RADIOHEAD: I can feel the hills exploding


Sorry about the break in posting these past few days. I was on a fishing trip in (Slower Lower) Delaware. Between that and my upcoming move (check in the next few days for a post about my favorite Omaha/Nebraska music), I'm going to be pretty pressed for time. I'll try to post often in the next couple of days while I can, but if you notice a lull in posting for a week or so, don't give up on me. I'll be back for sure.

For now, I'd like to spend tonight closing off that Radiohead trilogy of b-sides posting I started a few weeks back. For this final installment, I decided to include a few collaborations by Thom Yorke outside of the band. Even though the rest of Radiohead don't play on these tracks, I think they all maintain the band's basic aesthetic: dour, quirky, and a little upsetting in a creepy, guy-in-your-bushes kind of way.

I Am a Wicked Child: A Radiohead Compilation (v.3)

13. "Maquiladora": If you've been following the whole CD concept of this b-sides collection I've been posting, this is a nice follow up to track 12, "Palo Alto." A BENDS-era bonus track from the "High and Dry" single, this one packs in all the stadium guitar heroics of that record, before the band's songwriting turned inward and more daring (or, in some folks' opinion, more pretentious). Fans of Jeff Buckley will love this, while fans of Ours will realize that this is that band's whole agenda encapsulated in 3 minutes. That guy wishes he could sound this much like JB.

14. "Lewis (Mistreated)": I really hate parentheticals in song titles. Just name the song one thing and be done with it. Of course, Radiohead gave that idea a huge "fuck off" on the HAIL TO THE THIEF album, where each song has two titles. Anyway, regardless of that transgression, this old number from the "My Iron Lung" EP was one of the early songs that got me into the band.

15. "I Am a Wicked Child": This mellow, funky little blues number was a castoff from the aforementioned THIEF album, and appeared on the excellent "Go to Sleep" single. Check out the lyrics and tell me this couldn't have been on one of those classic Harry Smith anthologies in a more skeletal form. No idea who plays the harmonica here, so if anyone knows, drop a line in the comments section.

16. "This Mess We're In": The first of three collaborations tonight, this track features Thom Yorke singing with PJ Harvey on her STORIES FROM THE CITY, STORIES BY THE SEA album. This track just oozes sex, not something Yorke has been noted for too often. A shame really... anyone ever heard Radiohead's live cover of the Carly Simon/James Bond anthem "Nobody Does it Better'? That's hot shit.

17. "I've Seen it All": Here, Yorke shares vocal duties with Bjork, on a song from her soundtrack to Lars Von Trier's incredibly depressing DANCER IN THE DARK (Bjork's soundtrack is actually called SELMASONGS). In the film, Yorke's vocal part is sung by Peter Stormare, but you can't fault Bjork for following her muse and going with the Radiohead singer for her recording. This Meeting of the Freaks is a soaringly sad meditation from a person coming to terms with permanantly losing their vision, as Bjork's Selma does in the film. The lyrics are absolutely killer:

Bjork: "What about China? Have you seen the Great Wall?"
Yorke: "All walls are great if the roof doesn't fall."
Yorke: "You've never been to Niagra Falls?"
Bjork: "I have seen water. It's water, that's all."

18. "Rabbit in Your Headlights (Underdog Mix)": The original version of this track, an incredible pairing of turntable genius DJ Shadow with Yorke, appears on U.N.K.L.E.'s PSYENCE FICTION album. This remix - from the "Rabbit" EP - is a pretty different take on the song, but Underdog still evokes Shadow's dark, stalking ambience. Radiohead were obviously fans of Shadow's ENDTRODUCING album, and Yorke worked with the DJ before the release of his band's OK COMPUTER album. If you have any doubts of this influence, you only have to listen to that album's opener, "Airbag," to hear what I'm talking about. (Trivia: the dialogue snippet at the end of this track, as far as I can tell, is from the Tim Robbins movie "Jacob's Ladder." Please let me know if I'm wrong on this one.)



Rob said...

In the Radiohead version I heard of Carly's "Nobody Does It Better", Thom introduces the song as "the sexiest song in the world..."? He's right and so are you: That is hot shite....

alex said...

Indeed, that's Aiello as Louie the Angel. One of the better movie samples ever used, even though all movie samples are good.

Lester said...

Man, I Am a Wicked Child is the creepiest Radiohead song I can think of. In a good way, I think. I imagine it's the song that God will play for us when he tells us that we're not making it into heaven.

Lester said...

No amount of harmonica will lessen the creepiness. (sorry, I meant to include this in the last post.)

Kate said...

I snagged This Mess We're In. Thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

Jonny Greenwood plays the harmonica in I Am A Wicked Child. If I remember correctly, the song is left over from the Kid A era, or maybe from even earlier.