Thursday, October 4, 2007

Countdown to "In Rainbows"

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

I've been told that we actually have a few readers for the Radiohead countdown. Well, then, sorry for letting you all down yesterday, eh?

Since the people who actually care about the countdown probably have all of the Radiohead albums already, I've decided to make this a more of a live/b-sides affair from here on it. I think that a great deal of Radiohead's best songs come in these two formats, and I'm going to share them with you.

"Talk Show Host" (Live at Glastonbury 2003)

This song was originally put on the soundtrack to "Romeo and Juliet" (along with "Exit Music") and features what may be Radiohead's most simplistic lead guitar line ever.

"Talk Show Host" is said to be one of the two songs about the Hungerford Massacre, and I don't doubt it. Thom really comes off as a serial killer here, and that's the point, if you read the story.

"You want me/fu*king well come on and find me" is one of the most absolute bad-ass things Thom has ever sung...and he follows it with "I'll be waiting/With a gun and a pack of sandwiches"--lyrically, he is at his most believable insane ("Climbing Up the Walls" has always felt too absurd to feel like the narrator was a real person) ever.

And I picked the live version of the song because you can hear just how complex they are live--all of the guitar and keyboard interplay and the swaths of noise. At 2:46 the band exhibit just why they are the best band on the planet: they unleash all hell on the crowd while Thom retains his composure. And, the noisy outro is just sublime, recapping all of the madness going on in the narrator's deranged mind.

This is one of my favorite five Radiohead tracks ever.

"Exit Music (for a Film)" (Live)
Before I say anything mushy, yes, this song is from a radio broadcast, and that is made incredibly clear at the end, with that cheesy radio DJ doing his bit (the venue is in Georgia, by the do they get a Radiohead gig in Georgia and not in Honolulu?)

Regardless, this song was written by Thom after reminiscing about seeing the original Romeo and Juliet film back when he was a child.

Colin's bass solo breaks up the acoustic sentiments of the early half of the song and remind us of the torment that Romeo and Juliet faced...and you really cannot overlook Jonny's playing. All that seagull noise you're hearing? That's Jonny, fretting the guitar with a coin and strumming and picking with a coin. The sounds that the band get out of their instruments are otherworldly and surreal--and this song illustrates that.

This song is simultaneously sinister and gorgeous. It always fell a bit out of place on "OK Computer" to me, as it has a mood that none of the other songs on that record seem to have. It is not just melancholic--it is absolutely evil.

I really hate that the radio dj cuts in...what an ass.

"Gagging Order" (B-side, off of the "Go to Sleep" single)

Radiohead at the most basic of all forms--Thom and a guitar. This seems to be the most lovelorn song that the band has ever written (Thom has said that he does not ever write personal songs because it just totally destroys you and the people that it's about...and he sang, in "Let Down"..."Don't get sentimental/It always ends up drivel")

The actual arrangement of the song is quite reminiscent of Neil Young, whose songs the band often covers live ("After the Gold Rush", "Cinnamon Girl"). I can just imagine the scene that the song paints: the narrator telling an old lover "I know what you're thinking/But I'm not your property/No matter what you say" while telling bystanders watching the fight "move along/there's nothing left to see", and the "body/nothing left to see" is the ex-lover, hunched over, crying about the loss of a love.

This song is stunningly gorgeous and it proves a number of things: that Radiohead are capable of writing non-depressing songs (this seems to be the most common criticism of the band, even though it is not true) and that they ARE a great band. Most of their detractors write them off because of their "reliance" on gadgets, but when a band can write a beautiful song that consists of nothing more than guitar and vocals, you know they have actual talent (and many of Radiohead's best songs are stripped down:"Exit Music", "Pyramid Song", "Fake Plastic Trees", "Motion Picture Soundtrack").

All three of these songs are essential listens, especially for you diehard fans who are unfamiliar with their non-album canon--they are all among my favorite Radiohead songs ever. And, "Exit Music" may not be a non-album track, but I hope this live interpretation finds you well.


And, if you're free from 6-8 PM tomorrow night (9-11 EST), listen to Sarah and my radio show, Your Arsenal, will be on.


Be sure to check back tomorrow as well--I have yet another great bunch of Radiohead songs.