Separator” would be a fitting place to begin. Ready? Here we go.

One of the most openly whimsical songs in Radiohead’s catalogue, “Separator” closes Limbs as a recollection of a particularly lucid dream. Taking this fantastical tone into account, the song feels oddly appropriate- especially considering the band’s tendency to end their albums with a sweeping sense of morbid grandeur. The bizarre, organic soundscape of Limbs lends itself to an illusory interpretation and this final track is an effective transition for the listener from one reality to the next. “Separator” ’s layered production adds to this otherworldly quality. What begins as Thom gently singing over a percussive loop evolves into scattered backup audio samples riddled with feedback and echoed distortion coinciding with what sounds like an electric mandolin. Things start simple on “Separator”- but, by the end, it feels as if at least three songs are fighting to escape from an impending eternal slumber. Usually, Radiohead’s album closers are resigned to their fate- here though we fight for our awareness to the bitter
end (“Wake me up!/Wake me up!”).














“Separator” find its kin with Kid A’s “In Limbo- a haunting Siren song of a track that substitutes forbidden detachment for anything ethereal. Whereas “Separator” is rising to the surface of reality, “Limbo” sounds helplessly lost in a dark, uncompromising void (“Trapdoors that open/I spiral down.”). Not only is this song not waking up anytime soon, it is rapidly approaching the abyss of the nightmare. The chord progression mimics the undulating rise and fall of the ocean while Thom’s bellowed echoes sound less and less human as the volume increases. We have been lead hopelessly astray by the promise of discovery- a promise that only reveals itself as a tantalizing mirage the deeper we sink into this void (“Another message I can’t read.”).

Like many siblings, “Separator” and “In Limbo” discover kinship through their environment- in this case, that eternal moment between sleep and consciousness. However, as is also true with most siblings, the individual response to the unknown pushes the two in drastically opposite directions. Whereas “Separator” strives to emerge from the other side with a renewed sense of purpose (“Finally, I’m free from all the weight I’ve been carrying”), “In Limbo” submissively plays the black sheep in the scenario- enabling the personal demons as they seduce the song from the path to true awakening (“You’re living in a fantasy world”). We will never truly know what caused “Separator” and “In Limbo” to take such different paths- perhaps there was a sibling rivalry predicated on jealousy, perhaps one song was favored by its parents (Radiohead Parent Tracks- now there would be an interesting post). For all intents and purposes, through the lyrical imagery and song structure, Radiohead has provided us with a musical myth. However, the listener is the one who dictates whether or not this myth is a tragedy.

If you really want to tumble further down the rabbit hole, play both tracks on top of each other. It is more of an astounding auditory experience, as opposed to conventional music. But it undoubtedly conveys the divergent experiences of both siblings while still maintaining an overtly dreamlike essence. It’s frankly a little haunting to hear Thom’s “In Limbo” in the background of “Separator” 's enlightenment.

Plus, take note as to what “Separator” is telling us as “In Limbo” fades into the darkness around the three-minute mark. Apparently, the enlightenment always wins.





Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cat's Eyes - Cat's Eyes


With the news of The Horrors new album 'Skying' coming out in July I thought I would take a step back and take a look at Frontman Faris Badwan side project 'Cats Eyes'. Cat's Eyes is a duo of Badwan and Italian-Canadian soprano, composer and multi-instrumentalist Rachel Zeffira. Their self-titled debut album came out in April via Polydor Records. You can head over to the bands website for a free download of 'Not A Friend'.

On February 28, Polydor released the duo's debut EP Broken Glass. The same label also released their self-titled album April 11 in the UK. In North America, it was released on May 3 via Cooperative Music/Downtown.

There has been much speculation amongst fans and media publications as to whether or not Zeffira and Badwan are a couple, or simply bandmates and when asked about this in various interviews the pair have given ambigious answers fueling further interest, but a reliable source confirms that they are indeed a couple and met when Zeffira was giving vocal lessons to Badwan

Below, you can watch a video of the duo performing a reworked version of their song "I Knew It Was Over" at St. Peter's with the church's organ and choir. Zeffira, who had already performed at the Vatican, had the idea to debut the new project in this grandly incongruous setting. Friends of the band managed to sneak cameras past the cathedral's tight security.


Cat's Eyes Tracklisting:
01 Cat's Eyes
02 The Best Person I Know
03 I'm Not Stupid
04 Face In The Crowd
05 Not A Friend
06 Bandit
07 Sooner Or Later
08 The Lull
09 Over You
10 I Knew It Was Over


Cat's Eyes - I Knew It Was Over (Performed Live at the Vatican) This is pretty cool little video and somewhat gives a highlight of what to hear on this Cat's Eyes album.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Yeasayer - The Devil And The Deed


Here is a brand new song from Yeasayer that was debuted on Conan titled "The Devil And The Deed". This is a pretty fancy little song and gets your hopes up for even more new stuff from Yeasayer. You can tell that this band loves to perform live and they do such a great job at it. Almost like their music was meant for the stage.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

SOUND CHECK- Team Me INTERVIEW


Team Me and Fake Plastic's very own Fr. Jones shoot the breeze about musical influences, the live circuit, video games, their upcoming EP, and the importance of fan interaction in the 21st century music business.


* Here is a link to my Team Me review



Fr: So I've played the video game and finally got home before the song ended- how much of a role did Team Me have in designing the game and how do you feel it reflects your music?

TM: Congratulations, it can be a bit tricky! The game is created by a good friend of ours, Peder Joergensen. He also helped record the demo version of the song in the game, Weathervanes and Chemicals. He just got an idea about a game based on the title of the song. We’re just lucky he made such a great game. It’s a fun game for a fun song, both with a darker meaning to them, or something like that.


Fr: You guys are already building a reputation for energetic live shows. What do you feel is most important when playing to a large crowd? What separates Team Me apart from other bands and their live shows?
TM: The most important thing for us is just to have fun on stage, and just be who we are. That’s what we’ve done since day one. You won’t see us on stage with a fake smile or dance. We’re not trying to be any particular kind of band, just ourselves. People see through fake performances right away. No two bands are exactly the same, because there is only one of every person in the world. But, what specifically separates us from other bands, we’re not really sure.

Fr: Between your live shows and the video game, you guys obviously take fanbase interaction seriously. How important is fan interaction to an up-and-coming artist?
TM: It’s very important. Everyone in the band have had/has bands/artist/people they looked up to, listened to, followed and loved. So, we know the “fan-side” of things, and how it feels to get some kind of connection with those people. And we also think it’s an honor to have people taking their time to listen to us, and actually contact us to tell us they like our music. So, as long as we have time and can manage, we’ll answer everyone back. By having that kind of interaction with fans, we feel that we get a closer relationship with our fans, and hopefully they feel so as well and will continue to follow us.

