Tag Archives: Radiohead

Review: Radiohead – The King of Limbs

The shape of the next Radiohead record was revealed in an interview for Familial, drummer Phil Selway’s modest acoustic side-project. The question: whether the album would be born from extensive touring and live experimentation as was the case with In Rainbows. ‘Uh, no’ was the chuckled reply.

It’s easy to see what was so funny. Where In Rainbows was conciliatory and sensuous, Limbs heralds a return to their stark post-Kid A textures: a part-Jazzy, part –IDM inspired and introverted sound that dispriviledged the guitar at every opportunity. Take album-opener Bloom: Greenwood’s hollow bass punctuates an ephemeral piano sample and a scattershot drum rhythm; where schoolchildren’s cheers would have lifted the mood on 15 Step, sky-bound strings and heralding brass only offer a monetary relief from the repressive murkiness. It’s a dark, in-ward looking opening, but once the layers are peeled off and examined – whirring tremolo guitar, Yorke’s reverberant croon – it’s a sumptuously cascading sweep up there with anything the band have done. Part of what made In Rainbows so bracing, a muscular, organic quality exampled by ‘Bodysnatchers’, is packed away (along with the guitars) in favour of the band’s unique brand of the post-millennial existentialist blues.

Officially the album stands as Radiohead’s eight full-length, but in reality it’s not quite there. The album as a medium of carrying music has always been troublesome for Radiohead; Thom’s ambivalence to making ‘long-play’ records is well known and, as the In Rainbows album cycle wound down, the group made noise about what exciting and innovative way they’d their work in the future. Middling tracks such as Twisted Words and Harry Patch were rushed out along with some ill-defined talk about how they might just release singles and EPs here and there when it suited them. Far from idle chatter from a band the world now listens to when it comes to release strategies, the difficult and well-documented Kid A/Amnesiac sessions bear out the sincerity of the message. For a band that hasn’t been shy in distancing themselves from rock convention, a less rockist delivery method didn’t seem that unlikely.

Coming in at a undernourished 37 minutes and eight tracks, The King of Limbs bears this discomfort unapologetically. The first four songs riff on their Warp influences, favouring kinetic energy and texture over melody and traditional song writing. Whilst the second half is a far more conventional affair where the organic, understated ballads the band made their name with predominate. It’s a messily paced album formed of eclectic elements, but far from the genius offcuts of a restless band, Limbs never really sees the group pushed out of their comfort zone; there’s never the feeling that they’re exploring new territory. The urge to shock and to re-invent is absent, and the result is something sometimes familiar to the point of self-plagiarism. The break in Little by Little sounds like an amalgamation of several Amnesiac tracks, Codex is a mash-up of every ethereal piano ballad the band have made their name with – Karma Police, Pyramid Song, Nude, take your pick – and lead-single Lotus Flower’s spasmic beats, only really offers a less nervy, more sensuous take on Idioteque – a good one, but still.

Obviously re-heated Radiohead is still better than most bands’ best. Alongside the aforementioned Bloom, Feral’s looming bass and off-kilter drums offers a convincingly Radiohead regurgitation of all those esoteric dubstep tracks Thom posts up on his office charts; the brass swell and funereal piano of Codex is very pretty if very familiar. Doing what you’ve done before isn’t the way to a poor album for a group like Radiohead; it’s just not the way to a great one either. When the band does misstep it isn’t down to bad songs, rather familiar or unpolished ones. Morning Mr Magpie features light, patterning and, you guessed it, syncopated percussion; three understated guitar lines intersect with one another and the beat, grounded by that ever present, mushrooming bass. The confluence of too many ideas eventually reaches a head when a second and just as shambolic drum beat ambles in accompanied by an electronic chime, creating a grating dissonance before the song fades out to bird chatter and static fuzz – an abandoned, half-successful experiment, nearly there, but not quite.

