Album Of The Week – In Rainbows Disc 2 / Radiohead

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Yep, this was released back in 2007, but has made a surprise release on streaming services. The timing is odd, but then again, Radiohead have been significantly more generous when it comes to Apple Music and Spotify recently. It’s also going to be good news for anyone that had no idea this existed – I’d owned In Rainbows for at least a year before finding out there was a second disk. As the title suggests, it’s a continuation of In Rainbows, but has an off-cuts compilation style. That’s not to say these songs are any less good, some of the songs on here, specifically ‘Go Slowly’ and ‘Four Minute Warning’ could have easily replaced a song like ‘Faust Arp’ on disc 1 (the song does nothing for me). It emphasises a creative peak for Radiohead, as always they were overflowing with songs, but it’s hard to find a weak link on In Rainbows, plus it actually sounds like a band that were having fun for the first time in their career. There were no limits by their label, who they’d cut themselves off from, there was the entire ‘pay-what-you-want’ innovation, and nobody had any idea where they would go after the musical collage of Hail To The Thief. In response, they combined the more electronic elements that made up Kid A and Amnesiac with the rock side of HTTF. If anything, Disc 2 gave Radiohead the option to go slightly experimental again, with ambient interludes that recall ‘Treefingers’ spliced with snippets of the In Rainbows sessions. It’s hugely underrated, but maybe it’ll receive some more attention now that it is on a broader platform.

‘Last Flowers’ could have been ‘Videotape’, easily. It’s breathtaking in the same way, incorporating an acoustic guitar over Thom Yorke and a piano – essentially revisiting the ‘How I Made My Millions’ style. In Rainbows is interesting because it was infinitely less political than their last few albums, but didn’t go back to the personal side of Pablo Honey or The Bends because Yorke was also bringing in the more leftfield style that scattered Kid A and Amnesiac. He marries ‘appliances have gone berserk’ with a line so simple as ‘You can offer me escape’ (it’s actually hard to tell whether it’s ‘can’ or ‘can’t’). Yorke can often write songs that require interpretation and reading into, but he also has a knack for a simple line in the middle of more wordy verses, and it can stand out hugely – in a very good way. It’s a shame that songs like ‘Last Flowers’ don’t get the proper album treatment, but in a strange way, isn’t it more exciting to stumble upon ‘Last Flowers’ whilst combing YouTube for lost recordings? Maybe that’s the appeal of being a Radiohead fan, you’ve never found all the gems, there’s always another live version you haven’t heard yet.

‘Bangers + Mash’ and ‘Go Slowly’ will be familiar to anyone who watched the Basement session Radiohead did for In Rainbows and The King Of Limbs. ‘Bangers + Mash’ is the one where Yorke actually plays drums alongside Phil Selway whilst Jonny Greenwood gets the chance to properly rock out once again. ‘Go Slowly’ is the tearjerker where Jonny Greenwood plays those crystalline piano notes. Both show how Radiohead really could go where they wanted to at this point and were under no obligation to either write a scathing political electronic freak-out or a back-to-the-basics rock songDisc 2 serves best as a slowed-down EP that blooms on the piano-based tracks, of which there are plenty. Arguably the guitar works better on ‘Up On The Ladder’ than ‘Bangers + Mash’, despite the emphasis on the distorted sharp teeth of ‘Bangers’. It sounds more menacing on ‘Up On The Ladder’ and with Colin Greenwood’s bass much more prominent it becomes scary. Yorke paints life as a game of snakes and ladders, and I think when he says he’s a puppet, he imagines someone is playing with him in the game, it’s never his choice as to where he goes next, as someone much higher always has the dice. The song could have easily slotted onto Hail To The Thief.

It’s an interesting mini-album/EP. It was the first and last time that Radiohead attempted to do something like this, and that’s interesting. Of course many bands write songs for albums that don’t end up making the cut, but if they are ‘good’, then why not release them in some other form. The only other band I can think of off the top of my head that did something similar was Modest Mouse’s Interstate 8 and Building Something Out Of Nothing. But this feels more meticulous than just a compilation of songs from an era, it sounds like a continuation, and maybe this ‘Disc 2’ system has been overshadowed by the other innovation that Radiohead presented when releasing In Rainbows. Should every band release another mini-album a couple of months after the original with more songs from the session? Probably not, but in the case of bands that are prolific and/or consistently write good songs, it could be the case. Disc 2 is one of the best non-album collections that Radiohead have released, an essential part of what could be considered their We-Have-Nothing-Left-To-Prove trilogy of In Rainbows, The King Of Limbs and A Moon Shaped Pool. Also, while we’re on the subject of In Rainbows, listen to ‘Videotape’ backwards, you’ll have a lot of fun.