Fr: Do you have any more media projects lined up to promote your music?
TM: We have a few ideas. But, we’ll have to see if everyone around the band is in on them.


Fr: I've listened to the EP. How long did it take to record and what was the most difficult thing about it?
TM: The EP took about 10-11 days to record. The most difficult thing about it was finding a direction for how it was going to sound. The first 6 months or so of the band, we were just playing the songs we had time to rehearse and play for every gig. Everything happened so fast, so we never really had the time to think about the sound of Team Me. So, that was the first time we had to figure that out. Did we find it…? We don’t know yet.


Fr: When can we expect a full-length LP?
TM: We’re actually in the studio recording our debut album at this moment! We’re producing it ourselves. It’s really exciting and a bit scary. The plan is to have a Norwegian release in September, I think. We don’t know more than that at this point.


Fr: I have read that Team Me originally started as a solo project but has now become a fully formed seven piece band. Did this happen gradually or suddenly?
TM: As everything with Team Me so far, it happened really quickly. It started with Marius having a song nominated for a best unsigned Norwegian act award. At the award every band had to play a live set. He didn’t want to do it alone, and called a few friends, and the band was formed. Since then a few of us had to quit to do other things, but we are now six crazy people ready to take on the world!


Fr: Who are your main influences? What inspires you guys to write music?
TM: We are six different people, with a lot of different influences. But, everything from early Norwegian black metal, via 60’s/70’s/80’s sounds, via alternative rock, to new pop/rock/folk/psychedelic/electronic/dance acts. You can probably hear many different influences in the songs. What inspires us to write music, is the same as most songwriters and artists I guess. Life, facts, fiction, moments, meeting/playing for different people in different places and music we like.



Fr: What are your longterm goals for Team Me?
TM: First of all finishing the album and then play live, and hopefully get to travel around to places we can meet and play for new people. Just keep on doing our thing, and see how far we can get.


Fr: Any chance we will see you perform in the States anytime soon?
TM: As of right now, as far as we know, there are no specific US plans, but hopefully we can come over there and play soon. That would be awesome!! That’s one of our goals.


Fr: Any advice to up-and-coming artists struggling to make it in the oversaturated 21st century music industry?
TM: I’m not sure if we know any good tricks or secrets or advice yet. We’re still really fresh fish in the pond ourselves. Be yourself, have something real and honest to present, and figure out a way to get people interested, and be connected to the internet. Or something like that.







Team Me- Team Me EP- REVIEW


It’s hard to deny the contagious enthusiasm on Team Me’s debut EP. Reminiscent of fellow Norwegian rockers, Mew, as well as the communal theatrics of Arcade Fire and fellow Post-Vintage artists, MGMT- this is dreamy thunderstorm pop for the young and young at heart, the type of sound built to be an acquired taste. But what it lacks in subtlety, it makes up in sheer vitality and pulse- Team Me is urgently listenable. Comparisons can also be drawn to Jonsi’s 2009 solo LP, both collections of songs all but force you to seize the day. Team Me is a six-piece band where all parties involved challenge the listener to keep up while striving to be heard. After all, this is a band that released their first single as the background music for their own surprisingly addictive online video game (of course there’s a video game!).

Things get off to a rousing start with “Weathervanes and Chemicals”- easily the album’s high point. An arresting assault of strings, keys, and up-tempo cavernous vocals, “Chemicals” recalls the high points of Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” as well as the theme song to the forgotten anime series “The Mysterious Cities of Gold”. The songs that follow never quite reach the utopian heights of “Chemicals”- yet they avoid plummeting into the depths of C-side filler. The opening energy is maintained and spread around accordingly. The frenetic pace of “Come Down” is complemented by the slower grandeur of “Dear Sister”- a firm candidate for the EP’s second best track. The songs, written by frontman Marius D. Hagen, are appropriately moody and quixotic given the sunshiney lilt of most of the instrumental progressions. And on several tracks, the backup vocals from Synne Knudsen generate a fanciful male-female rapport. Whether or not this bombastic assault of harmonies can sustain an entire album is another matter entirely- but it’s a challenge I look forward to hearing.



STANDOUT TRACK:

Painted Palms - I Will Truck (Dirty Projectors - Cover)

Big fan of Painted Palms after recently seeing them play live here in SLC. I really liked their songs and their live act, as did Of Montreal who hand picked them for their current tour. Painted Palms 'Canopy' EP is out digitally now, but 12" will be available June 21 via Secretly Canadian. Along with that EP they now have a Dirty Projectors cover song 'I Will Truck'. For me I am excited to hear more from these guys and even a cover song is worth a listen. I believe their is a lot of talent in this young band from Lafayette, Louisiana (currently California).

This song 'I Will Truck' continues to showcase their very electro feel and what they do so well. I will tell you once again Painted Palms are for real and we should expect exciting things from these guys.

I Will Truck (Dirty Projectors Cover) MP3

Painted Palms: "I Will Truck" (Dirty Projectors Cover) by prefixmag

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cults- Cults REVIEW


Cults first turned heads earlier this year with the release of their Go Outside 7”. Hailing from Brooklyn, the band seemed to disappear into anonymity for several months before announcing their self-titled first album would be streaming on NPR before it’s physical release June 7. The result is a collection of hard-edged sweetness punctuated by the echoey, Siren-esque vocals of Madeline Follin to go with Brian Oblivion’s fuzzy guitar hooks- as well as a xylophone cameo and the usual Pep Rally percussion. It can be easy for the sounds of Post-Homage to get cheeky in a hurry. Just ask The Raveonettes- whose potential seems currently stunted by the lo-fi distorted self-awareness that followed their successful debut- 2008’s Lust Lust Lust. Cults, however, is an exercise in wistful innocence with nary a wink or nudge.

An addictive blend of indifferent brood/rock laced with powdered sugar, Cults’ self-titled debut album feels as if it was recorded in a haunted drive-in theater. It reinvents the wide-eyed harmonies of 1960s Midwestern Americana by eerily adhering to ancient principles within a modern era- the results are as toe-tappingly wonderful as they are sinister. The listener anticipates a casual 21st century self-referential irony with this type of genre exercise. Yet the band refuses to break the fourth wall. Instead they indulge the darkness beneath the seamless facade- all the while with a straight-faced effervescence. Cults is an album that rewards those who listen closely (eg -the origin of the album samples preceding “Go Outside”, the vague sense of restless edginess which sneaks it’s way into Follin’s vocals). This is substance over style- only the substance is a fierce commitment to style, leaving the listener with a ghostly vision of meta-nostalgia. And if that sounds convoluted for an album full of sockhop ditties, it’s okay- because Cults have sugarcoated their ambition in accessibility. With a tone so faultlessly Malt Shoppe/The Archies that it becomes almost Lynchian, Dirty Beaches’ Badlands would be an ideal double feature.