From a younger band Limbs would be promising pre-debut EPs, but from the celebrated ambassadors of the avant-garde it’s an unapologetically messy catharsis of ‘Radiohead-y’ tracks; the kind of album an established band puts out when they’re not that keen on going through the rigours of crafting big statements but still have creative itches to scratch. There are great songs that, though sometimes familiar, can sit proudly next to anything they’ve done. There’s also an equal amount of promising but unrefined ideas not yet polished into the diamonds we’re used to on Radiohead albums. That Radiohead probably meant to release a more informal record doesn’t excuse the unremarkable from a band that can do better.



MP3: Radiohead – Bloom


MP3: Radiohead – Codex


Do What You Want

Napoleon Dynamite, meet Charlie Chaplin.

MP3: Radiohead – Lotus Flower

Lying In The Reeds

I think this is the closest thing they’ve done to a ‘nice’ love song.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Love, Radiohead.


MP3: Radiohead – All I Need

Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood @ Glastonbury 27.6.10

I can’t think of a better time to put this up than late August.

When Radiohead hit Glastonbury it’s huge, summer-defining stuff. The 1997 set is engrained in Glastonbury folklore and 2003 isn’t far behind. So when people say that the best rock band in the world is playing Glastonbury this weekend, you wonder how people knew they were turning up, (well, half; the important half)because they obviously don’t mean Muse.

There are the usual whispers around all Park stage’s infamous guest spot. The most outlandish suggests none other than Paul McCartney is going to show up. That would be nice; it’s just that the memory of waiting for something big – if not necessarily good – like The Libertines or Coldplay to show up last year and just escaping a Klaxons show still haunts me. In troubled nights I can still hear the obnoxious punctuations of ‘DJ!’ (Oh! Oh! Oh!) and air-sirens as I fled past those less fortunate.

This year, spying the stage with trepidation from a casual distance, sharing Twitter intel with others, it soon becomes clear the Radiohead shout has some weight. The quiet corner the Park Stage occupies starts to get awfully crowded; a Gibson EG gets pulled out and set up, followed by a sunburst Telecaster. It’s on.

Eavis comes on to seal the deal and suddenly they’re playing Idioteque as sunlight splinters over Glastonbury and the heat finally relents. It’s a wonderful, euphoric moment you can’t help but grin even after the giddy excitement of the reveal has died down; the enthusiasm is such that a well-versed crowd shows a keen ear and voluntarily fills in Ed’s absent groans in a performance of Arpeggi and launches into the reverie-like refrain of Karma Police (For a minute there, I lost myself) unprompted after a rousing performance, much to Thom’s amusement who seems more than relaxed, playfully remonstrating with himself (declaring ‘Fucking amateurs’ after stumbling over the Black Swan intro) and grinning at the audience.

It’s half a Thom Yorke solo show and on paper they better as Radiohead at Reading last year, but it doesn’t matter. After seven years absence it’s the spectacle of a seminal band reasserting themselves at the start of another decade of Glastonbury that trumps it and produces a spontaneous and truly communal event. The special, surprise nature of the show, taking place in the one of the quietest, sequestered corners of Glastonbury, only adds to the spectacular nature of the proceedings.

Naturally, it’s over too soon and a deliriously happy audience filter back into the body of the festival. Outbursts of song ripple through the crowd and people share breathless reviews over the phone like excited schoolchildren. It’s hard to imagine a mightier Glastonbury performance this year. Furthermore, it’s hard to imagine them more awe-inspiring in ’97 and ’03.


MP3: Radiohead – Permanent Daylight
MP3: Radiohead – Karma Police

Glastonbury 2010

One of the most instructive things at Glastonbury are the snatches of conversation you catch as you move around the site. It’s like an early beta of Twitter, only less banal. The average festival-goer would do well to have this mind when incoherently explaining that Glastonbury is bigger than the music or how wonderful its vibe is. Like Twitter, these brief bites of semi-formed thought represent a zeitgeist of sorts. I can’t think of a more concise description of the festival than the one offered by a gentleman who cheerfully exclaimed, ‘I’m inside a festival!’ when on the phone to someone outside the festival, presumably.

