White Man Feels Important, Discusses Radiohead Album On Blog No One Reads

Like the vast majority of Radiohead fans, I went spare with excitement hearing the news of new material being released. Excellent, Radiohead will fix everything I thought. Was everything broken? Didn’t fucking matter, Radiohead were releasing music. But that’s ages ago I hear you say. You’re right. I heard you, but I heard nothing about any reviews save people’s acclamation of Burn The Witch.

Up to the point of writing this “review” I had not come across any reviews nor had I heard anything good or bad from my friends, the majority of which would be devout disciples to St Thom et al. Indeed, I had no idea what it was called. Only when I went cheap-arsing my way through Spotify to give a listen to the rest of the album did I find out its name, A Moon-Shaped Pool, and I worried at how much they were planning to get away with on this release.

Radiohead have in the past gotten away with all sorts, be it some of the questionable choices on Hail To The Thief (The use of laser guns in some of the songs) or the absolute prick-acting that Thom Yorke can get away with and still be beloved by the well-kept masses that are the Radiohead fandom. Even the experimenting he does with his voice can be seen at times to be disrespectful, with moments where his voice is more akin to a drunken-baby instead of focusing on melodic construction. Would he and they be feck-acting with this album?

They feck-acted with the last one, King of Limbs being one of the most irritating blip-bloppy start-stoppy scuts of an album that was only half-redeemed by its second half. There I go again, being a Radiohead fan, looking to forgive their faults. And King of Limbs was a fault. I will have that discussion with anyone. But, alas, alack and indeed as well, what would this album hold?

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He looks delighted with himself anyways. For a change.

Before I bought the album all I had were Burn The Witch and Daydreaming to go by. The former was a great piece, strings being used to great effect and Thom Yorke deciding to sing like he used to rather than the arse-boxing he has done of late. A true return to form of creating good solid sons with a bit of an edge. But the latter…

Well, Daydreaming gave us a large problem. Gone was the crisp efficiency of Burn The Witch and what had replaced it was a sloshing six minutes of mawkish nostalgia-driven sad tear sounds as Yorke cried a bit like a little haunted ghost lost inside a school boy’s throat. Nothing wrong with crying, or being a ghost, it was just that this isn’t very good crying.

Track three, Decks Dark, is a harmless and at times gorgeously basic with great key work guiding the song along until a little choral ghost – get used to them – brings it to another level, a better one but with more of a sinister tone behind “It was just a laugh, just a laugh, just a laugh.” My love of the laugh might cloud my judgement when I say it is a good song, but it certainly is one of the album’s best, given it’s well arranged, produced and recorded.  

An acoustic guitar greets us as Desert Island Disk plays, maybe the first time one has been heard for a while. The song does the best impression of Within You Without You of the 21st Century so far. It being the oddest of the bunch of tracks together, but still it holds its place. The album does make sense, everything is in its right place – hey, hey! – but it can suffer from over-stuffing the turkey, per say. And even having said that, it did seem over-written or over-wrought.

“You really messed up everything.”

No, not Thom Yorke’s own review of the album, this is the refrain in Ful Stop, a song that sounds like an automatic bin opening and closing repeatedly as someone learns how to play Stand Up (Sit Down) nearby and gets angrier and angrier as time passes as they realise their friend has learned Climbing Up The Walls. A quite acceptable jam happens in the middle eight – like I know what that means – but instead of capping off the song with an ending to make it redeemable, it just reverts back to little choral ghosts falling slowly back and forth in front of microphones with no deadliness.

A great song for a sad bit in an indie film? Glass Eyes. That is it. It’s a bad version of Give Up The Ghost. Fuck. FUCK.

Anything following Glass Eyes was sure to be better? Surely? A dirty bit of bass opens Identikit before downstairs Thom Yorke is busy in the bathroom, mumbling about all the cans he drank as upstairs Thom Yorke sings “I don’t want to know” him being a teetotaller and all. I think at least. Then some guitar and synth along with little singing ghosties being it to another place again, giving it a bit of grit and drawing the focus away from a sobering-up downstairs Thom Yorke. A fine ending, “Broken hearts make it rain” – a metaphor for something, I’d guess. Fucked if I know. There’s a cracking bit of guitar though to make Johnny Marr feel like a fool.

The Numbers is unfortunately not about the Lotto, but it is in fact a relaxed affair, with a steady and familiar chord progression – Talk Show Host for grown-ups, anyone? – and a vocal that is “normal” and relaxes you, as the overall sound and arrangement tends towards a Rick Wright affair you sleep to. That is of course before the strings light up the track and give the song an ending worthy of the sleeping giant quality the song itself holds. One to see live, surely. One of the best numbers on the album. Pun not intended. My apologies.

Just when things are going well, there he goes again at the start of Present Tense, dressed up in Ed O’Brien’s mother’s bedsheets like a little choral ghost, running around the studio, going “OOhoooooohhhhhooohhhh”.  The song’s intro, at least, written directly after they were lied to by someone who said King of Limbs was a good idea. And throughout the song he keeps repeating on himself in off-kilter moments that nearly overshadow the great music that actually is happening behind his pessimistic mutterings. It seemed to be forever filling a glass hat was already full.

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My review?

