Radiohead have always been a bit of a polarizing band in the indie elitist music community. I view them as the music world’s version of Apple Computers – have a bit of an outsider feel to them, absolutely the best at what they do, and really, really successful. As much as I love almost everything Radiohead has released (with the exception of most of Pablo Honey), the reviews ushered forth from other “indie” music websites were so laughable in their utter fan-boy adulation for ANYTHING Radiohead released it honestly made me a bit Radiohead jaded. For all of the praise on Thom Yorke’s lyrics, consider this comparison:
Lyrics from “Pull Pulk Revolving Doors” released on Amnesiac in 2001 – “There are doors that open by themselves / There are sliding doors / And there are secret doors / There are doors that lock and doors that don’t”
Lyrics from “Skipping” released by Associates on Sulk in 1982 – “Doors lead to other doors / Roads lead to other roads / They are simple, they just happen / They’re simple they just take care of themselves / They’re simple they just happen to be there”
More than a passing similarity, and ironically, the album Sulk seems to be a template for Amnesiac (my favorite Radiohead album) with its eerie electronics, piano laments, and strange robotic vocals.
The years since Amnesiac have seen lavish praise hailed on each Radiohead release – some deservedly so, some provided a welcome bit of humour before I started my day. Last years The King of Limbs was another polarizing release by Radiohead with its increased focus on electronics, strange cut up vocals by Thom Yorke, and a decreased focus on melody. Call me a bit weird, but it was my favorite release by Radiohead since Amnesiac.
This leads me to discuss this 2 track single released at the end of 2011 as an addendum to The King of Limbs album. First off – WHY WERE THESE SONGS NOT ON THE ALBUM!?! Absolute perfection in my eyes and here’s why:
“The Daily Mail” – With its haunting piano introduction I am instantly reminded of the Amnesiac era lament “Alligators in NYC”. Thom’s vocals hit the sweet spot – alternately using his famous falsetto and his deeper voice to give some weight to the songs lyrics. The piano is always the focus as Thom belts his heart out. 2/3 of the way through the song the rest of the band decide to join in and provide some post-punk atmosphere to this rousing song. Key lyric – “The moon is a rock on a mountain / the lunatics have taken over the asylum / waiting on the rapture”
“Staircase” – Skittering electronic beat to start the song, again harkens back to the Amnesiac era. Initially I was worried that this may be the filler track of the release, fortunately I was proved wrong very quickly. Thom is spouting off various strange phrases over the beat with an increasing focus on the ominous synths as the song progresses. Sounds like it shouldn’t work but it does – and the execution is flawless. Key lyric “I’m sending a chopper / To steal you away / The pot is full / Let me take control / Let me take control”
I’m including this release in my “Best of 2012” because I think it may get overlooked with its holiday 2011 release. Highly recommended and available online at Itunes (run by those outsiders at Apple, the most successful company in history)
The Verdict – A Thom Thom Masterpiece
For fans of: Associates, The Chameleons, Joy Division, Babybird, Sonic Youth, Nine Inch Nails