The guy was intoxicated, like everyone else wandering along the old railway track at two in the morning, but there’s wisdom in it. The Reading equivalent would have soberly noted ‘I’m at a festival,’ merely noting that you’re staying there for a while, visiting it, which is an expected response for a festival where a 24-hour Tescos is within walking distance through a dilapidated industrial estate. At Reading, you’re in Reading. Glastonbury has no obvious connection to society. Glastonbury is huge. Arriving at night is like intruding upon the staging grounds for an invasion, the clandestine excitability of the Wednesday night is palpable; arrive during the day and you’ve stumbled across a fully functioning city unassumingly nestled in the Somerset countryside. A mystical glade where people dance outside wine bars and say things like, ‘I’m inside a festival!’ when on the phone.

Writing a review in parts, with scores and meticulous, somehow remembered, details of each act is a fine way to colour by numbers and give a representation of the festival of sorts, but it doesn’t truly capture the place. Whenever I cast my mind back I’ve few memories related to the music that was put on. Encounter the average Glastonbury refugee and they’ll fumble with their impression of the place, blurt out the well-worn, Guardian-fueled cliché that ‘it’s just so much more than the music,’ before unhelpfully concluding ‘you just had to be there’ or that ‘they can’t really explain it’.

Having been there, I like to think they’re picturing moments similar to my Wednesday night encounter with a girl who, perched over a piano in the middle of a field, responded to my drunken inquiry of ‘do you know any Beethoven?’ – a request delivered in an unintentionally facetious tone and a self-satisfied smirk- by busting out Moonlight Sonata at a moment’s notice, a perfect choice from the man’s extensive back-catalogue that captured the spirit of the moment better than most of the weekend’s acts. A touching moment I’m sure you’ll agree and important to note that his Beethoven aficionado wasn’t one of the many entertainers or cabaret acts out in force all over the festival site, but simply a fellow reveler. Over the following days I spy someone grappling with Chopin and another happy to knock out Chopsticks at the same piano. Events like this detail the serendipity and ‘wonder’ of Glastonbury that is so hard to convey, but also, more simply, the altruism the place inspires. It’s a home to the 175,000 guests and despite its busyness there’s never the feeling that you’re being hearded for profit. The site is littered with unnecessary but welcome touches such as hammocks, see-saws and other amenities and there’s a feeling, perhaps born from year after year of muddy squalls that we’re all in it together – and not in a faux ConLib sort of way, but an honest empathy for everyone else at the festival. People exchange chilled, smiley glances and chat with strangers across class, age and, more significantly, music taste barriers. There’s a strong, tangible feeling of goodwill at the place. England-shirted lads chat with Am Appy-hoodied metrosexuals. Crusty veterans share their knowledge with straw hatted, wide-eyed first timers. To my mind, Glastonbury is the only festival that doesn’t have a specific ‘type’. Beyond its hippy roots, there seems to be a reason why darlings of the left such a Tony Benn and Billy Bragg are permanent members of the furniture here: after a century of failed struggle, Glastonbury feels like the noblest remember that a better world is possible. I think the Reading equivalent of moonlight girl would have told me to fuck off or played something barbarous like Muse.

There were of course plenty of barbarous things like Muse at the festival. For example, Muse headlined Saturday night, but there’s always plenty of other music on offer. I manage to catch Rolf Harris, Phoenix, Snoop Dogg and half of Radiohead in one day – as shining an endorsement of the festivals diversity and absence of snobbery as you’re likely to get. You might decide to not even listen to music; the cinema tent or the cabaret field might be for you. For example, the balding men dotted in the Gorillaz audience bearing paunches and negative moods, complaining that Damon Albarn’s cartoon band weren’t U2 could have quite easily have found a band that offered a decent impression of 80s arena-rock juggernauts chasing former glories – just like U2 do today. Even if you are having a less than fantastic time it seems almost churlish to show it. Hare Krishnas, the bane of the Oxford Street shopper, are tolerated, and welcomed here despite the withering heat.