- Fr. Jones
(::)::(::)
www.forcesofastreet.com


The Horrors - Still Life


It is good to have these guys back with a new album. 'Still Life' sounds pretty darn good and really sounds like the band is heading in the right direction. The new album Skying was recorded in The Horrors own London studio.

Here is what The Horrors have to say about their name album over at their site...

Our new album, ‘Skying’, will be released by XL Recordings on 11th July 2011 (26th July in the US). It was produced and recorded by the band at our self-built studio in Dalston, London. The album features ten new tracks, including forthcoming single ‘Still Life’, which was premiered as Hottest Record In The World on Zane Lowe’s BBC Radio 1 show this evening. Listen to ‘Still Life’ here:



Skying Track Listing:
01 Changing the Rain
02 You Said
03 I Can See Through You
04 Endless Blue
05 Dive In
06 Still Life
07 Wild Eyed
08 Moving Further Away
09 Monica Gems
10 Oceans Burning

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? ALBUM REVIEW


The much anticipated album from The Vaccines 'What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?' gets its official release here in the USA next Tuesday, May 31, 2011 on the Columbia Records Label. I have actually had this album on my play list for the past couple of months and it has been on constant repeat mode. Last night they made an appearance on Letterman and are now on tour with Arctic Monkeys across the USA trying to hit the US with a splash. I first remember hearing The Vaccines about 4 months ago when I heard 'Blow It Up' for the first time and was really wowed at first listen.

With this debut album from The Vaccines I was kept content the whole way through. I know these guys get a lot of comparisons to being The Strokes of the UK, but in reality it is more like the album 'What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?' is a solid start to the bands career much like 'Is This It' for The Strokes. The album consists of 11 songs plus another hidden track at the end of 'Family Friend'. When you sit down and take a listen to the entire album it is hard to find many flaws with what is given.

The album starts out with 'Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra)' which is a quick little number that gets the juices flowing and sets a raw feel to this little rock album. It is a fun, fast and to the point type of tune. The next song 'If You Wanna' is all about the energy, and presents the perfect vibe that you want to hear in a modern day rock song. It sets a high standard for what is to come on the rest of the album, and it clearly is a song that is meant to be played Live and Loud. With If You Wanna and most of the other songs on the album the lyrics are rather simple and concise but that is why the songs work so well together.

'A Lack of Understanding' is the albums low key song, focusing on lyrics an voice and it is very toned down. The lyrics "I've got too much time on my hands/But you don't understand/Or you won't understand" suggest why the reason for the slower tune. 'Blow It Up' is up next and like I said above this was the first song I heard from these guys. After initially hearing this song I wanted to know everything about this band, I thought it was an outstanding sounding song. 'Wetsuit' is a pretty little song, which starts out perfectly with a somber intro. From there the remainder of the song flows magically to the finish. 'Norgaard' is a fun loving little song and I could hear that fun 70's vibe mixed in the music.

The big anthem song could be argued as being 'Post Break Up Sex'. It is the stand out track for some, making a perfect break up ballad. Wrestles with the idea of making a bad decision feel like it is a good one. 'Under Your Thumb' has the constant chants of "Eleanor" making this another simple and to the point type of song. The next song 'All In White' is a highlight track in a lot of ways. When you first listen to the song you almost miss its beauty but when you hear it again you realize that this is a pretty special song. "I will one day shine with you
I'll shine on a faithful few/Show we 'low quotations /Have you earned your stripes?/Fabricate salvation/Lord, I know your type/I've known you all my life/I was always wrong, you all in white"
. Just really enjoyed the sound and the lyrics of this song, and it is now the newest single off of the album.

'Wolf Pack' is a faster paced, more relaxed and goofy fun song. There really is nothing to take seriously with Wolf Pack but all in all it is a pretty enjoyable song. 'Family Friend' is a nice little exit song, slow paced that could have been the perfect album closer. Turns out there is also a hidden track titled 'Somebody Else's Child' which is the real closer to this remarkable debut album. It is a nice little piano number and is something totally different from what you hear with the first 11 songs, consisting of simple piano sounds with simple lyrics and vocals.

I feel this album is one of the best I have heard in 2011. The Vaccines definitely have my vote for best new music act in 2011. Every song on the album is great there really is no duds on this album. They really don't try to be something they are not. Sure it could be said their lyrics are a little watered down but as far as producing an album that you want to listen to from start to finish that is what they accomplish. I think the song placement of each song is also spot on. As the album flows beautifully telling a story such as "WOW I didn't expect this from The Vaccines?"


Track Listing:
01. Wreckin’ Bar
02. If You Wanna
03. A Lack Of Understanding
04. Blow It Up
05. Wetsuit
06. Nørgaard
07. Post Break-Up Sex
08. Under Your Thumb
09. All In White
10. Wolf Pack
11. Family Friend
12. Somebody Else's Child (Hidden Track)

The Vaccines - If You Wanna by Indiechorusly

Monday, May 23, 2011

My Current Playlist

I've been tossing around ideas for my next post, and having a tough time deciding between a number of bands I have been listening to lately. So I thought I could do a quick run down of a few that had my attention lately. This seemed like the most efficient (read Lazy) way to throw some new stuff out there. Also trying to pick some stuff that hopefully we haven't posted yet.



Big Deal - Homework
Based in East London, the duo of KC Underwood and Alice Costelloe's hazy stripped back indie pop brings to mind a bit of the classics Velvet Underground with Nico projects or The Jesus and Mary Chain and Hope Sandoval's "Sometimes Always". Contemporaries would be Tennis, Best Coast etc.
Visit Them on MySpace.

Little Comets - Joanna
I heard this band a couple months ago on Huw Stephen's show on BBC1. They claim to play a style of "kitchen sink indie", which seems to suit them well. Nothing extraordinary, but catchy enough for a worthwhile listen. Also check out their track "Isles".
Available in iTunes.

Cold Cave - Confetti
Being never one to shy away from 80's post punk and synthpop influences, I find Cold Cave pretty intriguing. The solo project is the work of NYC based Wesley Eisold and collaborators. For an album review, check out Pitchfork's Mark Richardson's from April, which I think he nailed perfectly in writing it.
Available in iTunes.

