Archive for Radiohead

Present Tense: Radiohead In Philly As The Apogee Of Arena Shows

Posted in Music with tags , , on August 1, 2018 by johnbuckley100

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We don’t go to a lot of arena shows, because the bands we love aren’t popular.  Seeing Wand at the 150-person DC9 was a highlight of 2017; the fact that, with Courtney Barnett playing guitar in her band, Jen Cloher’s show earlier this year had to move from DC9 to the larger Rock & Roll Hotel (300 people) was, in our house, welcome but disorienting.  Spending months of our lives seeing bands at the 9:30 Club has worked for decades now, because a 1000-person hall is the ideal size for a great show.  But every once in a long while, we go to an arena and remember what it was like to see the Stones at Madison Square Garden, The Who at Boston Garden — you know, the shows that were spectacles which you lived and died to see.

Earlier this summer, we saw U2 at the Capital One Arena in D.C. and they put on a pretty great show.  They’re long in the tooth, but come on, they’re a great band, playing in their fifth decade, and they certainly know how to deconstruct an arena and make it intimate.  It wasn’t just Bono in motion, but the whole band, one song played on the north side, the next song the band trucks to the south side, and at one point, I think they were spread like a star across the entire 18,000 person hall. The Fleshtones sometimes do that in clubs, the singer on a bar stool, the bass player on a speaker, the guitarist in the mosh pit.  Only in this case, U2 were a few hundred yards apart, still playing as one.  A spectacle, and highly entertaining.  But of course, other than as nostalgia, and with the sentiment of singalongs, not particularly meaningful as art.

Last night at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Arena, Radiohead stayed fixed on a single stage, and played an astonishing show that accomplished the impossible: it was at once gorgeous and inventive musically, an avant-garde exploration of what is possible on stage, and it gave both rock critters and the masses exactly what they wanted.  In short, it jacked into all that is good about a mass event that connects multiple audiences, which happens less and less these days.

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Here are stats: six songs from A Moon Shaped Pool, three each from Hail To The Thief, In Rainbows, OK Computer, The King of Limbs, and two each from Amnesiac, Kid A, and The Bends.  Seventeen songs before two long clusters of encores, finishing with a “Paranoid Android” that floated in the air before “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” was spiked into the court. For us, highlights were hearing “I Might Be Wrong” live for the first time; favorites like “The Numbers” and “Separator” came off brilliantly.  (Had we ever before noticed how much “2+2=5” sounds like Fugazi…)

Because Radiohead albums are perfect — every tone gloriously honed, the craftsmanship at once classic as a Chris Craft, industrial perfection like a Leica M, super modern like an Apple iPhone — it can seem self-defeating to go hear them live.  Do we really want oxygen to get into this mix?  Oh yeah.  They play with ferocity and just imperfectly enough for it to have life.  Having last seen them play live at an Austin City Limits taping, I was unprepared for the full show, the stage craft, what a great band they are 25 years on.

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They are a band that it is sometimes hard for people to get a grip on — at once an arena act and difficult, crowd pleasers and demanding and challenging artists.  Thom Yorke is among the greatest pop singers, and a polarizing figure who, because of our distance from the stage, was more entertaining for what we didn’t see — the Caddyshack Gopher dance that Fred Armisen so perfectly parodies.  But he is an amazing musician, singer and bandleader.  Johnny Greenwood is at once a favorite guitarist, percussionist and composer.  They’re a bundle of contradictions, a band you’d like to see play in their small rehearsal studio, but only fully actualize in front of 18,000 people.

Arena rock is not what it once was.  Radiohead is a perfect connection to the past and the apogee of the present tense.  What a show.

Radiohead Tops Tulip Frenzy’s 2016 Top 10 List

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2016 by johnbuckley100

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Disastrous years, moments when the entire world threatens to unravel, produce the best music.  The bumper crops of great albums arise in years like 1968, 1974, 1979, 1998, 2001, 2008, as if the one mercy we may be granted as life unspools is a good soundtrack.

And so it is that as the gang at Tulip Frenzy sat down to discuss the best records of 2016 — a year we all concluded may have been the worst one for our nation since 1862, or at least 1930 — we found more albums in contention for our heralded Top 10 List than in any 12-month cohort since we began formally compiling our lists earlier this century.

