Posts Tagged ‘Jonny Greenwood’

Radiohead - In Rainbows

When a band you once feared dead returns out of nowhere with one of their greatest albums, it feels a little like a resurrection. So Radiohead fans around the globe enjoyed a collective rush of euphoria in the early morning hours of October. 10th, 2007, when the band emailed out downloads of their first album in more than four years.

Radiohead worked on In Rainbows for more than two years, beginning in early 2005. In mid-2006, after their initial recording sessions with new producer Spike Stent proved fruitless, the band toured Europe and North America performing In Rainbows material before re-enlisting their longtime producer Nigel Godrich. The album is more personal than previous Radiohead albums, with singer Thom Yorke describing most of the songs as his versions of “seduction songs”. Radiohead incorporated a variety of musical styles and instruments, using electronic instruments, string arrangements, piano, and the ondes Martenot.

As In Rainbows hit the inboxes of everyone who’d pre-ordered it — for a price of the buyer’s choosing, in a somewhat revolutionary show of goodwill on Radiohead’s part .

In Rainbows  the seventh studio album  their first release after their recording contract with EMI ended with their previous album Hail to the Thief (2003). It was a surprise in several senses, and many of them had nothing to do with the sounds contained therein. After a brief hiatus, some public struggles to find their way forward in the studio, and a blossoming of side projects that suggested the band could be finished, the biggest surprise at that time was that a new Radiohead album existed at all. The band also released In Rainbows without a label, announced it just 10 days before its release, and didn’t share any songs ahead of time a unusual and minimal rollout by today’s standards and practically unheard of in that time . Even more radical was the pay-what-you-want scheme, which set off all kinds of debates about the viability of such a plan for smaller artists and the value of recorded music going forward.

In conjunction with its release and the absence of a record-label middleman, the payment-optional approach was Radiohead’s way of both accepting and subverting the reality of album leaks, which had compromised the rollout of their previous LP. Thom Yorke and friends weren’t about to have college radio stations blasting lo-fi MP3s of their new album weeks before the release date again. By tightly controlling everything except the price point, the band seemed to be telling listeners, “OK, you can have the music for free if you wish, but you’ll have it on our terms.” Not that the band ever really risked losing money on this gambit. Hardcore fans like myself shelled out big bucks for deluxe vinyl with an entire second CD of music, a package that ensured Radiohead would still be richly rewarded for their efforts. And when the experiment ran its course and TBD Records gave In Rainbows a conventional physical release the following year, it still sold enough copies to debut at #1 in the US and UK, rendering the project a win for Radiohead on all commercial fronts.

The strategy was fascinating and worthy of examination, but it unfortunately came to overshadow the album’s creative achievements. For students of the music business and most casual observers, the mode of release is the album’s legacy. In Rainbows was another batch of classics and consider how they fit within the arc of the band’s catalogue. Not including “Last Flowers”, which Yorke recorded in the Eraser sessions, the In Rainbows sessions produced 16 songs. After the 56-minute, 14-track Hail to the Thief, Radiohead wanted their seventh album to be concise;[ they settled on ten songs, saving a further six tracks (not counting short instrumentals) for the limited edition “discbox” release. Fans could order a limited “discbox” edition from inrainbows.com, containing the album on CD and two 12″ heavyweight 45 rpm vinyl records with artwork and lyric booklets, plus an enhanced CD with eight additional tracks, digital photos and artwork, packaged in a hardcover book and slipcase. The “discbox” edition was shipped on 3rd December 2007. In June 2009, Radiohead made the second In Rainbows disc available for download on their website for £6

There are days when In Rainbows sounds like the best Radiohead album. It’s definitely in contention with 1995’s The Bends as the band’s most approachable, compulsively listenable release — the one you can just put on and enjoy without turning it into a full-blown immersive experience, the one that will meet you wherever you’re at and be beautiful in your presence. It absolutely holds together as a coherent statement, 10 songs inspired by related themes and woven from a shared sonic fabric. Yet you never get the sense you’re beholding some epic musical journey á la OK Computer or Kid A, the other albums I’m most likely to name as Radiohead’s crowning achievements. .