Funnel Recommends: Go Slowly / Last Flowers / Up On The Ladder

New Music – Real Thing / Pale Honey

Pale Honey have wasted no time preparing a new album, blending classic rock guitars once again with a rhythm section that isn’t afraid to deploy a Kills-like electric setup or even a cowbell every now and again. That combination brings the roll back into rock ‘n’ roll, it’s something you can actually dance to whilst rocking out simultaneously. It seems so wrong to splice the old and the new so strongly, but it really works and though it’s not original, it’s never done enough (what does originality even mean any more anyway?). It’s got bits of the Kills in, as said before, but the ‘oohs’ and generally the vocals are like Warpaint decided to become a hard rock band. If that’s not enough to get you interested, we don’t know what will.

New Music – Modern Act / Cloud Nothings

Dylan Baldi is one of those indie-rock musicians that graduated from bedroom-rock-pop act into something much more intense and physical, especially their 2012 album Attack On Memory, which was worlds away from songs like ‘Forget You All The Time’. Since then, Baldi has recruited an even fuller band, and on ‘Modern Act’ attempts to bridge some of the intensity of the last two records with their poppy side. It seems directly descended from 90s rock, from the breezy, jangly opening guitar chords and quiet-loud-quiet formula. Baldi criticises the ‘modern act’, he feels like living is just being overwhelmed by everything, gods and wars and ‘count your friends’. It’s not like he’s given up though, he wants a life, it’s just a completely unattainable ideal. It’s a switchup from the last record, and much more enjoyable for it.

New Music – Just Your Fool / The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones could easily sit back and play world tours for the rest of their career, but here’s an album full of blues covers. It’s a funny concept in 2016, it’s like if Kanye decided to do an album of classic Hip-Hop covers – no-one would mind, but it’s just kind of unusual. But this is the Rolling Stones, who were around in the era when a big band could do a cover album. I have no idea if the Rolling Stones have approached this blues-cover idea before, but if they haven’t, it’s long overdue. It makes sense. ‘Just Your Fool’ could be easily mistaken for an original Stones song, it’s got harmonica solos, plinky-plonky pianos and casual death threats at the possibility of losing a lover. All in a day’s work.

New Music – Around The World / Kings Of Leon

Kings of Leon have now pumped out three singles in anticipation of their new album, Walls, the immediate-pop-first-single ‘Waste A Moment’ and the slower, acoustic-led title track. And to be honest, it’s not been horrifically bad (but was there any chance that Kings Of Leon would deliver anything other than pristine pop-rock?). ‘Around The World’ arguably could’ve been the first single, riding the closest to a dance beat they’ve ever got and has the kind of brittle, snappy guitars that drew them comparisons to the Strokes early on. WALLS is already looking a hell of a lot better than Mechanical Bull.

New Music – Waste A Moment / Kings Of Leon

It’s weird to think that Kings Of Leon have now been a big arena band for more albums than they were an aspiring arena band. They’ve perfected a sound, even if it has become tiring to hear over and over again. And even if they promised to let go of some of those dad-rock-isms that covered Mechanical Bull and Come Around Sundown, ‘Waste A Moment’ is no return to garage rock basics, and it’s probably for the best – this sound does suit them. The Kings have always been good with feel good guitar-pop singles, that’s just their strong point. ‘Waste A Moment’ is the good single that ‘Supersoaker’ and ‘Radioactive’ were. It’s got everything you need in a modern Kings of Leon song – massive choruses, clean guitars, sparkly production, ‘Woah-ohs’. I don’t think you could ask for any more really, and at least it gets straight to the point.

New Music – Fast Silver / TOY

Toy got a lot more interesting when they collaborated with Bat For Lashes’ Natasha Khan on their Sexwitch album last year, which broke free of shoegaze revivalism for something a bit more untamed and tribal. And much like Khan on her latest album The Bride, TOY’s new album after the Sexwitch project makes minor changes on the old style, rather than the psychedelic pounding that they could have incorporated into their sound easily. Granted, there’s much less ‘swirl’ on ‘Fast Silver’, and it’s very easily to splice up drums, shimmering guitars, vocals and bass instead of what can usually be a splat of noise. There’s a synth that blares throughout that you can make out from the rest, and a bit of a cowboy swagger to it. It has more in common with classic blues-rock than My Bloody Valentine, and that’s very exciting. Minor adjustments, but necessary.