Here’s whose albums didn’t make the list, so you get a sense of the competitive sweepstakes: Angel Olsen, Parquet Courts, Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Fleshtones, The  Mekons, The Rolling Stones, Kevin Morby, Cheena, Black Mountain, Heavens Gateway Drugs, Feels, Wire, Ty Segall, and Capsula.  Longtime readers of Tulip Frenzy will recognize several of these bands as among our very faves, and each produced remarkable recs we listened to over and over and over again.  We considered Capsula’s glorious Santa Rosa — the most melodic punk album since their 2006 Songs & Circuits — literally until this morning, and in the end couldn’t make room for it.  Kevin Morby’ s Singing Saw was the soundtrack to our springtime.  And yet none of these records made the cut.  Wow, so who did?

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The #10 Album Of 2016: Morgan Delt’s Phase Zero

In August it was abundantly clear that Phase Zero by Morgan Delt was going to be our Psych Album of The Year, virtually guaranteeing its placement on the 2016 Top 10 List. We called it a “gorgeous, weird, melodic, inventive, soothing, trippy self-produced album in which he plays all the instruments.” It held up in the months since, and his show at DC9 revealed him to be a young beanpole hippy with flowing red locks and a kickass band.  We suspect he’ll move up the list in the months and years ahead.

The #9 Album of 2016: David Bowie’s Blackstar

Like a great grey owl showing up on your fencepost, David Bowie’s death coming at the very beginning of the year was a portent of the disaster to come.  That Blackstar was released literally the day before we got news of his untimely end was like a cruel joke, or the most brilliant performance-art piece of all time.  At that time, we wrote, “That he finished with Blackstar is like the Beatles going out with Abbey Road: an amazing grace upon which to conclude one of the transcendent careers in contemporary music.”  Some have put Blackstar at the top of their 2016 list.  We think as a concept it definitely deserves that, but as music, it was merely great — especially the way Bowie’s coda brought him back to his teenage enthusiasm for the jazz of Gary Mulligan.  But whereas 2013’s The Next Day was high on our list, we reduce Bowie’s finale to a few amazing songs, but not anywhere close to the best complete album of 2016.

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The #8 Album of 2016: Quilt’s Plaza

We called Plaza Quilt’s masterpiece when it was released in February, and it has held up well against walk-off home runs, 50-yard field goals into the wind, and the hot streaks of others. “These guys are so much more than an art-school project,” we wrote then, referencing how they were formed in Boston a few years back.  Plaza is to Quilt’s last album, Held In Splendor, as Revolver was to Rubber Soul: paradoxically more commercial and slick, and yet more experimental and ambitious. Anna Fox Rochinski’s voice is in a category with Syd Straw and Neko Case — yeah, I just wrote that — and when she is singing the 60% of the Quilt’s songs that joyfully get released, this Beatles-influenced band is transcendent.

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The #7 Album of 2016: P.J. Harvey’s The Hope Six Demonstration Project

We had high hopes for Polly Jean’s album, which was mostly focused on her drive-by tour of the worst nabes in our hometown of D.C..  After all, in 2012, even though we ultimately gave Radiohead the top honors in Tulip Frenzy’s Top 10 List (c), her Let England Shake claimed runner-up honors, and we believe her Stories Of The City, Stories Of The Sea could well be the previous decade’s strongest work.  But it was weird that, as powerful as this new record was, it seemed like a slight misstep.  We said at the time, “when she creates an album this beautiful, and this powerful, she’s revealing, once again, that Polly Jean Harvey is one of the very few artists in 2016 using rock’n’roll to grapple with the world at this level.” Yet over the course of the year, we played it far less than we expected, given how much we adored the original song released from it, “The Wheel.”  This is a powerful, serious work of art, but it’s placement in the back half of this list reveals it to be a little less enjoyable than we would have wished.

