Archive for June, 2006

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Smashing Pumpkins – Bullet With Butterfly Wings (EP)/Zero (EP)

June 24, 2006


There are few bands that I have seen that have more B-Sides than Smashing Pumpkins. It’s actually kind of ridiculous. The band actually only made one b-sides collection, and that was released right before Siamese Dream and was named Pisces Iscariot. For the record, the band also has a lot of really really good b-sides. During the span of the Mellon Collie era, the band released quite a few EP-single thinies. I’m pretty sure there were five. If I’m right and there were five, I think they were for Bullet With Butterfly Wings, Zero, Tonight Tonight, 1979, and Thirty Three. I could only grab a few through the library, but what I got I was very pleased with. I have to say, for one of my favorite bands, despite the fact that fans have a reason to be angry about the silence as of late, they can surely be satisfied by such a huge amount of songs that float around on EPs, Singles, bootlegs, etc. The band almost invites people to become obsessed, because there is so much to be obsessed about.

The Bullet EP is pretty good, if nothing else because it captures the band in all sorts of different states. More than half the disk is covers, which is kind of cool, because the band doesn’t actually do a whole lot of covering elsewhere. But yeah, the title track is obviously golden. A real classic of radio, and probably the bands most popular song. …Said Sadly is also a really good song, and was actually written by James Iha, the bands guitar player (well, along with Billy Corgan). He has always sort of been my favorite pumpkin, for some reason. Yeah, Billy is always up there writing stuff and singing and playing guitar, but once and a while you get a knockout almost folky or country performance from James. I have Let It Come Down, his solo album, and it’s really good. I might do a review on that later. It’s just that good. Anyway, this is a duo with some girl. Doesn’t really matter who she is. This might have faired better on Mellon Collie than Take Me Down. It would be a better transition into the next disk, I’m sure of that. It’s a beautiful song, but hey, most of the stuff he writes is good. Just very calm and country-ish. I have to admit, it’s sort of a guilty pleasure to listen to this kind of song, but I can’t help but grin when I hear it.

Clones (We’re All) is a happy cover, maybe the best on this disk. It plugs along at a very happy pace and features a lot of the signature guitar effects of the band, with this little quick chords in the background. Billys voice is in really good shape here, and I think that’s great. I mean, I can see why this was left off of Mellon Collie, because it is just kind of built like a b-side is ususally built, but it’s still just so good. That’s the kind of thing that I mentioned before about SMP. They have such a vast number of b-sides and outtakes and live stuff that it’s hard to keep track of. Some of the best b-sides aren’t even on EPs or singles. But this one is very good. A Night Like This has James on vocals again. It’s okay, it’s kind of got a quiet more minor thing going on. And I really admire the drum part here for some reason. The drums are always so essential in SMP tunes, even if they are simple.

Destination Unknown is a very electronic song. It kind of progresses in the same way that Clones does. I like it, but not really that much. It gets weird later on. And Dreaming is very very good. It has both D’arcy and Billy on vocals. I kind of like D’arcys voice. The lesser known knockout track on Gish was Daydream which also had her voice, and that was just fabulous. This is sort of a trance inducing electronic song, and I like it a lot.

The Zero EP is pretty good too. Of course the title track is phoenomenal, probably my favorite SMP song ever. Billy Corgans sneering voice works perfectly to make this the most grindingly tough song the band has ever made in my opinion, and even makes the song a little sensual, if you can believe it. But no one would ever buy a Smashing Pumpkins EP for a track that is already on an essential album. God is a good one, yes. It is sort of like Zero in some ways. It seems to be in the same key, or at least have simmilar ideas, but with that comes some kind of sacrifice. Even if you have the same ideas as Zero, it’s impossible to be better than Zero. So it doesn’t really fall flat on it’s face, but it fumbles. The entire “God” lyrical score gets old after a little while, but it’s catchy and a fan favorite.