Chad Valley - Up and Down
Going by the name "Chad Valley" for his solo project, Hugo Manuel has already been developing a very solid reputation in the UK. He is also a member of the band "Jonquil" and is based out of Oxford. When the thought of Chillwave is mentioned he tells NME "I'm trying to be less lo-fi. I'm bored with that." I picked one of his tracks from last year, but the new EP "Equatorial Ultravox" will be released on June 20th.

Fixers - Crystals
Yet more talent coming out of Oxford, Fixers sound like MGMT covering Beach Boys to be brief. Sounds like they've had Van Dyke Parks in their sandbox on this track called "Crystals" I like what they are shooting for with this track. Some definite potential.
Visit them on MySpace.

The Joy Formidable - Whirring (Live @ SXSW)
I will readily admit, I'm not often a fan of female lead rock bands (specific to rock genre). Yeah, I know it sounds bad, but honestly how many truly good ones can you think of that last more then a handful of albums, without them splitting because of a failed relationship with a fellow band member or the inevitable love triangle. However I certainly acknowledge that the potential when hitting their mark is through the roof. The Joy Formidable's Ritzy Bryan has alot going for her. She has talent, confidence and passion which makes an appealing mix without getting all alpha female (man kryptonite) and still retaining some vulnerability. It's a tough job for talented women to find that crucial mix, but so important; as they will be subjected to more undeserved criticism then male lead singers. The three piece band from Wales has made some big strides this year, with their album getting positive reviews and just finishing a pretty extensive North American tour. The song "Whirring" is pretty epic in scale and length, but is handled so well. I had to post the version from this intimate show at SXSW this year. Their album "The Big Roar" is available from iTunes now.








This Is Really Happening: Vol. 3- OK COMPUTER


For those in the nosebleed seats, Radiohead announced they are performing The King of Limbs live on the BBC July 1. This will be the first time we have seen any of the songs from their eighth album performed by the entire band (Thom played several solo while on his Atoms for Peace tour last year). As Limbs itself is quite the abstract album- this is exciting news to see how Radiohead will breathe life into these eight tracks. One of the most enjoyable things about the band can be the way in which their live shows transcend a studio recording which usually is already transcendent on it’s own. I’ll never forget the first time I heard the driving bass line for the live version of Hail to the Thief’s “The Gloaming”- they actually had the audacity to open several shows with this in 2003. For myself, the song instantly went from being an experimental bridge piece to an album favorite.

In honor of the live unveiling of The King of Limbs, I will be running a weekly (hopefully) column breaking down the seven previous LP’s and the quintessential live band performance of each song followed by a brief explanatory write-up. The rules I have given myself are pretty lenient- every album can only have 2 songs from the same live show (if this weren’t the case- the Astoria concert would dominate Pablo Honey and a large portion of The Bends). Bear in mind- when I say “quintessential”, I am shooting for the best rendition, but a meaningful performance sometimes will reign paramount. If it comes to pass that some rarer songs cannot be found, a favorable B-side live version will take it's place. This is obviously opinionated so comments are readily encouraged. So are you ready? Here we go.






Airbag- 1997, Eurockeennes



"In the next world war... in a jack-knifed juggernaut, I am born again."

And we’re off. “Airbag”, like “Planet Telex” before it, acts as a silent pillar to the collection of music that follows it. Removed from the context of OK Computer, it’s amazing how dynamic the song works on it’s own. It speaks to the strength of the album that Radiohead are content to use it as merely a prologue- when it is overly worthy of it’s own showcase. For proof- look no further than the clip above.



Paranoid Android- 2003, Glastonbury



"Can you please stop the noise? I'm trying to get some rest."

Not much more can be said about Radiohead’s three-part opus that spirals OK Computer into the nether-regions of an Orwellian fever dream. Equal parts Dystopian ballad, messy stadium rock, and choral chanting- “Paranoid Android” is schizo-rock at it’s most transcendent. The 2003 Glastonbury version is especially spectacular- here we see the band fiercely committed to the song’s madcap tendencies.





Subterranean Homesick Alien- 1997, Hammerstein Ballroom



"The breath of the morning... I keep forgetting..."

Boasting some of the band’s more poetic lyrics, “Alien” found itself an unlucky outcast when it came to live performances. This is a real shame because, in many ways, this song encapsulates the essence of the album. A gentle Floydian tune with elements of Sergio Leone (!) – “Alien” chronicles the plight of a social outsider on lonely planet Earth, desperate to be rescued by an alien mother ship. One of Computer’s more obvious nods to Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”- the story that lyrically unfolds is riveting. It feels like an entire universe comfortably lives inside this song.



Exit Music (For a Film)- 2009, Prague



"Wake... from your sleep..."

Along with “Talk Show Host”, “Exit Music (For a Film)" first made it’s presence known in 1996’s William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet… as exit music for that film. "Exit Music" is a four-minute slow burn- an elongated swell of anxiety, protest, and resentment with one of Radiohead’s more rousing climaxes. Its intimate progression lends itself to being a crowd-pleasing live favorite. The edited, high quality fan footage from their recent show in Prague captures the excitement of the crowd as the ballad build’s to its crescendo.



Let Down- 1998, San Francisco



"Transport, motorways, and tramlines..."

Did Radiohead forget they wrote something as elegiac as “Let Down”? Did the song sleep with their wives? I can think of no other reason why this tune has been actively ignored on the live circuit for almost fifteen years. Regardless, “Let Down” is a gutwrenching affair of immense beauty. Seriously, go listen to it now. At least, “Alien” has company on the setlist of Greatest Songs Radiohead Never Touches Live (hmmmm… now that would be a good post).



Karma Police- 2009, Reading Festival



"Karma police, arrest this man..."

Radiohead’s music often lends itself to being an openly communal experience- but never more openly than when they play “Karma Police” live. “Police” is a rousing acoustic anthem, reminiscent of The Beatles’ “Sexy Sadie”, which finishes up the album’s first half. Relative to Computer, “Police” also reveals the band at their most direct, sterile, and antagonistic. It also has one of the greatest bridges of any rock and roll song. Ever.




Fitter. Happier.



"Fitter. Healthier. More productive."

This cynical two-minute mantra utilizes a voice synthesizer a’la Stephen Hawking to disperse fragmented advice for a captive, unseen audience. Oddly, this mechanized diatribe feels resolutely human- perhaps not in tone, but in the Futurist inspirational speech it strives to be. “Fitter. Happier” is also notable for indicating the man/machine union that is heavily the focus on Kid A. This isn’t music in the traditional sense- although the distant sound of a piano lurks in the background- “Fitter. Happier” was used primarily as an opener or segue-way during the 1997 Computer tour, and promptly never heard from again.



Electioneering- 1997, The Tonight Show



"I will stop. I will stop at nothing..."