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True Love Waits is a song that would be nothing new to Radiohead fans, having appeared on the great I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings. Here though, it does sound a bit… different. Instead of the powerful, bare bones and soul and acoustic guitar heart-blast of a song, it now is more a binary code reading of emotion. The Guardian said that the “piano, vocals and percussion that sounds like a beetle using a typewriter” and I have to ask, is that a good thing?

The overall point I think I took from it was that there seemed to be a never-ending need for there something always to happening in each recording. Instead of letting something breathe, or elaborating on a great section of instrumentation, they delayed or distorted lyrics, or had ghosts wail without end but with plenty of echo which, all in all, created a definite atmosphere that you cannot go around or get away from.

Yes, of course, bands can evolve even without my white permission to do so, and they can change their sound and style and set up and anything else beginning with “s” but if I were not to judge this album by their past achievements I don’t think I could or would give it a second or third listen. They have created some of the best sounds of the past 20 years without doubt, but these songs are hardly of that quality. To put it another way, Dwight Yorke of the late 90s would’ve walked on to many teams. By the mid-00s, he could barely walk. But boy could he smile.

And with this scathing opinion, I have to ask myself a more important question; do I even actually like Radiohead?

Pray for me.

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That Was A Very Good Eurovision

Ah, the Eurovision.

If there is one thing that can not only preserve the Union but hold the Euro currency steady it surely is the Eurovision. The latest installment took place over three days, Tuesday 10th, Thursday 12th, and Saturday 14th of February. You can’t get it on Netflix, can ya, ha? Pure cocaine-laced sugar dust for anyone who half-likes music but not too seriously was placed before us in three-minute bursts and there was not a child in any house washed.

I sat down to watch Thursday’s semi-final and was pleasantly surprised at the relatively fine quality of the songs on display. There was a Bulgarian Power Ranger Rihanna, an Australian on a futuristic box singing a finely bland song, and a Georgian band who were what would happen if Star Sailor had a hape of cans, listened to Franz Ferdinand and then played Killers covers.

There was the Irish entry that not only did not qualify but had the continent collectively scratch their heads and ask “Is that Ronan Keating?”

It wasn’t, it was Nicky Byrne, bless his cotton socks and wet sock of a haircut.

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Sing? Ah, SING! If only we thought of that…

Listening to the radio the following day, there were the obvious, knee-jerk and pig-ignorant reactions that ranged from song-writers insisting that they would write a better song to people insisting that we “should withdraw from the competition because we’ll never win it again and sure it’s all full of foreign countries now and that’s how 9/11 changed everything.” (I believe this to be an exact quote from a disgruntled Liveline caller. gotta love dat irish folk yo)

At this point, I am glad that the country hasn’t experienced anything massively bad because if the reaction to this Eurovision is anything to go by, well… I’ll just say I don’t think we’d handle it too well.

But, Nicky Byrne’s song, even with him giving the best he could give, and really enjoying it, and everything else RTÉ employees said about his performance, as well as not taking any fee for it as it coincidentally was happening parallel to his solo career launch, was not fine enough to rise above the other fine songs there. It was quite bland.

It was a like a bad version of Beautiful Day. A really, REALLY bad version.

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No plane in sight.

Ukraine won with their not-too-subtle song about Russia slaughtering people in Crimea entitled 1944 and you know what, fair play to them. I didn’t strike me as anything mad, but I might have been experiencing Eurovision fatigue by the time Jamala took the stage. Even though I annually cod myself into thinking I can do otherwise, one can only take so much Euro-pop and still hold their full attention on the broadcast.

That is, of course, until some Cypriots wake you up with distortion.

The real winner I felt was us, the viewers – oh, how quaint, Paul.

Not only was the average standard absolutely fine, stretching at times to be grand and even good, the broadcast was a real achievement on the side of the Swedes. The presenters, Petra Mede and Måns Zelmerlöw, had me at “Hello Europe!” on Tuesday at which point on stage right a curtain dropped and revealed Europe, the pop band, playing The Final Countdown. “No, no, not Europe the band, we mean Europe the continent!” They stopped playing. “That was embarrassing, we apologise.”

The humour never dropped from that point on, being showcased in the hilarious Nerd Nation Documentary, showing how something already ridiculous can be made funny. A particular highlight was the third part and the Loreen street kids who “just wanna hang out and listen to Euphoria. And other well known Loreen songs.”

The skill of their comedic execution was fully realised in the great song of Peace Peace Love Love that if nothing else, was certainly funnier than Riverdance. And Justin Timberlake is an adequate substitute for Michael Flatley, absolutely.

The opening act to the second semi-final was the gateway into the show’s comedy but the fact that it was funny, the entire show, independent of liking Eurovision or not and also that it worked so well shows the effort love and care that was put into it from all angles. I was rooting for Sweden and their fine song just so they could present it again, but then again it would only, as they sing, “bankrupt the hosting TV station.”

So, Ukraine next year. Not for me. Can it top this one? They have a year to prep. As does everyone else to see how they would combat the new scoring system which was introduced this year to heighten tensions. It worked alright.

It also worked on keeping the win confined to the continent at least, as under the previous year’s rules Australia would have romped home with the win, and Poland wouldn’t have gotten such a good score for such a pap song. Now that’s a talking point too. All’s changed, changed utterly.

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