Mouthes of Babes is okay. It’s got a typical progression, but the tune is sort of more trudging. It’s good though. But not really that great. It just seems like nothing that can’t be heard on Mellon Collie. But the real standout tune here is Tribute To Johnny, basically a tough and glorius jam session. No lyrics here, and that’s good. The dueling rhythm and solo guitars make this essential material, and a song that easily should have been on Mellon Collie. It’s honestly enough to sell this EP, at least I think. I mean, it’s just really really good. When I get into my oldschool Nintendo mood, I always whip out Battletoads for GB, and this is by far the best tune to play that game to. You just feel like you want to put on a cape and go around fighting crime and riding a motorcycle when you hear this. The gritty guitar riffs later on are gold.

Next is Marquis In Spades. Basically just another Mouths of Babes, really. Not that standout. I’m not even going to give this one more than a few sentences, because it’s just not standout. It’s good, yeah. I mean, it’s great. So is Mouths of Babes, but they are simmilar and not really that individual to get that much attension. Pennies is also another gem. This probably deserved to be on Mellon Collie too. But it almost seems out of place here. To complement the anger in the other tracks? No, this is way to gentle to be on this EP and a switchup would have been good, but honestly, no one cares about how an EP “flows.” They care about the actual songs on the EP. And this is just fantasticly beautiful. Even the lyrics are touching. It seems like even though Billy, or more likely his fictional character, has moved on from a relationship, he still shows respect and reminisces gently. “I always loved you so/especially when you go/all the world must know.” That’s just classic SMP, and the most classic SMP is the quieter stuff that has more room to move.

Pastichio Medley is sort of tacked onto the end of the EP as a little bonus to fans. But it’s hardly necessary, even for the most hardcore of fans. It is basically snipits of what seems like fifty or so SMP b-sides and outtakes that never made it onto any EPs or albums or anything. Most of them just seem like jam sessions with names, but that is okay. The fact that the band could put a least a name on any given jam session is a good sign that they cared enough about their own music to at least put it somewhere. So maybe if you are really really hardcore into Smashing Pumpkins, this might be a little bit cool, but also useless considering you can’t really find more than a few of these tracks, if any, anywhere else. So it doesn’t really satisfy. I would have much rather had a full length high quality b-side than this, and I’m sure there was enough at the time to spare one, or at least a full version of one of the songs presented here.

Scaling the SMP library for bad songs is hard enough. But searching it for bad b-sides is admittedly harder than you would think. Yes, if you dig deep enough you will find lower quality stuff on Mashed Potatoes and other collections, but the band just had a solid career, and that even shows in their lesser known songs.

So what of a Smashing Pumpkins reunion later in the year? Billy Corgan is killing me, man. I’m trying to be patient. It’s not like I have staged any protests or anything, or even done anything more than mutter to myself about how Mr. Corgan needs to, at the very least, keep the fans posted more. I know something is going on. I have heard rumors that Billy has signed on to a major label as SMP, and the new site up at smashingpumpkins.com is official enough to let us know that Billy is at least in some sort of contract. But the waiting is always the hardest part. Beyond that, the fact that James Iha and D’arcy Wretsky may not be involved hardly constitutes this as a reunion. Actually, as a friend of mine said, it doesn’t AT ALL. It’s really more of a get-together. Of course, I am excited whenever Billy creates music, but I think his ego and attitude tends to get in the way of what people think of him. I’m sure everyone would be less annoyed if he was on better terms with people other than Jimmy, and if he was keeping us posted more.

Aaaaaanyywaaay… I’ll be pleasently suprised either way. The only ways I would not be pleased with the situation are if he ends up not releasing anything at all (very unlikely) and if he releases utter crap, and knowing Billy, this hasn’t even really crossed my mind.

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The Jesus And Mary Chain – Honey's Dead

June 20, 2006

While Psychocandy saw The Jesus and Mary Chain gaining the most popularity, Honey’s Dead is clearly a superior album. A little over halfway into the bands career, the Reid duo still hasn’t grown out of the film of feedback and guitar fuzz that covered Psychocandy, but they do refine this style, and in the process find ways to make an actual full fledged transforming album as opposed to glorious albums of treats like Psychocandy and Darklands (as good as they were). What is really interesting about this album is the undeniable feeling that the tracks eminate, and that is a feeling of sunny apathy that ended up being a staple of the 90s. So it’s no suprise that Honey’s Dead came out in the middle of this rush of grunge and britpop. It just sounds like it did, but even if this is an album that very much follows in the footsteps of other albums that were more popular and influential, it still has a level of sophistication that few other albums at the time could achieve. The laser precision rhythm mixed with still outwardly brilliant pop hooks make this The Chains best album, and one of the better albums from it’s time.