Although, widely and unfairly regarded as the black sheep of OK Computer, “Electioneering” is a galvanizing rockout- complete with cowbell. Initially criticized for it’s abrupt tonal shift from the rest of the album, “Electioneering” has aged extraordinarily well- it would fit in perfectly tucked into the middle of Hail to the Thief. It’s a lively track that is eventually smothered and forgotten by the Dystopian blanket which immediately follows it. Strangely, Radiohead chose to play this song live when promoting OK Computer on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I have always found this decision odd and I feel it speaks volumes regarding the band’s disposition toward the song. They obviously had a lot of faith in it. Greenwood is also in rare form here.



Climbing Up the Walls- 2003, Glastonbury



"I am the key to the lock in your house..."

“Climbing Up the Walls” sounds like an approaching monster when heard through headphones. When performed live- it is too late, the monster is already here. It celebrates the absence of all that is gentle and delicate via the embrace of a cacophony of painful noise. Electronic chirps and distortions ebb and flow over a slow, heavy percussion that sounds like Selway is beating an aluminum sheet. Thom’s soaring wail echoes over all of this, then we see the light in the horror.



No Surprises- 2003, Montreaux Jazz Festival



"A heart that's full up like a landfill..."

Prominently featuring Jonny Greenwood on a xylophone to capture a jarring sense of Rockwellian perspective, "No Surprises" is a lullaby/funeral dirge. Similar in theme and tone to The Bends’ “Street Spirit”- "No Surprises" is not quite as direct with it’s somber, bleak intentions. The listener is helplessly lulled into a false sense of security while being subliminally infused with lyrical messages regarding impending death and social suffocation. The yin to “Climbing Up the Walls”’ yang- it is a tremendously heavy song to sound so light.



Lucky- 1997, Prague



"I'm on a roll. I'm on a roll... this time..."

“Lucky” embodies man breaking free of “Fitter. Happier”’s synthesized mantra to discover true inspiration for one’s self. A live favorite- and rightly so- this performance captures the essential nature of Radiohead’s masterpiece. We have been rescued from the abyss and the next stop is the unknown.



The Tourist- 2003, Hammerstein Ballroom



"It barks at no one else but me..."

It’s difficult watching this one live and remaining unmoved. “The Tourist” is a great example of how OK Computer may be the most high-concept stadium rock album ever. Computer’s final track acts as both rock anthem and group hymn- the song everyone wants to hear because they’ve already felt it. Radiohead does not it play often- but when they do, it generates an immediate response. It’s quite the profound, emotional powerhouse.




B-Side Substitutes
Pearly*- 1997, Atlanta



"How'd you get your teeth so pearly?"

OK Computer is littered with standout B-sides. In the end, I chose “Pearly*” to stand in for “Fitter. Happier” simply due to the unbearable tension leading up to Greenwood’s final guitar solo. The song purposefully herks and jerks it’s way through a couple of stanzas before Thom lets loose with one of his more haunting howls. Then all hell breaks loose.





And there you have it. Next up- Kid A. Until then.








Arcade Fire - Culture War & Speaking In Tongues




Arcade Fire - Culture War by ListenBeforeYouBuy

Arcade Fire - Speaking In Tongues by ListenBeforeYouBuy

Here is the moment all of us Arcade Fire fans have been waiting for - NEW SONGS.  Yep here are the first listens of  'Culture War' and 'Speaking In Tongues' (courtesy of LBYB).  Zane Lowe is set to have the world premiere of both songs tonight.  The Deluxe version of The Suburbs will be released on June 28th.  Here is Zane's words from his blog about the two new tunes...

"It's very rare that we would do two Hottest Records in a night, but picking between these two new Arcade Fire songs would be impossible, and to be fair interest in the both of them is enormous. Add to the fact that Win Butler spoke to us exclusively about their new music and new film; it was a no-brainer!"

Dirty Beaches- Badlands REVIEW

Badlands, the debut album of Dirty Beaches, is a psychedelic blend of film-noir and Rockabilly influence. What begins as an interesting experiment in sound and nostalgia eventually becomes it’s own living, breathing genre. Dirty Beaches- aka Alex Zhang Hungtai, has a flair for capturing isolated moments both cinematic and detached. He then seemingly breeds these moments to create a sound as unknown as it is familiar- echoing many of the more macabre moments from David Lynch films that only exist within the forgotten diner in Hungtai’s mind.

That said- it’s hard to view Badlands as a non-alienating experience. While it is undoubtedly cool and it feels remarkably effortless, both its purposeful redundancy and lo-fi distortion periodically render it an uncomfortable experience for the listener. This is some bleak, somber stuff. However, this technique also works in the album’s favor. While Badlands opener “Speedway King” may reach a crescendo too unnerving to bear, it’s hard to argue that tracks 3-6 (“Sweet 17”, “A Hundred Highways”, “True Blue”- where we are treated to a graceful croon, “Lord Knows Best”) are not an incredibly rewarding stretch of bizarro Post-Boogie Woogie madness. The album is also well assembled and deliberately strays from moments of overt indulgence. Dirty Beaches concludes the journey not with more grating pitchiness- but with softer, ambient static that gently recalls the perpetual motion of a pendulum. For a twenty-seven minute, nine-track album, Badlands feels incredibly expansive- best playing on repeat during the darkest hours of the night.



STANDOUT TRACKS INCLUDE:





Dirty Beaches - Sweet 17 by ObscureSound




Dirty Beaches - A Hundred Highways by sunofbeach




Dirty Beaches - True Blue by MartineWebzine




Dirty Beaches - Lord Knows Best by thesubs-blog



Man Man - In The Venue SLC, UT (LIVE 5/20/2011)


Man Man came to SLC, Utah's 'In The Venue' on Friday, May 20th. Even before they band hit the stage the atmosphere was set with their stage set-up. What I saw was Honus Honus unpacking his magic Man Man suitcase that was filled with car keys, a kids bike horn, some other gizmo's and the oddest of all a Ferbie kids toy (from way back in the day maybe 15 yrs ago). I also saw a mini 13" TV with a video of just a guy blinking the whole time and a mini kids toy little piano under it, but the best part of the whole set up was half a little kids bike that was placed right in the middle of the stage. I seriously kept thinking to myself what is half of my daughters bike doing as part of their stage setup?


Man Man's main asset while performing live is their Energy. They have so much of it and are always hopping around the stage at full tilt without interruption. You can sense their joy in putting on a great live show, they almost demand it. For most of the set the crowd was right into every moment of the bands show with jumping, dancing, singing, screaming you name it. There was a song dedicated to "soaking" and another one that was

dedicated to the last night on earth as Honus Honus said "Thanks for letting us spend the last night on earth with you". Whatever the May 21st hoax was suppose to be Man Man didn't care they put on a high energy, fun and amazing show. One of my friends told me before hand that "I was in for
a REAL TREAT" seeing these guys perform live - turns out he was right on the money Man Man are a live act that if they come to your city it is a must see show.