Glastonbury is a festival that’s bigger than any of the acts it books, true, but that’s not to say that the acts don’t matter, it’s just my enjoyment of them is nearly always informed but what else I happened to be doing before, during and after. Watching Vampire Weekend in glorious, relentless sunshine with a pear cider in each hand to beat the queues at the bar having just seen a father lift his infant daughter on his shoulders for her to add to a tower of beer cups to adoring cheers. The growing whispers that it would be Radiohead showing up at the Park Stage on Friday evening, that lead into a conversation with a group of people about Twitter apps and discovering that I wasn’t the only one enterprising (read: stupid) enough to bring an iPhone and a ‘normal’ phone. The pure bliss of the hazy evening that Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood would perform in and the ecstatic happiness of everyone in that packed corner of the festival site as they wandered out of The Park. Serendipitously bumping into a friend of a friend at the front of Beach House identified by the Glastonbury map he was holding made by another friend of friend. Watching Gorillaz with a fellow lost-soul, discovering they live five minutes down the road from me and that we probably share a disgusting amount of mutual friends. A shared grinning glance with someone in the LCD Soundsystem crowd that communicated brilliantly ‘isn’t this fucking brilliant!’ And later peaking too soon during LCD and having no recollection of Stevie Wonder’s set apart from being there and dancing, then walking past an ice cream van and waking up at 6am Monday Morning in my tent. All very personal and individual memories drawn from the same source, it’s easy to see why it’s hard to communicate.

After a thousand words or so what I’m saying is, if you want to really understand Glastonbury you just have to be there. I can’t really explain it. You just have to get inside of it and map it out for yourself.


MP3: Happy Birthday – Stevie Wonder


MP3: Karma Police – Radiohead

Thom Yorke is so fucking crazy right now

Well, more crazy than usual. Hollow Earth did have a certain groovy, proto-neo-funk style to it, but Flea from RHCP supporting a live tour of Yorke’s solo material? Insane. Expect a new Radiohead album for Christmas.

You’re spoiling us, ambassador.

in the past couple of weeks i’ve been getting a band together for fun to play the eraser stuff live and the new songs etc.. to see if it could work!
here’s a photo.. its me, joey waronker, mauro refosco, flea and nigel godrich.

at the beginning of october the 4th and 5th we are going to do a couple of shows at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles.
we don’t really have a name and the set will not be very long cuz ..well …we haven’t got that much material yet!
but come and check it out if you are in the area. we’ve also got locals Lucky Dragons playing.
all the best


Thom Yorke – All for the Best
MP3: Red Hot Chili Peppers – Mellowship Slinky in B Major

Reading 2009 Roundup

Reading is a strange festival. It’s devoid of any of the pseudo-spirituality and countercultural reverence of Glastonbury; though it doesn’t chase commerciality or chart trends as rabidly as V.

It doesn’t occupy a happy middle-ground between the two though. Inbetween the not so diverse gamut of acts that take to the main stage the video screens adorning the side of the stage feature adverts for Clearasil and videogames which are juxtaposed with far less frequent ‘save the world’ charity appeals; the campsites are less spacious and are concentrated in a camping area apart from the ‘Arena’ where pretty much everything happens, unlike Glastonbury which has camping areas all over the place, some a stone’s throw away from stages, others in peaceful idylls overlooking the site; there is much less to do that isn’t related to music or some kind of profit, once the Arena is closed that’s it; and shops are far more liberally dotted around the place. The whole site has the feel of something done with a profit margin in mind, including its location.