One undeniable quality of this album is the beat and how precise it is. Sometimes the effect is almost hypnotic, because the tamborines and quick drumbeats subdivide the song so much that the listener doesn’t have to do any subconcious work to keep up. This is exactly the case with the opening track, Reverence, which plugs along with a shockingly exact beat, and also finds a great way to incorporate the bands signature guitar feedback to make a sound that isn’t sure if it wants to be lazy or not. In any case, the sneering Reid’s lyrics “I wanna die just like Jesus Christ/I wanna die on a bed of spikes” is unbelievably likeable even considering the subject matter. Which is great even after the song spins into a trance like dance solo later on. This is also the case with a later track called Sugar Ray. From the very start, the guitar effects follow the beat really well, and the song opens up into a flat out club beat that is hard to not dance or at least tap your toes or nod your head to.

There are a few tracks that especially open up the rest of the album in their climbing easygoing nature, such as Catchfire and Teenage Lust, but beyond that, there are still tons of tracks that exemplify the bands earliest strength for flat out hooks, but here, they are louder, faster, and more clear, if not a little bit more confident in some areas too. These such songs are Tumbledown, I Can’t Get Enough, and the distinguishably brilliantly Far Gone And Out, which perfectly demonstrates how lyrics can really make or break a song. Needless to say, they completely make this song, and the two parts of instrumental energy and vocal prowess are fantastic.

There are some slower songs like Good For My Soul, which almost shadows both Darklands and Stoned And Dethroned at the same time. And the true conclusive song is Sundown, which would totally wrap up the album if it came last, but The Chain knowns better than to be that truly predictable. But the real, complete winner on this album is the one of a kind track that is placed near the beginning, and no other song on the album really comes close to what it does, or even attempts as much as it does. That song is Almost Gold, a flat out love song, dotted with bell like effects, guitar noise imitating violins (I suppose they could actually be violins though, but it doesn’t seem like it), a yet again killer beat, and a touching guitar strum that pulls everything together. This is the true gem on this album, and it really makes you wonder why the title of the album would have the word “dead” in it.

Yes, albums like Psychocandy and Darklands might be more rewarding after a longer period of time, but this is hands down the most tightly constructed and accessible album the chain has made, and there is no denying the power that each individual song has as opposed to the breakneck pace of the bands previous albums to just throw out tunes that the listener should take in as a whole. No matter how the band operated, they always produced gold, and this is the most smooth and tasty work the band ever did.

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Soundgarden – A-Sides

June 15, 2006

As Sub-Pop founder Jonathan Poneman says in the liner notes of Soundgardens greatest hits collection “A-Sides,” it is a little ridiculous to even attempt to make such a collection. In 1997 when this collection was released, the band just got done with an extremely varied career spanning about ten years, and the disk does summarize this time fairly well, considering that a balance does need to be made. In the earlier reaches of Soundgardens musical library, most of the tracks, even the more accessible ones, are hard rocking trance inducing grunge. They were the first grunge band to get onto a major label anyway, but even so, it’s hard to pick out the better tracks from the era when all of their material could be favorites by different people. And it is also hard to pick out the best material from Badmotorfinger and Superunknown, when it could be argued that all of the songs were hits and worthy of making it onto the disc. But without the nitpicking, this is a pretty good collection, demonstrating a lot of the greatest moments from one of modern rocks greatest bands.

The first order of business for a Greatest Hits collection of Soundgarden would be to sift through the bands older releases and find the material with the best hooks, most radio play, and most accessible nature. Once again, this timeframe still shows Soundgarden as a more underground band, concentrating on the hypnotic riffing and sludgey sound that founded grunge. But even then, I can’t really understand why Nothing To Say was included here. It’s a good song, yes, but from the early EPs of the band, it’s not the strongest track, and as far as I know, it didn’t get the most radio play. Its a slow moving track that sort of opens up the more and more you listen to it. Of course we have Flower from Ultramega OK, which is a smarter choice than it’s predecessor, mostly because it shows that the band still had a lot of room to develop and branch out into more psychedelic type songs. The beat here is marchable, and the guitar part is a combination of classic alternative rock and an almost eastern swirl from riff-master and guitar god Kim Thayil.

