4.19.2005

RADIOHEAD: Pick up the phone, play me this song.

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A reader reminded me the other day of another band whose b-sides have created in me a salacious need to collect as many as possible: Radiohead. Thom Yorke and his palefaced buddies somehow manage to be both the argument for album bands AND singles bands. Records like KID A, THE BENDS or OK COMPUTER stand as complete statements, proof that not all albums are just a couple of good tracks surrounded by a bunch of filler.

But some of their most adventurous and beautiful music never made it onto their records. B-sides are always a good opportunity for a band to have a little more "fun," to say "this one's for the people who don't mind if we stretch out a little." Radiohead are no exception to this rule.

I'd love to make you all an album-length collection of Radiohead songs, but I don't have the time to burn all those discs and mail them out. So I'll do it here. This is intended as the first in a series of 3 or 4 posts. Depending on how much bandwidth gets eaten up in the next few days, I may just do this as a series of consecutive posts. I'd just like to ask that if anyone wants to link to this post from another blog, please contact me beforehand if you can.

So here goes, the first part of your Radiohead Virtual Mix Tape...

I Am a Wicked Child: A Radiohead Compilation

1. "A Reminder": This OK COMPUTER-era track appeared on a couple of singles, most notably the rare AIRBAG/HOW AM I DRIVING EP. It's a sad, soothing little number that sounds like something Yorke wrote as a message on his answering machine. It may be hard to make out the lyrics, but this is actually one of the band's more humorous songs... a guy asking a friend to remind him of the better times, when he wasn't such an asshole. "Whatever happens, if we're still speaking, pick up the phone and play me this song."

2. "Lull": Before I was knocked out by the melancholia of Andrew Bird's "Lull," this was the song that gave me the same feeling, and it just so happens to have the exact same title, and even similar instrumentation. What can I say, I have a thing for lulls. I'm not even sure what era this is... I'm guessing this was recorded after or during THE BENDS, but I can't say for sure. I never would have known of its existence if it hadn't been for the early years of Napster.

3. "Inside My Head": I have to admit, I was late to the game on Radiohead. I didn't really care all that much for "Creep," and avoided their debut album PABLO HONEY entirely. Even THE BENDS left me a little nonplussed at the time. So, finding a gem from their back catalogue like "Inside My Head" took me an extra time. It's still a little standard of a rock song when compared to the music they'd eventually release, but I kind of like its mixture of New Wave and Bond Theme.

4. "Cuttooth": This one is one of my favorite Radiohead b-sides, a stray track from the "Knives Out" import single. It's definitely one of their most elated numbers, soaring along on a bouncy piano riff and a dancey drum beat. " Not your typical song structure, with no real bridge or chorus sections, and all kinds of nuttiness in the middle section. I love the way the music drops out at that "Run until your legs are sore" bit. This is Radiohead beating Coldplay at their own game (which is really just imitating Radiohead).

5. "Gagging Order": A simple but earth-shattering leftover from the HAIL TO THE THIEF sessions. Just an acoustic guitar and Thom's broken voice, "Just a body... nothing left to see."

6. "Worrywort": This track, with its fuzzed out/Aphex Twin bleeps and beats that sound like a mixture of digital brushed drums and beatboxing, is definitely one of my favorite Radiohead songs ever. I had to order a second version of the "Knives Out" single to get this track, but it was worth every penny. Play this for anyone who might complain that the band are nothing but a bunch of sad sacks. "There's no use dwelling on / On what might've been / Just think of all the fun / you could be having."

FOR MORE ON RADIOHEAD:

At Ease, an incredibly helpful Radiohead resource
The Band's U.S. home page
Radiohead news, more at Climbing Up the Walls
Treefingers
A link to an all-piano Radiohead tribute


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6 comments:

alex said...

I was the Singles buyer at (insert Big Chain Store Here) which essentially meant I would comb through all the international distributors to find b-sides from the likes of Radiohead, Bjork and Tori Amos so I could in turn steal them from my own store. Before I sold them all (for quite a pretty chunk) I compiled CDs of my favorites (I don't recall Lull, though). The moral of the story is that the tracklistings are stuck in an old laptop that I have no access to. I should've just kept the damn CDs. The second moral of the story is that it's great to steal things. And drop out of school. Heroin. Get lots of heroin. No condoms either. I said no condoms.

Anonymous said...

i have had worrywort on constant repeat for the past day or so. THANK YOU so much!

Kid Z said...

Don't feel too bad about coming into the game late. I did the same thing, working my way backward from OK Computer to Pablo Honey before getting the rest of the albums. Totally agree with your summation of all these tracks, especially Gagging Order. That, coupled with Fog are two of my favorite b-sides from the HTTT sessions.

countrygrrl said...

i actually liked creep and then didnt listen to them for ages. i had a tee shirt of the bends whicb opened up a lot of conversation with the most unlikely people who were big fans, quite a revalation the broad spectrum of fans, love them more now as i am listening more than dancing to music these days

Anonymous said...

I just noticed this and the following Radiohead post.
I have to say - great choice. Cuttooth and Worrywort are two of my favourite Radiohead songs EVER.
:)

Anonymous said...

Cuttooth is actually Radiohead sounding like NEU! - from their own mouths.

M.