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The #6 Album of 2016: Cosmonauts’ A-OK

We have long had a soft spot in our heart for the So-Cal psych-punk band Cosmonauts, and with A-OK they produced not only the summer’s soundtrack, they broke through as purveyors of catchy tunes thundering along with a power and pace that would make fellow Orange County natives Anton Newcombe and Ty Segall equally proud.  A long time ago, when explaining why Elvis Costello got more airplay than the Clash, Joe Strummer said, “Well Elvis, maybe he sings a bit better than we do.” Singing is not Cosmonauts’ greatest strength, though it is serviceable enough.  But the comparison to Strummer’s Clash, yeah, works.

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The #5 Album of 2016: Tim Presley’s The Wink

Tim Presley has been at or near the top of our Top 10 list each year since his Darker My Love took top honors in 2010.  We thought White Fence’s To The Recently Found Innocent was not only the best rec of 2014, it has secured a permanent place in the canon, possibly our favorite album of the past decade.  We know that White Fence could rock hard live, even as Presley’s home recordings under that name could  at times seem incomplete, low-fi psychedelic noodling.  When his collaboration with Cate LeBon, under the name Drinks, came out in 2015, we feared the worst, for it seemed like a return to the bad habit of meandering, underpowered preciousness.  But woo hoo, The Wink was a remarkable “solo album” from a guy whose White Fence recs are mostly made with just him, alone with his cat, and occasionally Ty Segall.  In October we wrote, “The Wink is an astonishingly great album, the product of an eccentric genius with an oddball sensibility and a reverence for the artists he admires. The title track sounds like it was ripped from a master tape of Bowie’s The Lodger — an homage to a dead hero in which Presley took the time to reverse engineer the best songs from Bowie’s best album. A dozen bands before now have tried capturing the spare perfection of the first Gang of Four album, but on “Clue,” Presley’s the first artist I know of who has ever truly caught the interplay between Jon King’s vocals and Andy Gill’s guitar. But of course, the major artist that Presley channels best on his solo album is Tim Presley, for we hear throughout the 12 songs here chord progressions and melodies spanning his career…”

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The #4 Album of 2016: Psychic Ills Inner Journey Out

We were really unprepared for what a great record Inner Journey Out was, writing upon its early summer release, “Inner Journey Out is for playing when heading on a road trip to Big Bend, to Marfa, on that long thin ribbon of highway wending toward the West as the shimmering heat makes the cactus liquid.” The fact that Tres Warren and Elisabeth Hart are transplanted Texans living in New York partially accounts for how their gritty, urban Velvets-inluenced sound also has one foot firmly planted in country blues.  With Hope Sandoval singing marvelously on “I Don’t Mind,” it was easy to think of Inner Journey Out having a spiritual link to Mazzy Star, but the album this most reminded us of, in a strange way, was Exile On Main Street, an ambitious, sprawling work that never drifted far from classic American roots-music idioms.  Every time we played this record, it brought a smile to our face, and from mid-summer on, we were chanting, “Top 5, baby.  This one’s a contender.”

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The #3 Album of 2016: Alejandro Escovedo’s Burn Something Beautiful

For more than 20 years, every Alejandro Escovedo album has been a source of solace, an inspiration.  He is so perfectly placed to appeal to us: an Austin roots-rock hero cum occasional chamber rocker who played in the late ’70s San Francisco punk band The Nuns, and growing up loved Bowie and Mott The Hoople as much as we did.  But after 2010’s great Street Songs of Love, which was the #2 album on our list that year, we wondered if Al would again be so inspired.  What a joy it was to discover that in Burn Something Beautiful, he may have produced his best record of this century.  We exulted when it came out, “anyone who has ever thrilled to hear how Alejandro assembles a classic rock’n’roll album based upon his experiences and unique vantage point will see this one for what it is: his best album in this late hard-rocking phase of an amazing career.” A big part of the joy this record inspired was the sound of his band, with Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey, mainstays of Robyn Hitchcock’s recent albums, at its core.  The strength of Burn Something Beautiful was Al himself, whose great songwriting and, on this one, fantastic voice made this a record we will playing for as long as we’ve played With These Hands and Thirteen Years.