Then we move on to the development stages of the band, where the albums get a little less consistant, but the stronger tracks only keep getting better. Loud Love is a keeper, deffinitely, and it actually sort of plays like Nothing To Say in some ways, in that it is a very rugged tune. As far as the sound goes, you can tell that the band is at least thinking about taking some of the echo off of frontman Chris Cornells voice, and almost wants to push it out in the front just a tad more, but it just isn’t quite ready yet. Which actually makes this an essential track, because it is still a really kick ass song anyway, and it really does capture that transitional sound. Next is the fan favorite and sort of breakthrough hit Hands All Over. It broods with the psychedelic openness of Flower and also the hard rocking sound of Loud Love, and it actually puts the two worlds together really well. It also has the laser precision of some of the bands later material, and just like Loud Love, captures the band in a fantastic album of change, actually talking about something serious in todays world. This is just a great example of how the grunge movement strived to be sort of like the new counterculture, but this time wouldn’t let themselves be pushed around. Get On The Snake is also another really good one, but probably could have been sacrificed for Full on Kevin’s Mom.

And then of course we have some tunes from Badmotorfinger, the album that really put the band on the map in 1991, along with Pearl Jam and Nirvana. But the tracks are put in reverse order, which is kind of strange, but is deffinitely okay, because Jesus Christ Pose is the real ass kicker to complement the sound of the earlier stuff. But with this song, everything is just better than the earlier stuff. The production is ten times better on Badmotorfinger than it was on Ultramega OK and Louder Than Love, and it doesn’t get much more clearer that grunge is angry than in this song. Outshined is another essential, because of the sheer skill involved in making that hook and complementing it with an optimistic bassline and an outwardly happy beat. And of course there is Rusty Cage, with it’s progressive shredding, but that track was always an essential anyway, so there was no arguement that it would be included here. Unfortunately, a fourth track is not presented from Badmotorfinger.

Like one is on Superunknown. The album is almost obviously the bands best album, and considering almost every song on it was a radio hit to some degree, it’s really hard to pick out the absolute best. But the ones that made it were the vastly popular Spoonman, the trudging groove of The Day I Tried To Live, the beautiful Black Hole Sun, and the sad Fell On Black Days. The selections from this album are a little strange, I’ll admit. All four of these songs are great, but the debatable ones are The Day I Tried To Live and Fell On Black Days. Fell On Black Days is the more acceptable of the two, but the fact that My Wave and Head Down aren’t here is kind of disheartening. Actually, one could make a pretty big case for Superunknown and Limo Wreck too. But once again, almost everything on Superunknown is essential.

And finally we have stuff from Down on the Upside, the bands last album. Listening to this album lets the listener know that Soundgarden is really changing again, but still hasn’t ran out of good ideas. Pretty Noose is a great song to include here, and actually so is the raging throwback to days of old Ty Cobb. And of course we have Burden In My Hand, an absolutely fantastic song. But I just never understood Blow Up the Outside World. It just doesn’t seem to go anywhere. In my opinion, this one could have been dumped for a better song on Badmotorfinger, maybe Mind Riot. But hey, it seems to be a crowd favorite, so even if I don’t get it, someone does. But Badmotorfinger is just a better album than Down on the Upside, and should have gotten more coverage. Simple as that.

And then the album ends with Bleed Together, a great unreleased song that will probably act as the incentive for fans to buy this collection, unless they don’t have Nothing To Say which comes from one of the bands earlier and rarer EPs. Anyway, there are a few problems with this disk, but they can be pretty easily overlooked. Don’t get me wrong, everything on here is good. But once again, it’s really hard to outline the bands entire career. And with that, A-Sides does a very good job. But please, if you were interested enough in the band in the first place, don’t stop here. If you are a casual fan, you are going to really want this for an accurate summary of the bands earlier and later stuff, but you will also really want Badmotorfinger and Superunknown, because there are only one or two bad songs total on both albums put together. This is a very good collection, for what it is.

