Infinite Shuffle

April 22, 2010

PROJECT RADIOHEAD: Pablo Honey (1993)

Filed under: Radiohead — assman41 @ 12:01 am

EDITOR’S NOTE: While putting together my best-of-the-decade lists, I noticed there was nary a Radiohead song or album in sight. I realized that’s because I’d never really given them much attention and probably had only listened to one album in its entirety. I decided to rectify that by listening to their entire catalog, so I could finally have an informed opinion on what many consider to be the greatest band of my generation.

Four of the seven original tracks from their first two EPs made it onto Radiohead’s debut full-length album. They include “I Can’t”, “Thinking About You”, “You” and “Prove Yourself”, all of which I enjoyed in their original form.

The album opens with three-time champ “You”, which continues to sound more polished with each go-around.

The next track, “Creep”, is the one that put Radiohead on the map. The band really put everything together for the first time on this song. And, much to the dismay of a lot of diehards, this still has to be considered among the band’s top two most popular songs — along with “Karma Police”.

Radiohead quickly follows the slow introspection of “Creep” with the distorted, rocking “How Do You?”, which sounds like it came right out of The Replacements’ catalog.

On “Stop Whispering”, the first thing I thought of was the mumbling, whiny vocals of Kurt Cobain. But rather than turn into a grunge song, the fourth track becomes a more melodic, shoegazer pop song. This was eventually released as a single.

The biggest surprise came on “Thinking About You”, which went from a distorted, punkish track on each of the EPs to a suddenly toned-down acoustic track. The band also extended it about 20 seconds here. I’m not sure which version I prefer.

On “Anyone Can Play Guitar” — which was released as the band’s second single after “Creep” — it sounds like something of a mash-up between Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins. I don’t really think it’s single-worthy.

The album’s seventh track, “Ripcord”, is probably the first shitty song I’ve heard by Radiohead. It just sounds like a bunch of filler and has nothing going for it besides repetitive lyrics and boring instrumentation.

I’m not sure why, but the sometimes-slow-sometimes-fast guitar work on “Vegetable” reminds me of a precursor to Foo Fighters. I don’t know if anyone else would agree with that thought, but I also have heard it a couple other times on this album. Either way, I’m a fan of this slow-fast track.

The biggest difference between “Prove Yourself” here and on the Drill EP is that there is now less of a stark contrast between the soft and hard parts, making things a little more even keel — perhaps to the song’s degradation.

Even though it was the first track on the first EP, “I Can’t” doesn’t seem to have changed much in the two years since its first release. I suppose it sounds a little sharper here, but, then again, nothing on that first disc was very crisp.

If I were in charge, I definitely would’ve released the penultimate track, “Lurgee”, as a single. It’s a great, pseudo-psychadelic track that I could totally see myself just trancing out to.

With the constant cymbal grazing, the album’s closer “Blow Out” started off as something of a jazz lounge song. But then came the Radiohead-friendly chorus, followed by some distortion. Personally, I could’ve done without this song and would’ve preferred the album ended a track earlier.

I guess that’s what happens when you finally release a full-length album — you’re bound to have a few misses.

Radiohead – Lurgee

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April 8, 2010

PROJECT RADIOHEAD: Drill EP (1992)

Filed under: Radiohead — assman41 @ 12:01 am

EDITOR’S NOTE: While putting together my best-of-the-decade lists, I noticed there was nary a Radiohead song or album in sight. I realized that’s because I’d never really given them much attention and probably had only listened to one album in its entirety. I decided to rectify that by listening to their entire catalog, so I could finally have an informed opinion on what many consider to be the greatest band of my generation. This is the second entry in the series.

On their second short-play disc, Drill, Radiohead continues to experiment with different influences but also starts to show a more refined sound.

After a soft intro, the opening song, “Prove Yourself”, jumps into a hard, distorted arena normally occupied by bands such as Nirvana. The only difference from their grunge counterparts is the melody Radiohead brings to this tune.

The next track, “Stupid Car”, is the first real slow song the band put out and the first that displays the Radiohead that I know. It’s also my favorite song of theirs so far.

The last two tracks are repeats from their Manic Hedgehog EP. This time around, “You” sounds cleaner with little to no distortion, while “Thinking About You” sounds faster and crisper than the first go-around.

So, through two EPs, I’ve heard seven different songs, and there’s been nary a bad one in the bunch. I look forward to hearing their first LP.

April 1, 2010

PROJECT RADIOHEAD: Manic Hedgehog EP (1991)

Filed under: Radiohead — assman41 @ 12:01 am

EDITOR’S NOTE: While putting together my best-of-the-decade lists, I noticed there was nary a Radiohead song or album in sight. I realized that’s because I’d never really given them much attention and probably had only listened to one album in its entirety. I decided to rectify that by listening to their entire catalog, so I could finally have an informed opinion on what many consider to be the greatest band of my generation. This is the first entry in the series.

I was told by a friend to skip Radiohead’s early stuff and just start with The Bends. But for me to truly appreciate the band, I need to know where it started. If it’s as bad as people think, then maybe that’ll just make the later stuff sound that much better.

As it turns out, Radiohead’s first offering wasn’t bad at all. The Manic Hedgehog EP is only five tracks, but each seems to stand out as having its own vibe and influences.

From the outset, I could tell this was definitely made in the early ’90s. The opening track “I Can’t” reminded me of something you might’ve heard from The Sundays or Deep Blue Something or even the Gin Blossoms.

The next song, “Nothing Touches Me” started with a Bush “Machinehead” opening, but eventually it settled into a something that U2 might’ve put out during the Achtung Baby era.

The album’s middle track, “Thinking About You”, had a definite punk vibe, complete with fast, distorted guitars. Something about the song reminded me of Rancid’s “Story of My Life”, but that might’ve been a stretch.

The penultimate track, the oddly titled “Phillipa Chicken”, definitely came from the early ’90s, but the elements that really stood out are the Beatles-like vocal harmonies and the psychadelic guitars.

The album’s closer, “You”, is the first time we hear that signature, slow, pained Thom Yorke voice. Coupled with some medium-fast, rocking distortion, it’s like a mix between The Cranberries and Pearl Jam maybe.

I bet I could play this album for a Radiohead novice and tell them the five songs are played by five different bands, and they wouldn’t doubt me for a second.

Manic Hedgehog is a really interesting starting point for the band, and I look forward to seeing how it progresses from here.

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