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The #2 Album of 2016: Thee Oh Sees A Weird Exits

John Dwyer, it turns out, is an old fashioned band leader, a figure as much like Miles Davis as the punk and garage rocker he started out being.  On A Weird Exits (and its shorter companion, An Odd Entrances, which came out last month), Dwyer cranks up the latest incarnation of Thee Oh Sees — a double-drum, bass + all Dwyer combo — to take us on a musical journey through psych, prog rock, jazz, and even blues.  If you tuned in even as late as 2011’s Castlemania, you might never have predicted what this particular Oh Sees album would sound like.  Of course, tucked way in the back of the latest issue of Uncut, we get a sense of Dwyer’s heterodox sensibility, for in a feature entitled, “My Life In Music,” the records he calls out as his favorites are by Can, Grand Funk Railroad, Robert Fripp, Hiragi Fukuda, Michael Yonkers, Uriah Heap, Eric Dolphy, and Henry Flynt & The Insurrections.  What, you were expecting The Germs and Pere Ubu?  I might have… But nah, this guy goes way deeper.  As we noted in August when A Weird Exits came out, it’s time to take John Dwyer seriously.  “In just a 30-minute snippet of time, such a short interlude in your life, John Dwyer has taken us from the most exciting garage rock of the epoch to deep, moving contemplation. The guy has it all, including originality. A Weird Exits, its title rendered ambiguous by the extra “s”, is not only the best Oh Sees album since Floating Coffin, it should be that album that makes audiences of all stripes sit up and notice. It’s time to take John Dwyer seriously.”

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The #1 Album of 2016: Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool

The only flaw on this album was the absence of a hyphen between “Moon” and “Shaped” in its title.  By including concert staples such as “Identikit” and “True Love Waits,” A Moon Shaped Pool felt a lot like Radiohead finishing up old business before it could move on.  With Jonny Greenwood’s orchestration of amazing songs like “Burn The Witch,” Radiohead came as close as can be to Steve Reich territory, which just confirms they’re playing at a different level from all contemporaries.  We gave The King Of Limbs #1 honors in 2012, even as other critics exalted P.J. Harvey’s Let England Shake and we still think we were right.  With the addition this year, though, of In Rainbows Disk 2 — an unexpected release of companion songs from the 2007 original — Radiohead has spent more time in our earbuds than probably any band other than Bob Dylan, which fans o’ T Frenzy will recognize as a profound statement.  We loved A Moon Shaped Pool, recognized it right away for what it is, a peerless, non-rock’n’roll album that added up to the best music of 2016.

 

Radiohead’s Mid-Tour Stats Compilation Tells You A Lot About The Band

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 29, 2012 by johnbuckley100

You can get a really good sense of how Radiohead views which songs and albums from its oeuvre really matter by looking at this quite helpful release of song stats they put out today, starting with the count, 17 shows in, of how many songs they’ve played from which albums:

Pablo Honey – 0/12
The Bends – 2/12
OK Computer – 6/12
Kid A – 5/10
Amnesiac – 5/11 (including Hunting Bears snippet)
Hail To The Thief – 3/14
In Rainbows – 8/10
The King Of Limbs – 8/8
The King Of Limbs+ – 3/4
B-sides/Other – 3
New Songs – 3

New Song Frequency
Identikit: 14 performances
Skirting On The Surface: 2 performances
Cut A Hole: 2 performances

Live Debuts (excluding new songs)
The Amazing Sounds Of Orgy: 4 performances
Meeting In The Aisle: 2 performances

Songs Played At Every Concert: 5
Bloom, Morning Mr Magpie, Lotus Flower, Reckoner, Idioteque

Songs Played Only Once: 3
Videotape, Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box, Hunting Bears

Opening Songs: 1
Bloom (17/17)

Closing Songs: 5
Paranoid Android (9/17)
Idioteque (3/17)
Street Spirit (3/17)
Everything In Its Right Place (1/17)
Karma Police (1/17)

Everything In Its Right Place intros
True Love Waits (4)
The One I Love (REM cover) (1)
Electrolite (REM cover) (1)
After The Gold Rush (Neil Young cover) (1)

Notable Absences
Fake Plastic Trees, Just, My Iron Lung, No Surprises, Morning Bell, 2+2=5, Where I End And You Begin, Jigsaw Falling Into Place

Radiohead Last Night At Austin City Limits

Posted in Music, Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 7, 2012 by johnbuckley100

At the end of Radiohead’s two-song encore at last night’s Austin City Limits taping, they played “Paranoid Android,” and we couldn’t help thinking how easy it would have been, back in ’98 or ’99, for the band to have just kept churning out classics like that — songs that updated the BritRock complexities of David Bowie, while still informed by punk.  Instead, what they became was a band that can thrill us with an accumulation of songs and styles that slip the bounds of genre.  Not Krautrock or electronic jazz, not New Wave or Prog Rock or Classic Rock, but all of the above, in boisterous form.