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Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

June 7, 2006

The occurrence of such an album is rare in this day and age, indeed. It is hard to find a band with such good intentions and different enough style and values to really last or make any impact on the industry despite their different, almost off-putting sound. But that isn’t what makes this album unusual, because these such bands show up every so often anyway. But what is really amazing about this piece of work is that it wasn’t actually released on any label. The band doesn’t seem to have any desire to get themselves wrapped up in any contracts or anything, which is fine, as long as they understand that they need to do the work to hype the album, record it, release it, etc. Well, they did all that, and when you think about it, the time they took recording, promoting, and distributing this album would probably get pretty close to the time that most bands end up wasting time arguing and messing around with a label. So this is some kind of revelation, and a reminder that there are still people sitting around in their homes liking this kind of thing even if it is not official enough to be considered radio music. But that’s okay, because it is still music, and people seem to realize that, because this album is very respected and hyped, mostly due to the online blogging community and other such modern day forms of media.

The very first track is probably off-putting enough to confuse even people who expect the unexpected, and thrive on curious music like this. It sounds like something The Beatles might have done (or maybe they did do, I’m drawing a blank right now). It’s this strange, happy circus tune. If it was the first material you heard from the band, you would get a little nervous, because you would then be expecting some big shift of style and a massive shocking suprise switch to heavy metal or punk rock or something. The voice actually propels that suspicion too, with it’s lazy calling, but while there is obviously a big style change, it is not a complete parallel. It is a shift to a much more lighthearted atmosphere. The actual sound of the album is pleasing. It is a very lazy album, but it is made in a very precise way, at least instrumentally. You’ll notice that I’m really into lazy type stuff. This is really an album you can feel okay daydreaming to.

Most of the sound reminds me of a certain image that I have actually made an entire playlist around. It is the image of people sitting on rooftops looking around at a city, perhaps a city that is in fast motion, so that the lights are blurred. It is almost nighttime, but not quite. So that the sky is bright enough to see whats in front of you pretty well, but the actual sun is obscured by clouds or buildings or something. That’s totally the image I’m getting. Anyway, the vocals here are very lazy and drifty, but they try to be. They fit the music well enough if you are accepting enough, and in a way that is much reminiscent, to me any way, of The Meat Puppet’s sound. It’s kind of lazy, like it’s not trying hard enough, but it works on a good enough level to keep consistant. And the instrumentation almost always seems to include some kind of looming backdrop of pleasent chords which really complement the songs as they are in the forefront. And that kind of sound usually consists of a simple beat and a slightly jumpy bassline and a guitar part that seems to help the driftiness a lot by focusing on the ends of the notes rather than the middle, if that makes any sense to those of you who are very musically inclined.

And the humor in this album is very pleasing. I say humor, but it is not always as out in the front as lines like “you look like David Bowie/but you’ve nothing new to show me.” The band clearly understands their predicament of not really being a band for everyone by giving the voice a break and laying on the three tracks of filler, which once again may have been able to creep you out if you didn’t know what to expect from the band, but by the time the last two arrive, are almost pleasing little blurbs. And beyond that, the lyrics and titles of songs are all very funny too. But what the sound exudes in the form of humor is also emphasized in the form of simple comfort, because the songs themselves are decorated with twinkles and pleasing details which unbury themselves upon multiple listens.

To me, each and every band has at least one song that sort of expemplifies their sound. It’s usually not one of their flat out most popular songs, because it doesn’t necessarilly have a completely wonderful hook, but it really displays their style very well and is the kind of song you would hear on the radio and recognize as that artist not because of the hook or anything, but because of the sound. They are the vintage songs of their artist. These tracks are always my favorites. Yes, the songs on this album all individually have a lot of power, but I’ll be the first to say that many of the songs sound alike at first because they all have those same feelings. But all of the songs are reliable, and I think that’s very good. Just don’t expect any extreme shifts in style. But you can feel good knowing that just about every song could be played at the climax of some movie, at the big life-changing moment, the final kiss, the first kiss, the hug of friendship, the deep realization, etc.