Reading literally takes place in Reading; it’s not just a convenient place marker for the festival’s marketability and identifiability. At one entrance is a busy highstreet and at another is an industrial estate which leads to a Tescos supermarket which at least, if nothing else, provides the humourous, if slightly surreal image of bedraggled, muddy and checked shirted festival goers going about the isles of Tescos buying alcohol and baked beans alongside bored housewives. I’m overdoing the Glastonbury comparisons, but it’s a fair way away from being bordered by Stonehenge and picturesque Somerset villages. It’s hard to get the feeling of escaping from civilisation and being apart from the world for the weekend when you’re down the road from a Waitrose, you even begin to feel a bit stupid sleeping in a tent.

Even when taken on its own terms Reading has problems. The festival is flooded with teenagers who’ve just finished their GCSEs. It’s a special age to be: you’re 16, you’re done with education forever (or at least you think) and the world is at your feet. Unfortunately, it’s an awful age to be for everyone else around you as, more than likely, you’re going to be acting like a complete jackass when you’re away from home for the first time and surrounded by alcohol. Cue excessive moshing to ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING (Little Boots, LITTLE BOOTS!), excitable crowd crushes that may as well have been moshing, and a vaguely apocalyptic final night involving fires, knocking over telegraph poles and exploding gas canisters which provided a romantic pall of smoke over the festival site.

From now on I shall refer to this influential demographic as ‘chindes’, a portmanteau of chav and indie.

Apart from all that, it was quite a good weekend. Radiohead were superior and showed pretty much everyone how to put on a headlining set at a festival, by mixing old material – they opened with Creep! – with new – Twisted Words sounds much better live – and by not being too self-indulgent they delivered a set that might have just piqued Blur at Glastonbury and just about made the concentration camp-esque conditions at the front worthile. After the Kings of Leon bawwed over an imagined hostility to them, and The Arctic Monkeys simmered with a middling and intentionally low-key setlist it was clear the weekend belonged to Radiohead.

There were other highlights over the weekend. Little Boots drew a large crowd (of adolescent boys and chindies, no less) and performed a well received set that belied the rather lukewarm critical and commercial reception she’s received this year. The Horrors followed closely behind, bravely favouring their new, superior and unexpectedly Shoegaze material over their older, adolescent garage rock material which I imagine most of the crowd had come out to see. It was wonderful to witness a tent full of chindes still sweaty from moshing moronically to ‘New in Town’ somewhat hypnotised by the sprawling, eight-minute krautrock of ‘Sea within a Sea’.

The Sunday ‘Indie’ line-up of Vampire Weekend, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Bloc Party was an enjoyable and surprisingly chilled evening. Most of the chindies seemed to be elsewhere for the Vampire and YYY sets, though some crept back in to dance around to the banging beats of ‘Mercury’ (Mer-Mer-Mercuuurry).

Other notable mentions go out to Patrick Wolf, who provided a wonderfully camp performance in the NME tent on Saturday which somehow managed to squeeze a costume change into its 45 minute run-time; Them Crooked Vultures, who might not have an album that reflects their considerable talents on their hands, but did provide an more than adequate soundtrack to mosh to for perhaps the first time of the weekend, and provided me with the pleasure of seeing John Paul Jones in the flesh. Vampire Weekend provided some much needed sunshine to an overcast Sunday evening when I was getting more than a little fed up. The new material sounds great, too, probably one of the few occurrences of the weekend when the crowd didn’t let out a disgruntled sigh when presented with a band plugging their new album, as happened for the Arctic Monkeys the night before. Contra is sounding sweet. I can’t remember any of the songs, but I enjoyed them all, a lot.

Despite all my criticisms, I had a good time. I don’t imagine Reading will change anytime soon; its commercial viability rests too much on corning that post-GCSE market I imagine, its line-up and general ethos mirrors this. I think it’s more a case of it being me not them. At the venerable age of 19 I just feel too old for a lot of the shit that Reading threw at me. Without that Sunday line-up or more specifically, Radiohead it would have been considerably worse. Glastonbury and maybe a niche, medium-sized festival with crèche facilities next year methinks.

MP3: Little Boots – Meddle (Tenorion piano version)
MP3: Vampire Weekend – Mansard Roof
MP3: Radiohead – Creep