A collection of posts from my original weblog...or the inscrutable rantings of a madman...could be both...

Friday, June 15, 2001

OUR KID EH?..AND A LITTLE NEU!

I bought the new Radiohead disc, Amnesiac and though I hate to agree with many of the mainstream reviewers, I like it!

The opening track, Packt Like Sardines In A Can, sounds like a jam session with Underworld, with Thom Yorke singing I'm a reasonable man/Get off my case.., over the top of the techno clatter. It's one of my favorites so far. Pyramid Song is the new single and it's a good change of pace with languid piano and a subdued vocal from Yorke. I think Mojo described it as Nick Cave-like and I would agree with that. Thom, ever the sly one, even slips in a line from Tom Waits' Clap Hands: we all went to heaven in a little rowboat.

Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors is another near-electronic track with mechanized vocals and stop/start dynamics throughout. Another highlight for me. There's an up-tempo version of Morning Bell (from Kid A) that doesn't really improve on the original, it's only different. A short guitar instrumental, Hunting Bears, that sounds like Richard Thompson on valium, rrreal slow and lots of reverb. The guitars are used sparingly (like on 'Kid A') but when they appear they're put to good use, as on I Might Be Wrong, where Jonny Greenwood does an old-school rock/pull-offs lick that sounds like tired-ass "classic rock" and fresh at the same time.

The closer, Life In A Glasshouse, reminds me of the middle section of Pink Floyd's Jugband Blues, with that wacky Salvation Army Band turning into 'The Lysergic Salvation Army Band'. On "Life In...", it achieves a similar effect except it's much more organized. Yorke warbles lyrics with a brass band oompah-ing away behind him. There is a strange prog-rock connection, I found out from the credits. The guy playing clarinet on the track is Jimmy Hastings, brother of Pye Hastings (guitar/singer of Caravan). Jimmy also played on quite a few of Caravan's records. You can't deny it anymore, Yorke, we're on to your little scam..heh heh. Only joking. No, this is a great record. I'm not saying Radiohead are far ahead of the pack, after all, Aphex Twin, Can, Neu! and others have done this sort of thing long before them. It is nice, though, to see a mainstream band turn their backs on "the Sure-Fire Formula" and make the albums THEY want to make.

That's always easy when you have a large fan base who will keep up with your artistic changes and Capitol Records is still laughing all the way to the bank. Some people are calling this 'Kid B' and they're about half-correct--it is sort-of a sequel, I mean everything was recorded at the same time but the differences are significant enough where this record can stand on it's own. If you like the band, pick this up, it won't disappoint you. Besides if you own 'Kid A', you should be used to the experimentation by now and not be groaning for them to "pick up the guitars again".

In a clever segue, I bought the re-issue of Neu!'s first record, titled "Neu!". It's been released by Astralwerks (I like that label more and more) here. The record is one of the best examples of Krautrock there is: alongside Can's "Tago Mago", Faust's first album, Tangerine Dream's first four records and Kraftwerk's "Autobahn".

Despite the blatant racist name, Krautrock was basically German progressive but with less emphasis on musicianship and 'the classics' and more on spontaneous expression and the pushing of the envelope, brought on by psychedelia. It's such a good album, I had heard about it through friends who owned import copies and they raved about it. Hallogallo, the 10-minute opener is all 4/4 beat and cool wah-wah guitar. The guitar is more texturous than wanky soloing and the track just moves along. 8 minutes go by without you realizing it, then the track ends and you just want it to continue through the whole album. The next track flows in and that's just as good..and so on. There are burbling water sound effects that make your brain drift and this was recorded in 1971, before water sound effects became the de rigeur sound effect on electronic albums. If you remind yourself of that, it won't sound so passe (as it does in 2001).

Find this record! Astralwerks has released Neu!'s two other records as well so check 'em all out if you can!!