The highlight for me was hearing them perform 'Van Helsing Boombox' as part of their encore. That song it an amazing sounding little tune, and having a chance to hear it played live is pretty great. They played quite a few (mostly all) the tunes from the new album 'Life Fantastic' which all

sound great live as well. The highlights of that bunch was 'Shameless' and 'Knuckle Down' and I also enjoyed the title track 'Life Fantastic. Seeing Man Man live is the way to go, you get the full version of how these songs were meant to be heard.



Here is 'Life Fantastic' played at SLC, UT 5/20/2011

Here is my favourite Man Man song 'Van Helsing Boombox' performed live at In The Venue SLC, UT 5/20/2011

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Gold-Bears- Are You Falling In Love REVIEW


I’ve always found R.E.M.’s legendary status within the canon of pop music to be firmly related to their role as inspirational mentors- a role mostly established via their music as a safe, reliable tether for the masses. Not that I view R.E.M. as a subpar band- they are obviously a tremendously talented group of musicians with an admirably passionate frontman in Michael Stipe. Nor am I confused as to how they attained immense popularity during their prime years of 1986-1994. Their music is undeniably punchy, brief, and fairly straightforward- while somehow effortlessly inspiring (few bands can turn a song called “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” into such a vibrant, carefree lark). Nonetheless, their iconic ascent into the upper-echelon of rock titans remains more than a little puzzling. What I find most confusing though is how they are capable of maintaining a devout, decades-spanning cult following because, in large part, of the aforementioned direct weightlessness. Understandably, R.E.M. is not the first possibly undeserving band to maintain a cult following long past their sell-by date (in fact, so many artists come to mind- it almost demands a whole other post). But they are often mentioned in the same breath as Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Radiohead, and Smashing Pumpkins- all bands that altered the sonic landscape with a gravitas that Stipe and Co. sorely lacked. While I understand their role as partial founders of the alternative rock scene that reared it’s head in the late 80s en route to the full-on blitz of the 90s- with all due respect, so were the Pixies, and R.E.M. ain’t the Pixies. What separates R.E.M. from these other bands is that, like most artists, their aspirations were carried firmly on their sleeve- but R.E.M.’s aspirations seemed so relentlessly slight that they allowed the band to remain unchallenging and ironic even in the face of utmost pain and loss (“Everybody Hurts” and “Sweetness Follows" not withstanding- although I halfway believe “Hurts” is a satire hiding in plain sight). It is this quality that ultimately causes most of their albums to sound like the lively debut of a potentially interesting rock band. However, this same characteristic is what renders their music so helplessly appealing to up-and-coming artists everywhere. They have structured an entire career on refining the traditional garage pop album. Therefore, R.E.M. has a sound built to emulate. Now, for all I know, Gold-Bears have never even heard of R.E.M. But if this is the case, they have unwittingly done a tremendous job reinventing Stipe’s lyrical and musical nakedness.

First and foremost, though, Gold-Bears’ debut LP, Are You Falling In Love, is really, really good- and at thirty-three minutes, it is worth at least three immediate spins. Does it sound like an R.E.M. record? Well, yes and no. In all fairness to Gold-Bears, their influences on Love are not restricted to solely R.E.M. Tunes, such as the album’s self-titled fourth track, echo My Bloody Valentine while other instances recall The Smiths. And while these influences are easily discernible, Gold-Bears are not a band interested in simply paying tribute. Each of the eleven tracks is thoughtfully assembled to provide the listener with an experience both fresh and nostalgic. There are times when Love seems a bit rushed- especially with “So Natural” - as if the band didn’t trust their instincts enough to transcend altpop brevity. Yet, several other instances- including the opening track, “Record Store”- indicate Gold-Bears stretching out their legs to get comfortable. Other songs, such as the elegiac “Tally”, are perfectly crafted to suit their 2:08 running time. In these moments of utilitarian brevity, Love clicks on all cylinders. Most impressive though are the unique sounds sometimes hidden in the peripheral such as surprising bits of distortion and the occasional cameo from a new instrument indicating a willingness to tastefully develop and experiment. Hailing from Atlanta and formed by lead vocalist/guitarist, Jeremy Underwood, Gold-Bears appear to have fairly extensive knowledge of pop culture sound. They obviously have a passion for the sounds which reared them and a desire to cultivate those into something wholly their own. Inspired by the reliable forefathers of alternative rock, I am excited to see where Gold-Bears take their ambition next. After all, regardless of my issues with their placement in music history, R.E.M. offer a tremendous blueprint for how to sound fantastic.

STANDOUT TRACKS INCLUDE:








Friday, May 20, 2011

The Felice Brothers - Her Eyes Dart Round (LIVE)


I will admit my faults once again, I am a new fan of The Felice Brothers and have just recently jumped on their bandwagon as well. Folk, Americana, Blues, Country whatever you call it is starting to make a statement in the music community of late. The Felice Brothers are bringing their friendly fresh sound for all to hear.

The Felice Brothers hail from New York and are a 5-piece band consisting of 2 brothers and 3 additional longtime friends. The amazing thing about these guys is that they are all self taught, never playing an instrument before they came together in 2006. The Felice Brothers have released four full-length albums; Celebration, Florida (2011), Yonder Is The Clock (2009), The Felice Brothers (2008), and Tonight At The Arizona (2007). The newest album being just released this past week. They are now signed to the Fat Possum Record Label and are really starting to make a name for themselves.

Here is Filter's take on them...

“…what separates The Felices’ mud-stomping folk from that of their peers is their no-winking honesty – the sense that these songs and the places and people they’re singing about aren’t literary devices but actual people doing their damnedest to rage against the growing darkness.” – Filter Good Music Guide, 2009

This video is from the Cornbury Festival in 2007. It is amazing at the amount of people there, it is like they are performing at a family picnic or something. Thought this Live Video really does the band justice and makes you want to check these guys music out a little more. Very sincere and honest music. If you are not a fan of these guys yet it is time to join the club.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Hysterical NEW ALBUM


I remember just a week ago actually wondering what happened to these guys and why have they not released any new music. It has been 4 years since 'Some Loud Thunder' and surely a new album is due. Well turns out there is a new album on the way. According to their website the band is set to release their third album 'Hysterical'. I remember their debut album back in 2005 and the song 'The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth' - I loved that song and still do. Lead singer Alec Ounsworth did have a solo album in 2009 titled 'Mo Beauty' but it didn't capture the imagination like the full band set of CYHSY does.