That In Rainbows sounded this way was nearly as unexpected as its method of release. Here was their poppiest, most guitar-based collection of songs in more than a decade, a pronounced swerve away from the chilly electronics and crushing paranoia that had been a hallmark of their sound since OK Computer and swallowed it up completely on Kid A and Amnesiac. In hindsight, the group had already edged back toward guitars on 2003 career overture Hail To The Thief, an album that begins with the hard-rocking “2+2=5″ and includes the soaring career highlight “There There” among other six-string excursions. But those were part of a wide-ranging patchwork, whereas this album largely nudged electronics into the background in favor of an upbeat, organic sound, frequently accented by Jonny Greenwood’s orchestral arrangements but firmly grounded in the sound of a guitar-driven rock combo.

In Rainbows presented Radiohead with an unprecedented warmth as it found their singer exploring a more mature version of the sad sack from “Creep.” There are bittersweet tracks, like the fatalistic torch song “Nude” and the brisk yet self-loathing schoolyard chant “15 Step” and the clattering power ballad “Reckoner,” a treatise on facing down death. And there are angry tracks, like the powerhouse rock rave-up “Bodysnatchers” and the acoustic-orchestral pocket suite “Faust Arp.” No song ever fully gives into its darker impulses, though. The feeling when the band queues up “15 Step” or rips into “Bodysnatchers” in concert is pure visceral elation, and the lingering memory of “Nude” and “Faust Arp” and especially “Reckoner” is not ache so much as aching beauty.

And then there are the love songs. Most of the favorite tracks on In Rainbows are the ones on which Yorke risks an emotional wipeout by giving himself over to entirely to breathless affection, songs that revel in real or imagined romantic bliss even as they acknowledge life’s bitter realities. “Weird Fishes (Arpeggi)” gorgeously captures the feeling of being possessed by attraction only to be left unsatisfied yet again, its plaintive guitar needlework building to a transcendent climax then careening off a cliff and into the depths. The darkly swooning “All I Need” traces similar paths; as Yorke professes his unrequited desire for a woman who seems to be missing him in plain sight, the song’s remarkably straightforward structure culminates in an overwhelming wave of melancholy.

“House Of Cards,” Radiohead’s idea of a sexy slow jam, is probably the tenderest song in Yorke’s catalog. “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” details the flickering passion of a barroom flirtation against a locomotive backbeat that very much recalls a bar band. And as In Rainbows draws to a close, the deconstructed piano ballad “Videotape” returns to the themes of fleeting ecstasy and creeping death. The lyrics are basically Yorke putting a morbid twist on Lou Reed, realizing this “perfect day” with a friend or lover will be part of the highlights montage when his life flashes before his eyes.

Many of us have had a similar epiphany moment while listening to In Rainbows. One last surprise to consider is how well this album holds up 10 years later. It felt like a private gift at first, overflowing with delights but too minor in scale and conservative in style to qualify as the latest Radiohead masterpiece. To return to it more than any other Radiohead album, and its tracklist is as stunning front to back as any of the group’s other elite LPs. A decade down the line, with two more albums in the rearview, it’s becoming increasingly clear that In Rainbows deserves to be in the conversation when discussing Radiohead’s finest recorded work.

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Photo credit: Danny Clinch

When Radiohead releases OK Computer: OKNOTOK, an expanded edition of their groundbreaking 1997 album O.K Computer in June, fans will finally hear three tracks that have long say in the band’s vaults and brains.

Though previously unreleased, the three tracks, “Lift,” “I Promise” and  “Man Of War” won’t be completely unfamiliar to fans. “Lift” has had a regular spot in 1996 set lists , when it became a fan favorite, and was resurrected on tour in 2002. Radiohead started tinkering with it again in 2014, while they began work on 2016’s “A Moon Shaped Pool” .