The key tracks are The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth, Let The Cool Goddess Rust Away, In This Home On Ice, and Over And Over Again. But there are tons of treats here, especially Gimme Some Salt. I wasn’t expecting this one to be as pleasent as it was. It’s a really solid record, especially considering the conditions under which it was recorded and released. And they are a hot name, so I don’t think it’s too unreasonable to assume that there will be a follow-up to this album. I don’t know when, but I sure hope soon, because this is just begging for a sequel. And there are actually a lot of really standout tracks, but once again, you really have to give this album a few strong listens before you can pick out your favorites. The style that the album has almost seems like a style that a band would only reach out to for one or two songs, but clearly it can work for an entire record if the musicians are smart and persistant enough. And they are. The good thing about this is that none of the songs dip below the mediocre line, and that kind of reliability is very much appreciated in the industry (or lack thereof) today.

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Radiohead – Amnesiac

June 3, 2006

 

Radiohead has always been sort of a hit or miss band. Some people “get” them, and some people take the lack of consistency as a weakness. In many ways, it is a weakness, but it surely refines the fanbase quite a bit. Out of all of Radioheads albums, Amnesiac might be the definitive hit or miss album. It was meant to be released as sort of a companion record to Kid A, and that really didn’t help it much. In my opinion, Kid A is a masterpiece. While Amnesiac is nothing close, it is still respectable. I’m not sure how the band decided what tracks would go on what disk, but this is the weaker of the two by means of strong tracks if nothing else. It may be more focused, and it may have its ideas more organized than Kid A, but that is exactly what makes it the less liked album. There are still many surprised to be found here, though.

Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box is an interesting note to start the album off on. It’s a very skewed track. The synthesizers and electronic beats will come as familiar in some way to Radiohead fans who remember Kid A. The core of the song comes in a tightly packed cowbell type sound, with looming sound effects that sort of climb upward, in a routine spiral. I like it, but I don’t really know why. This kind of track relaxes me for some reason. I get tired a lot, and I have ADD, so I tend to just drift off when I am listening to music. This is one of those such songs that I can just get taken away during, by the routine beat. Actually, that happens a lot on Kid A too. Both albums have this very exact beat and very accurate presentation, even if there doesn’t seem to be too much order to the madness all the time.

Pyramid song is a highlight and a fan favorite. It really makes you think. Radiohead definitely did some good by putting this in here. It’s another very surreal song, and I believe it was inspired by a dream that Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke had. It shows in the nonsensical lyrics.

I jumped in the river and what did I see?
Black-eyed angels swam with me
A moon full of stars and astral cars
All the things I used to see
All my lovers were there with me
All my past and futures
And we all went to heaven in a little row boat
There was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt

I do a lot of dreaming, and only occasionally do I remember them, but when I do, I try to write what I’m thinking down. Usually, it doesn’t come out in full coherent sentences, but a lot of times, this is the kind of thing I would write down. I’m not trying to say that this is what Thom did, but I can see how this can be traced back to a dream. It is a very drifty and dreamlike song too, and it is really trance inducing, especially when you are tired. The song is very beautiful, and the piano is just fantastic. But even more impressive is the power of the orchestra. I THINK there is a cello buried somewhere in there, but I could be wrong. The reason why the cello is great is because it has a huge presence even when your ear can’t pick it out. If it was any deeper like the bass or lighter like the viola, it would be much more easily recognizable. It is the perfect instrument for an acid trip song like this. Once again, I’m not sure that there is even a cello in here, but I’m pretty sure… It just feels like there is, you know?

Pull/Pulk Revolving Doors is just what it sounds like it is. Weird filler. It doesn’t really make any sense, and the words speak of doors, hidden and out in the open, and how people go through them. There is a little bit of filler in this album, but it isn’t nearly as interesting as the filler in Kid A, that’s for sure. You And Whose Army? Seems to be a fan favorite too. Well, I don’t want you to take that wrong, because I am definitely a fan. But I can’t see too much in it for some reason. It’s kind of a lazy strummy guitar type piece. Later on, it opens up, and I can sort of see what the point is, but it still isn’t one of my favorites.