Hysterical is set to release on September 20th in the USA, and on September 12th in the UK and overseas. The band has also stated that they are re-issuing fully remastered self-titled debut album on vinyl. Saying... "We always thought the vinyl could sound better - now it does!" The Vinyl Re-issue will be available on June 14th.

Here is a preview of what the Hysterical Album will sound like

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah / Hysterical from CYHSY on Vimeo.

Here is my favourite tune from these guys from back in the day
The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth by ClapYourHandsSayYeah2

The Tallest Man On Earth - Untitled NEW SONG


The Tallest Man On Earth is the voice of Kristian Matsson and he has just premiered a new track last week during one of his shows in Sweden. It is only fitting that he would debut the new song in his home country of Sweden. The song's title is still up in the air but the folks over at Twentyfourbit have started the rumour that it's title could possibly be "There's No Leaving Now". The song sounds great to me and if this is the direction of what is to come from The Tallest Man On Earth we will all be very pleased. This particular song sounds more like a friendly ballad with Matsson's voice and piano taking over.


The Tallest Man on Earth (New Song, Live) by TwentyFourBit.com

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Man Man - Van Helsing Boombox (LIVE)

I don't often posts just random live videos I find on YouTube but I have been listening to alot of Man Man lately in preparation for their show here in SLC, UT on Friday. I just posted about these guys last week and their new album 'Life Fantastic' but I had to add another quick post with this Live version of 'Van Helsing Boombox' from back in 2006. I have literally watched this video 10 times in the past 2 days. I think this is one of my all time favourite music videos I have ever watched on YouTube and it needed to be posted on FPT for everyone to take a look at. I am pretty excited to get an up close look at their live act and see first hand what all the buzz is about with their live set. I will have a live review of the show posted over the weekend.

This is from VPRO TV - Man Man didn't know they were going to be filmed live for Dutch television! They missed soundcheck for the gig, thought they were just playing for a club, and then found out the bad news.

TV on the Radio- Nine Types of Light REVIEW


I will preface this article by confessing that, while enjoying TV on the Radio’s previous 2008 album, Dear Science, I was nonetheless underwhelmed by it as a whole. Science made me yearn for the messy, organic funk of Return to Cookie Mountain- an album that somehow rendered spatial detachment immensely rewarding. Though I understand the plaudits heaped on Dear Science, I still found the experience to be oddly conditioned and at times pedantic. As toe-tappingly frantic as it was, it felt much too station-to-station for a band so capable of surprises. Despite each of these stations being remarkably produced and technically glossy, Dear Science seemed to insist upon itself, “This is our In Rainbows moment! Our sound has crystallized!” It was undeniably catchy- one of the catchiest albums I've ever heard- but only for the sake of catchiness.

I’m obviously being a little harsh on Dear Science- especially because the album itself is very good. But Return to Cookie Mountain did not indicate a band that was interested in being very good- it indicated a band dedicated to exploding. And while TV on the Radio is likely to remain extraordinary, they are also the type of band capable of delivering something misguided and awful. All the stars seemed to be aligned for an epic misfire. So with great trepidation I approached Nine Types of Light.

Nine Types of Light is the type of album Dear Science should have been. Unfortunately, it needed Dear Science to first exist (Okay for the last time- I’m done piling it on Dear Science- I really enjoyed it, but I only enjoyed it). We are still a far cry from the beautiful mischief of Mountain, but Light represents a band intent on streamlining a collective theme. As per usual, the band does not skimp on instruments- pianos, banjos, mellotrons, trumpets, guitars all abound with the usual flourish. Light uses this ensemble to resuscitate the overt, doo-wop mentality evident on it's freshman LP, Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes, and give it a new direction. There has often been a dark undertone to most of the love songs in TV on the Radio’s catalogue- be it conveyed via reluctance, skepticism, or outright schizophrenia. But Light does something more interesting. It adds a shade of hope to the romanticism while still maintaining that trademark dark undertone. Tunes like “Second Song”, “Keep Your Heart”, and “Will Do” indicate a post-cynicism. Whereas previous albums were all about existing within the moment, Light suggests a reliable inevitability. On “Keep Your Heart”, Tunde Adebimpe croons, “Keep your heart/even if the whole world falls apart”. Later on “No Future Shock”, we are told in his best “Dancing Choose” impression to, “Do the No Future/do the No Future”. Elsewhere on "Repetition" we are asked "What's the matter with your next door neighbor?/An act of God, a freak of nature." Call it Fatalist Romanticism- but the guys from Brooklyn are definitely on new ground here.

Light is a tremendously consistent effort. If anything, it’s a little too consistent- offering fewer signifying landmarks among the tracklist. It lacks the enjoyable discomfort of Mountain, but it is also devoid of Science’s calculated packaging. However, Light boasts an independent confidence. Essentially, this is the first TV on the Radio album that stands firmly on it’s own. It may not be as ambitious as I hoped- but one thing’s for sure, it does stand firm.


TV On The Radio - Nine Types Of Light by Interscope Records

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

This Is Really Happening: Vol. 2- THE BENDS


For those in the nosebleed seats, Radiohead announced they are performing The King of Limbs live on the BBC July 1. This will be the first time we have seen any of the songs from their eighth album performed by the entire band (Thom played several solo while on his Atoms for Peace tour last year). As Limbs itself is quite the abstract album- this is exciting news to see how Radiohead will breathe life into these eight tracks. One of the most enjoyable things about the band can be the way in which their live shows transcend a studio recording which usually is already transcendent on it’s own. I’ll never forget the first time I heard the driving bass line for the live version of Hail to the Thief’s “The Gloaming”- they actually had the audacity to open several shows with this in 2003. For myself, the song instantly went from being an experimental bridge piece to an album favorite.

In honor of the live unveiling of The King of Limbs, I will be running a weekly (hopefully) column breaking down the seven previous LP’s and the quintessential live band performance of each song followed by a brief explanatory write-up. The rules I have given myself are pretty lenient- every album can only have 2 songs from the same live show (if this weren’t the case- the Astoria concert would dominate Pablo Honey and a large portion of The Bends). Bear in mind- when I say “quintessential”, I am shooting for the best rendition, but a meaningful performance sometimes will reign paramount. If it comes to pass that some rarer songs cannot be found, a favorable B-side live version will take it's place. This is obviously opinionated so comments are readily encouraged. So are you ready? Here we go.

We have already completed TIRH: Vol 1- Pablo Honey. The next stop on our journey is 1995's The Bends.

1. Planet Telex- 1997, Belfort




"You can force it but it will not come..."