Album Of The Week – Night On The Sun / Modest Mouse

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A Night On The Sun is neither a new release or an album, but has been reissued by Isaac Brock’s label, Glacial Pace. It was initially a precursor to their third album, The Moon And Antarctica, and fittingly covers the same topics that Brock and co. were into at the time, mostly space and humanity. They had evolved from the punkiness of The Lonesome Crowded West and had added more layers to their music, incorporating the acoustic guitar that would fill up Brock’s first (and only) solo album as Ugly Casanova. It doesn’t have the same forceful impact; Isaac Brock doesn’t strain his vocals as much as he did on ‘Shit Luck’, but instead of shouting his words through, he has to sharpen them to have more of an impression. ‘You were the dull sound of sharp math when you were alive / no one’s gonna play the harp when you die’ springs to mind on the otherwise peaceful ‘Lives’, which brings the acoustic guitar right to the front. Modest Mouse had done this before, both with acoustic guitar and banjo, but those were moments of quiet like ‘Bankrupt On Selling’, not these drops of knowledge and criticism.

It’s confusing how the lead song didn’t end up on The Moon And Antarctica, and even though it comes in at 9 and a half minutes, an edited version didn’t show up either, which is strange as it has some of the strongest imagery Brock has ever come up with: ‘Freeze your blood and then stab it into, in two / Stab your blood into me and blend’ and ‘There’s one thing to know about this earth / We’re put here just to make more dirt and that’s okay’. Simultaneously, Modest Mouse conquer the otherworldly questions and the most basic human needs. The ‘blood’ might seem like an unusual metaphor, but the references to blood, stabbing and merging are ways of voicing a desire to be close to someone else, so close that you are literally the blood running through their veins; blood that is a combination of theirs and yours. ‘Night On The Sun’ might be the most traditional Modest Mouse song on the EP, with the ambling guitar line, crescendos and Jeremiah Green’s drumming.

It’s probably key to remember that A Night On The Sun was initially just a demo tape for Modest Mouse’s new major label Epic, so the 18 second track of Jeremiah Green speaking Japanese, or the inferior version of ‘Lives’, needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. ‘Wild Pack Of Family Dogs’ is exactly the same, but both the title track and ‘You’re The Good Things’ got left off The Moon And Antarctica. Therefore, it’s a mish-mash, like a lot of Modest Mouse EPs tend to be. There’s so many, with so much crossover that they sometimes seem like tying up loose ends, which is probably what they are. But often there are gems in the middle, like the title track of this EP, or ‘Summer’ on The Fruit That Ate Itself. 

Funnel Recommends: Night On The Sun / You’re The Good Things / Lives

New Music – Silent Movie Susie / The Big Moon

The Big Moon have quietly been building up their selection of singles, and mostly they haven’t lost any quality since the first track they ever released: ‘Eureka Moment’. ‘Silent Movie Susie’ is missing something, maybe it’s ‘Cupid’s grandness or the rockiness of ‘Sucker’, but it definitely lacks something. Along with ‘Cupid’, it is their most radio-ready, but then again, the Big Moon have always been a band with bigger aspirations than underground success. If it lacks something, it does not lack ‘whoos’. The Big Moon are a whoo-worthy band, and if you’ve come for whoos, ‘Silent Movie Susie’ has got them to spare. The song has come in the middle of summer, so when they sing ‘Come back for the summer’, it feels like the kind of breezy pop they’ve just been waiting to release. The Big Moon are starting to develop their own sound; you know the sound of that organ in the background, you know the whoos are coming.

New Music – Skeleton / Screaming Females

It’s a shame that ‘Skeleton’ didn’t make the cut for Screaming Female’s last album, Rose Mountain, but that’s ok, because now we’re getting it – and a bunch of other offcuts – in a deluxe version. As if you didn’t need another reminder that Screaming Females are a contender for best rock band in the world that not enough people have heard (Along with Pile), Skeleton comes along blurring the lines between the most technically proficient rock and punk. Then you’ve got Marissa Paternoster completely shredding up her voice for the chorus. The epic guitar solo is completely necessary. It’s scarily good that a song like ‘Skeleton’ has to be kicked off the regular tracklist.