Seventeen songs, some seven short of the tour average, but the only thing we really missed was them playing “Separator” from King Of Limbs, which was #1 on Tulip Frenzy’s 2011 Top Ten List.  We’re not big fans of “Bloom,” which they’ve started with every show this tour, and “Little By Little” was a little ragged, Thom Yorke perhaps too desperate to get a groove going.  But by the time they played the second version of “Reckoner” — this was a TV taping, so flubs could be corrected with a second take — the band was thoroughly in a groove, the double drum setup working, Jonny Greenwood bouncing between instruments (drums, keyboards, guitar), Thom Yorke playing utility infielder (keyboards, guitar, singing mostly gorgeously.)  On “There There,” Yorke was the only guitarist playing that song’s Martian rockabilly against a four drum set up.  And it rocked.

And maybe that’s the best part about seeing Radiohead live.  As gorgeous and exciting as King Of Limbs is, since the exploration of electronica that came with Kid A, Radiohead records seem almost antiseptic, the perfect music to play with an Apple product connected to expensive headphones, Jonny Greenwood meet Jonny Ives.  There’s an absence of grit, a band that couldn’t even tolerate the electronic imprecisions of an Eno production.  But live, nothing ever goes perfect, right?  And on a song like “Morning Mr. Magpie,” the precision of what sounded to us on the album like an homage to something off Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way was played with a recklessness on Yorke’s part that made it seem more like early Talking Heads.  You need to see them live to have them confirm absolutely that, yeah, this is still rock’n’roll.

Yorke’s central role in the band keeps eyes glued on him, even when he’s in his DJ in Ibiza bad dancing mode, but the 40-year old Jonny Greenwood plays the youthful savant to a tee, hitting his lead notes like he’s a black belt chopping wood.

We emerged into the Austin night, stunned by what a great venue the ACL set is, and how genuinely rock’n’roll it can be, grateful to have seen a band that, tonight, for example, will sell out a huge arena, and yet we saw them play for such a small crowd in so intimate a setting.  That Radiohead no longer sounds anything, really, like they did when they wrote “Paranoid Android” shows just how far they have come, and the excellence of new songs like “The Daily Mail” show just how far they’ve yet to go.

Tulip Frenzy’s #1 Album of 2011: Radiohead’s “The King Of Limbs”

Posted in Music with tags , on November 26, 2011 by johnbuckley100

The King of Limbs may be the first record that ever sounded like it was made specifically to be played on an Apple device: sonically elegant, airtight, perfect.  When we realized how much “Morning Mr. Magpie” tracked “Shhh/Peaceful” from Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way — down to the Jack DeJohnette drum figures — with Thom Yorke’s beautiful voice taking the role of Davis’ trumpet — well, it’s pretty clear we’re dealing with a band of higher-order artistry.  Normally we would hold that against them, and in fact we have: we’ve been skeptical of Radiohead in part because while what they produced was impressive, it wasn’t real rock’n’roll.  The King of Limbs isn’t either, but it is a tight, melodic, beautiful album, significantly upbeat, with Jonny Greenwood’s compositional sophistication in greater service to efficient pop music than anything they’ve done in years.  So we cast all our resistance to Radiohead overboard and strapped in for the ride.  While fans of Fugazi and Blur, even U2, will on occasion locate the antecedent riff, this is a band that has largely created its own vocabulary.  If White Denim works in a hot Texas garage chewing on jimson weed, Radiohead seems to work in a Swiss lab, the kind of place that produced LSD almost by accident.  We don’t hold it against them that, in fact, their recording studios have reportedly been constructed from Drew Barrymore’s borrowed manse, for that’s the orbit in which they circle.  But we really are done resisting: they can record their next one in a Swiss bank, for all we care, so long as it sounds like this.

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