I Might Be Wrong is the best song on the album. There was no question in my mind the first time I heard it. I for a fact that to prove that statement untrue, the rest of the album would have to pull something unbelievable, more unbelievable than this. It is one of the most played songs on my iPod, and to complement that, I have at least four live versions of it. It’s just that good. It really plugs along with the electronic flow, and the guitar part is very detailed. The entire song is very detailed, actually. The bassline also stands out to me, because it is very detailed. The lyrics are also very respectable, and I think they are about how much Thom loves his wife. It’s an extremely catchy song, and one of my favorite Radiohead songs ever. It’s just amazing.

Knives Out still follows in the steps of the rest of the album. The album definitely has it’s own distinct feeling, as opposed to the diverse Kid A. A lot of it feels like that climbing that I mentioned before. This is one of the more routine round based songs that follows the feelings very well. It’s the more accessible song on the album, because it actually features some real live guitars, and real live drums. It feels like this would play at some bittersweet moment, but what I have in my mind is more of a lush image. I’ve always thought of it representing some sort of golden sunshiney day, over a forest near an urban area.

Or this.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a really charming song, even if it is bittersweet. It is also one of the few Radiohead songs you can put on repeat, because it doesn’t really develop so much as just play through.

The climbing persists.

Next is a version of Morning Bell, labeled Amnesiac. It’s better than the Kid A version that preceded it definitely, because it is a lot more ominous (Christ, I use that word a lot, don’t I?) and features some interesting ooooing synthesizers and bells that actually make the rhythm more refined. Anyone who knows the original version from Kid A knows that it is sort of a happy/sad type of song. Well, I think this version does a better job of making the more sad and dreary parts even more sad and dreary, and the happier parts happier. A good song, and it’s better here.

Dollars and Cents is a personal favorite. It has a lot of energy, and a lot of mystique. When you hear it, you may be reminded of Pyramid Song, for whatever reason. I sort of was. I couldn’t really figure out why this wasn’t named Pyramid Song. It sounds more like an eastern tune, and it is very reminiscent of the desert. Maybe not just the desert, but also other eastern nations such as China and Mongolia. The very echoey drums and warpy guitar along with the extremely powerful full orchestra sort of help that along. The explosion of energy later on is enough to even keep people who don’t like the rest of the song interested, and it’s worth the listen for them. It’s a very weird song, but I like it a lot.

Hunting Bears is also filler, but it’s better than Pull/Pulk. It’s really just a string of interesting guitar chords, and even though it doesn’t exactly go anywhere, it is pleasant enough. I don’t know what the deal is with all of the bears in the Kid A/Amnesiac marketing schemes, but they are interesting bears indeed. I draw them in math class sometimes. The little heads. I heard someone call them “citizen insanes” once. I think that is a B-Side on the Com Lag EP, but I don’t have it. If you have ever seen those little clips that advertised the albums when they came out, there was one called “Bear Witch Project” that was just creepy as hell. Try to find that somewhere.

Like Spinning Plates is also very interesting. It doesn’t make much sense at first. You have to listen to it more than once to really understand it even a little. I heard a live version where it was played on piano, but this is almost entirely synthesizers (if not entirely), so the production is kind of interesting. It still feels like you are climbing during this one, and at this point things are getting more strange, and you can feel the end of the climbing very near. Like this is the last leg of the journey. I almost want to call this filler too, but it is very interesting, almost too interesting to be filler.

But Life In A Glasshouse is a really good conclusion to the album. There is some silence, and it feels like you sort of float through an opening, into, well, either a Glasshouse or some big city somewhere at night, with all the hustle and bustle. Trumpets, a piano, and I think a clarinet play big rolls in this song. It’s very interesting, and very relaxing. It’s not a completely resolving song, but it at least makes you feel like the rest of the album really went somewhere. I can’t really say much more.

I once heard that Thom Yorke said this album was the parallel of Kid A. And on the cover art of Kid A, the volcano that you see is where Amnesiac takes place, while Kid A is more the spectator roll. I can see why, somehow. Both albums show a kind of journey, and even though Amnesiac shows it in a slightly weaker way, it is still a real keeper. Perhaps that mouse on the translucent plain looking at the big mountain can only wonder what he is missing out on, for better or worse.