Some folks come to this site strictly for the hip hop articles. Others for the comic book stuff. And still others for the social commentary. We get a lot of disparate readers. While there’s some cross pollination, the hip hop aficionados don’t always know the alt rock joints, and vice versa. So here’s a new series called Primer where we take it upon ourselves to make introductions.
First up, Radiohead, an alternative rock band that formed in England in 1985. Their first record, Pablo Honey, was hardly an indicator of the genius that would follow. In that way, they’re kinda like Beastie Boys, whose best work also spit in the face of their first record. Soon Radiohead would blow critic’s minds with The Bends, and then up the ante again with the classic OK Computer. They got purposefully obscure in the years that followed, taking fans on a roller-coaster of beautiful and quirky innovation.
If you’ve heard the name but don’t know the band, here’s a primer that barely scratches the surface.
1. Creep – Back in the early nineties, my friend Mark picked me up and didn’t say a word. He just put this on and we drove around listening to it on repeat. We knew something just changed in the musical landscape. This wasn’t like anything else on the radio. Ok, it was a bit like “The Air That I Breathe” from the Hollies, insofar as it lifted its chord progression from that tune. Still, this was something wholly other.
2. Fade Out (Street Spirit) – Radiohead, with producer Nigel Godrich in tow, took steroid level leaps and bounds on their second record The Bends. Fade Out (Street Spirit) may not have been a huge radio hit, but its Dust in the Wind quality let the world know this band weren’t your average Brit-Poppers.
3. Let Down – Anyone that likes to roll a fatty and listen to Dark Side of the Moon should throw OK Computer on. A layered masterpiece that shows the band communicating fluidly to each other through the entirety of its 12 tracks.
4. Just – Also from their masterpiece The Bends, Just is the kind of songy-song Radiohead would put aside in favor of more sonic experimentation influenced by Aphex Twin. At least for a few years. This one kicks ass.
5. Reckoner – From their 2008 album In Rainbows, Reckoner was listed as one of the best songs of the decade by Pitchfork and NME and has been covered by folks like Gnarls Barkley.
So consider the introduction made. There are several hundred Radiohead songs out there to sink your teeth into if you liked any of the tracks above. Be fruitful and multiply!
- Thom Yorke (vocals, guitar, sounds)
- Jonny Greenwood (guitar, keyboards, other instruments)
- Ed O’Brien (guitar, backing vocals)
- Colin Greenwood (bass)
- Phil Selway (drums, percussion, backing vocals)
- Pablo Honey (1993)
- The Bends (1995)
- OK Computer (1997)
- Kid A (2000)
- Amnesiac (2001)
- Hail to the Thief (2003)
- In Rainbows (2007)
- The King of Limbs (2011)
- A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)
Janita – Three Songs She’d Love to Have Written
Janita’s newest album Here Be Dragons is another in a progression of finely crafted hymns for the empowered. Whether by love, as in the silky “I Do,” or by subverting expectations, in the Beatlesesque “Not What You’re Used To,” Janita draws on lessons learned during a positively unique career that spans decades and continents. We caught up with Janita on the heels of her latest single “When It’s All Up To You” to find out three songs she’d love to have written.
Elliott Smith — “L.A.”
This is one of my favorite songs by Elliott Smith. I listened to the full album Figure 8 a lot while I was writing the songs on my new album, and it was a huge influence on me both melodically and lyrically. This song in particular has also informed some of the production choices we made later, like the heavier guitars you hear on my song “Not What You’re Used To.”
“L.A.” is incredibly melodic, but there’s an elusive, haunting quality to it. It feels like you’re always trying to reach it, catch up to it somehow. The backing vocals accentuate that feeling. In my mind, the song paints such a vivid picture of the ephemeral, fickle nature of L.A., and the similarly transient nature of the main character. Elliott Smith himself? I don’t know exactly how he does (did) it, but I’m certainly in awe of it.
Radiohead — “There There”
So hypnotic. So badass. Could the production possibly be any cooler? The melody is intricate and beautiful, and I can relate to the lyric from every which angle: as the singer, as the one being sung to, and whether in love relationships, friendships, or with total strangers. The subject matter simply comes up in life in so many ways all the time… I recently tried to express similar notions as I was writing a song, only to remember that it was already done here perfectly. Goddammit.
Punch Brothers — “Julep”
This song is simply magical to me. It’s made me bawl my eyes out at a Punch Brothers concert two separate times. It’s like that viral video that was circulating some years ago of a baby moved to tears when her mom sings a sad tune. I’m that baby when it comes to this song. It simply hits some sort of primal button in me and keeps pressing it until the very end.
While you’re at it, check out Janita’s video for “Digging in the Dirt,” a funky and faithful rendition of the Peter Gabriel classic.
New Music – Bachelor
Jay Som’s Melina Duterte and Palehound’s Ellen Kempner join forces as Bachelor – a musical powerhouse whose new record Doomin’ Sun drops May 28th on Polyvinyl.
Kemper and Duterter recorded the album during two weeks of mutual appreciation in California. Three visceral singles have been released in the lead-up, including the Pixies-flavored “Stay in the Car” and the sprawling “Anything At All.”
Bachelor has also announced the Doomin’ Sun Fest, a one-day livestream featuring Tegan & Sara, Courtney Barnett, Adrianne Lenker, Jeff Tweedy, Japanese Breakfast, Julien Baker, and more.
Self-Serving Interview with Electronic Device Does Little to Advance Musician’s Career
Two men that look suspiciously alike meet outside a fictitious Brooklyn hot-spot – six feet apart.
MC Krispy E: Very nice to meet you. (squints) Have we met before?
Electronic Device: Maybe?
MC Krispy E: Is the rest of the band joining us?
Electronic Device: (pause) I am the rest of the band.
MC Krispy E: You are Electronic Device? What’s that about?
Electronic Device: Uhm, yeah, it’s like a pen name. You know what that is, right?
MC Krispy E: I have some idea.
Electronic Device: It was actually the name of one of my dad’s companies back in the day before…
MC Krispy E: (looking at his watch) Wonderful. So… it says here you have a new single called “All Things Come to an End” inspired by the death of your brother.
Electronic Device: Yeah, after my brother died I recorded songs as a form of therapy in his old bedroom in Staten Island.
MC Krispy E: And now I read that you have cancer. Am I supposed to feel extra sorry for you?
Electronic Device: Uhm…
MC Krispy E: It sounds like this album is going to be super depressing.
Electronic Device: It’s not, I swear. I was looking for some happiness while recording these songs, there’s not much of an agenda beyond that.
Electronic Device: I wasn’t really thinking about influences while recording, but listening back I hear some Concrete Blonde, some Cracker.
MC Krispy: So bands no one is interested in?
Electronic Device: What the hell, man?
MC Krispy: Sorry, it’s almost like I can’t help it. What’s the single about?
Electronic Device: I hate saying what a song is about because everything is up for interpretation.
MC Krispy E: Humor us.
Electronic Device: I can say that “All Things Come to an End” has multiple narrators, some of which are unreliable.
MC Krispy E: (stares)
Electronic Device: And that one day I was at my Dad’s house and when I turned the corner into the hallway my Dad thought I was my brother for a moment, which was super sad because of course I couldn’t be.
MC Krispy E: And then you wrote a whole song about that.
Electronic Device: I guess so. When you put it that way…
MC Krispy E: (yawning) Tell us when the single come out.
Electronic Device: The single is out now. The album comes out in 2021.
MC Krispy E: Well, good for you. And good luck with that cancer thing.
Electronic Device: Yeah, you too.
MC Krispy E: Thanks. What?