Friday, October 5, 2007

Countdown: Five Days Until "In Rainbows"

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

Yezzir. Five days left until "In Rainbows" is unleashed upon the world. Here are some more Radiohead tracks that you may not have ever heard to whet your appetite.

"Palo Alto" (No Surprises/Running From Demons EP)

Judging from the title, the song is about the high tech sector in California (duh, Josh). "I'm too busy to see you/you're too busy to wait" and "I'm OK/how are you/I hope you're ok too" is classic Thom Yorke. The song was supposed to feature on "OK Computer" (the lyrics fit right in), but the band eventually scratched it. Interestingly, in the video for the song, Jonny is never seen--though the rest of the band is. But, you know, leave it up to him to make the song totally high-teched out and make it mildly ironic. Silly Jonny.


"Worrywort" (Knives Out single)

This song is so bittersweet, and not because of the lyrics or the music: it's a great electronic pop tune (so out of the band's nature), but it probably singlehandedly led Thom to "creating" "The Eraser", probably the most disappointing anyone associated with the band has ever done...well, other than play at the MTV Beach House in the early '90s...but the '90s are a period of Amnesty for everyone, in my opinion (yes, the Eraser is worse than "Pablo Honey").

I think most electronic bands attempt to find that sort of "game boy synth" sound, and Radiohead did so perfectly on this track. And, the line "It's such a beautiful day" is such a breath of fresh air to hear out of Mr. Yorke's mouth.


"Permanent Daylight" (My Iron Lung EP)
This is one of Radiohead's odes to Sonic Youth--alternate tunings, walls of noise...what more can you ask for? "The easiest way to sleep at night/Is to carry on believing that I don't exist" can only be seen as extremely creepy, yet the song is upbeat and light enough to shake off the weariness, creating a sense of false security. This song illustrates that Radiohead's b-sides are better than the LP work of most other bands, and no, I don't feel like a total fanboy for writing that.


"Fog (Again) [Live]" (Com Lag EP)
This is the way the band says that their songs get written: Thom brings in lyrics and a piano melody, and they all join in and eventually (usually), they phase out the piano part.

This particular song has been floating around since the OK Computer tours, and while it never garnered the love that "Nude" did (I still think that the sky is gonna fall in once "Nude" is played by a fan for the first time), it was still held in high regard. The band finally got it's act together and brought it back on the Hail to the Thief tour, and this gorgeous version was used as an encore.

"Baby alligators/in the sewers/grow up fast" is an allusion to the urban legend that families were bringing back alligators from Florida in the '80s while there on vacation and would flush them down the toilets as they got too big to handle (or, as Thom puts it, "did you go bad?").

This is one the band's most heartbreaking songs, along with "True Love Waits" (the "I Might Be Wrong" live version of "True Love Waits" does the song no justice...if you can find an early live version with Jonny playing keyboars, consider yourself blessed...and send it on to me, as I've lost it in one of my computer crashes).

I think this song shows that Thom writes really simple, emotional songs that sometimes get misconstrued among the monster music pieces that the band builds around him. The themes of disappointment and failing to hide past wrongs are very clear and show so many different emotions--be it disappointment in oneself and in others. This is an absolutely essential track by the band to have.


Lastly, we'll do a comparison of another non-album track well-loved by fans: Lift. The first version, "Lift (live at Landgraaf)" is a fairly straightforward rock song and was played on the Bends tour. This song is particularly interesting, as it is the only Radiohead song in which Thom addresses himself in, singing "You've been stuck in a lift/we've been trying to reach you, Thom". I believe that the song has to do with Thom coming to grips with his celebrity status, especially the line "you've been stuck in a lift/in the belly of a whale/at the bottom of the ocean"--clearly, he's at the lowest of points, yet he tells himself that it's "time to come home" (The bends, of course, is a dangerous result of coming up for air too quickly from deep under the ocean).

The newest version of the song was played on the tour that preceded Hail to the Thief. This particular version was committed to tape in Lisbon. It is much slower and has a completely different feel to it, but I believe it is much more akin to floating along the sea listlessly.

Of course, which version is better is relative. However, the Landgraaf version may have the best closing quote to a Radiohead song ever. Thom sings:

"Today is the first day/of the rest of your life/So lighten up, squirt"

have a nice weekend (it's true, you know).