“Planet Telex” begins the Radiohead tradition of what I call “suggestive openings”- when a song begins with a (usually slow) strategically placed musical progression of any kind which inevitably hypes up the actual body of music within the song itself. “Planet Telex” has arguably the second-best suggestive opening of any track on The Bends- not exactly something to be ashamed of. I have a theory that “Planet Telex” gets unfairly ignored- if you could even call it ignored- simply because of the sheer awesomeness that relentlessly follows it. And I’m not just talking of the awesomeness that is The Bends. For myself, the “Telex” suggestive opening signals a shift in musical paradigm for the band. With all due respect to Pablo Honey (you were and always will be a lot of fun)- but The Bends breaks down some walls and this tune is the wrecking ball.


2. The Bends- 2003, V Festival




"Where do we go from here?"

There are two camps for the live version of “The Bends" - the pre-2000 fans who are passionately devoted to an edgier, angstier sound- or the post-2000 fans who find enjoyment in the band’s messier, sonic approach and Thom’s purposefully slurred lyrics. I fall in the latter category. Why? Because I think “The Bends” is ultimately meant to be a slightly ironic take on the meaninglessness of social interaction. And what’s a better way to take that seriously than by not taking it seriously at all?



3. High and Dry- 1995, 2Meter



"Two jumps in a week... I'll bet you think that's pretty clever..."

Widely known as being responsible for the sound Coldplay decided to recycle for roughly 80% of their career, “High and Dry” gets a lot of flak from both Radiohead and their fans. As for myself, I enjoy it in a feathery, time capsule kind of way. But I insist that the whole experience is best when stripped down as shown above. Wet music works the most when devoid of pomp and bombast.



4. Fake Plastic Trees- 2008, Saitama

"A green plastic watering can for a fake, Chinese rubber plant..."

An undeniable classic and live favorite, “Fake Plastic Trees” is in the upper-echelon of Radiohead accomplishments. So of course- finding the ultimate live cut of the song was a particularly arduous task. In the end, Saitama did the trick because I felt it perfectly encapsulated a wiser artist approaching a signature creation with the same reverence as the day it was conceived. Plus, you get to see Jonny punch the hell out his guitar.



5. Bones- 1994, Astoria



"I don't want to be crippled and cracked..."

Ahhh- another suggestive opening- though not the best on the album. It’s not “Bones”’ fault that it is brief and sandwiched between various Radiohead uber-classics. This song rocks and rocks hard for exactly three minutes. It might be one of their most efficient, utilitarian tunes. It exists to literally thrust you into track six.



6. Nice Dream- 2008, Prague



"They love me like I was a brother..."

This one is always a surprise when dusted off live- and for good reason. “Nice Dream” is one of the best examples of a Radiohead song that you have probably forgotten how much you loved. Finding some solid audience footage can be a real crapshoot. This one is a treasure. Listen for the guy saying “Whoaaaaaa” when Thom strums those familiar, forgotten opening chords.



7. Just- 2008, Saitama



"Can't get the stink off... it's been hangin' round for days..."

I remember watching this concert a year or so ago and saying aloud, “That was the best version of ‘Just’ I’ve ever seen.” From the stage production to Thom’s bursts of screaming across the bridge, this is a flawless powerhouse. Additionally, Thom inadvertently gives a suggestive opening a suggestive opening of it’s own.



7. My Iron Lung- 2003, Eurockeennes



"Faith, you're driving me away..."

Speaking of suggestive openings, here is the best one from The Bends- a prolonged, air raid-type drone slyly ushering in that signature riff followed by a heavy percussive beat. All the pieces fall into place- for about two minutes, it’s like listening to musical Tetris. Then the chorus kicks in and the Nintendo gets ripped from the wall and thrown through a window. Only Radiohead can craft something so hypnotic, then systematically destroy it- and still somehow make it work.



8. Bulletproof... I Wish I Was- 1995, Milan



"Limb by limb and tooth by tooth..."

“Bulletproof… I Wish I Was” may be the most essential track on The Bends. After the riproaring midsection, it forms the delicate bridge to the album’s coda. For most Radiohead fans, “Bulletproof” can be equated to that defining moment in one’s life that is now forgotten. A masterpiece of songwriting with a gorgeous bridge, the band very rarely plays it live. But when they do- it always garners an immediately positive response from the crowd.



10. Black Star- 1994, Astoria



"I get home from work and you're still standing in your dressing gown..."

Boasting some of Thom’s more playful and romantic lyrics, “Black Star” is an engagingly mopey ballad that gets unfairly buried when it comes to the Radiohead live catalogue. If anything, the structure of the song lends itself to a crowd singalong.



11. Sulk



"You bite through the big wall, the big walls bites back..."

Widely regarded as one of the more inferior tracks from The Bends, I was not exactly stunned when a live video of “Sulk” proved difficult to locate. I did, however, find a live cut of a pre-release version and- to my surprise- it sounds really, really good.



12. Street Spirit (Fade Out)- 1996, PinkPop



"Rows of houses... all bearing down on me..."

And here we have the mesmerizing beast known as “Street Spirit”. The PinkPop performance of Radiohead’s classic song of grim inevitability gets my vote simply because it is obvious how focused and invested Thom and the band are with their execution. During the Bends/OK Computer era, “Street Spirit” was notoriously difficult for Thom to play because he did not want to risk casually addressing such a weighty subject. While that may sound like typical rock star pretense, the PinkPop version perfectly illustrates the rigorous strain the song demands from the band. Also, it’s pretty cool that- almost halfway past the three minute mark- Jonny plays the guitar and keyboard at the same time.



B-side Substitutes: So it was brought to my attention that "Killer Cars" is actually a B-side from The Bends and not Pablo Honey. Sorry about that. To make up for this error, I have included an extra B-side this time.


Talk Show Host



"I want to... I want to be someone else or I'll explode..."

Before it turned up on Baz Luhrman’s massively popular soundtrack to William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, “Talk Show Host” was just another discarded B-side that didn’t quite fit. This of course is hard to believe- because in the years since, the song has taken on a life of it’s own to become arguably one of the most popular songs recorded during the Bends sessions. Always a live favorite- the 2003 Glastonbury version, with its funky interplay and eventual complete sonic disarray, really does it justice.



The Trickster



"Lost in the mountains... rust in my brain..."

One of the more frustrating things about being a Radiohead fan is how they seemingly ignore excellent songs in their catalogue when it comes to live shows- that said, this is usually in favor of more excellent songs, but whatever. This live cut of “The Trickster” is a classic example of “Why don’t they play that live more often?”


That's all for now. Stay tuned for the cosmic juggernaut known as OK Computer. Until then.

Long see, no time.