According to fan site Green Plastic frontman Thom Yorke said he wasn’t happy with their live performances of “Lift” in the ‘90s, and even recorded a few versions during their sessions for OK Computer but never released it. Yorke wanted to air it out before the band began dissecting it. They toyed with putting versions it on Kid A in 2000 and “Amnesiac” in 2001, but it never came to fruition.

“We haven’t lost the song. We played it too much in a certain way that didn’t work in my opinion,” he said. “It didn’t feel right. So we need to approach it in a different way but at the time of OK Computer it was impossible to get into rearranging it because everyone had fixed ideas on what to play and we’d all just got into a habit we couldn’t break, like staring too long at strangers, know what I mean?”

Although guitarist Ed O’Brien called the song “a bogs—e B-side and we were very happy to leave it off the album,”  Radiohead unveiled a slower, more lyrically polished version of “Lift” in Lisbon, Portugal, and at a few other shows in 2002. The update also notably removes mention of Thom, the person being saved from a stuck elevator.

As recently as 2015, while confirming that the band had been working on the tune again, guitarist Jonny Greenwood told the Dutch website 3voor12 that such resurrections are common practice for Radiohead albums.

“What people don’t know is that there’s a very old song on each album, like ‘Nude’ on In Rainbows. We never found the right arrangement for that, until then. ‘Lift’ is just like that. When the idea is right, it stays right. It doesn’t really matter in which form.”

Like “Lift” and “Man Of War” both of which will also be included on the reissue of Radiohead’s  O.K Computer OKNOTOK  a reissue marking the 20th anniversary of O.K Computer, “I Promise,” which you can listen to above, was a regular on the set lists of the ’90s.

In particular, the song was played on tour in 1996, but never to return to performances or see an official release, though it has long been circulated by fans on bootlegs. Despite a large swath of unreleased Radiohead songs, all three were among those most widely topping fan’s wish lists.

“I Promise,” however, is more personal than the other two songs that are getting their first official airing, as well as the bulk of 1997’s OK Computer. Where the rest of the coming two-disc collection revolves around more abstract ideas like technology, globalization and aliens, “I Promise” seems like it might follow a couple’s argument, with the narrator’s pledge to do better.

Several fan favorites will be among the three previously unreleased tracks that will grace Radiohead’s 20th anniversary reissue O.K Computer OKNOTOK iincluding “Man of War,” .

Marking the anniversary of their groundbreaking 1997 album OK Computer, the two-disc set will also include “I Promise” and “Lift.” All three tracks, though never officially released, were setlist mainstays in the ’90s, and have floated around on bootlegs for years. The song was written around the time the band released their second album, “The Bends” , in 1995. It has alternately been called “Big Boots” or “Man o’ War.”

According to the fan site, Green Plastic, the band tried to record it several times, including for The Avengers soundtrack, but were never satisfied with the results. They were seen working on it in their 1998 documentary, Meeting People Is Easy, but it had been left in the vaults because, as frontman Thom Yorke told MTV’s 120 Minutes, they “couldn’t find a proper way into it.”

“We ditched it because we were so messed up and we went in, tried to do the track, but we just couldn’t do it. It was actually a really difficult period of time,” Yorke said. “We had a five-week break and all the s— was coming to the surface. It was all a bit weird – I mean we went in and tried to do this old track that we had and it just wasn’t happening at all. It was a real low point after it.”

After a week of fans speculating on what would an anniversary edition might include, many of them wonder when they’ll hear the updated versions of these previously unreleased tracks, like “I Promise,” live. Radiohead will begin the European leg of its 2017 tour on June 7th.

XL Recordings

You can pre-order OK Computer: OKNOTOK, which will be released on June 23rd, on Radiohead’s website.

 

To coincide with their nomination for the coveted Mercury Prize, Radiohead have shared an intimate live rendition of A Moon Shaped Pool album cut “Present Tense.” It finds band members Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood fingerpicking guitar their way through the latin-flavored lament with help from a Roland CR-78 drum machine in a lowly lit performance directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who previously worked with Radiohead on the video for “Daydreaming.”