Tag Archives: Thom Yorke

BONUS EPISODE: Thom Yorke + The Els

This is a bite-sized bonus episode, featuring a discussion we had about Atoms for Peace, cleaning the house to music, and how what you’re doing when you hear a record can change your enjoyment. In addition to that, The Els play us two songs not included in the episode, “Depth Perception” and “Solid Gone.”

Listen above, or right-click HERE to download!

Bands Mentioned:

  • Thom Yorke / Atoms for Peace
  • The Knife
  • Joy Division
  • The Fall
  • Iron & Wine
  • Los Campesinos!
  • Sunset Rubdown
  • The National
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Episode 21: On The Side

Many apologies for the lateness, everybody. Moving is a hassle, and not having an internet connection ruins everything. Thanks as always to Will Baab for his gracious guest-hosting! Listen above, and right-click to download!

Topic:

  • Supergroups, solo projects, and side projects
  • Who are the best of these three categories?
  • How many bands/musicians succeed in overcoming their day job (i.e., the band that they are known for) when making music apart from that?

Songs Used:

Further Reading / Viewing:

Bands Mentioned:

  • Parenthetical Girls
  • KMFDM
  • Frightened Rabbit
  • The Twilight Sad
  • Morrissey
  • Leaves Russell
  • No Kind of Rider
  • James Blake
  • The Horrors
  • Ol’ Dirty Bastard
  • Kanye West
  • Lauryn Hill
  • Rodriguez
  • The Flaming Lips
  • Bono / U2
  • J Dilla
  • The Notorious B.I.G.
  • Atoms For Peace
  • Thom Yorke / Radiohead
  • Flea
  • Nigel Godrich
  • Scott Stapp / Creed
  • Eddie Vedder
  • Gwen Stefani / No Doubt
  • Brian Eno / Roxy Music
  • David Bowie
  • Trent Reznor / Nine Inch Nails
  • Mariqueen Maandig / Atticus Ross / Rob Sheridan / How To Destroy Angels
  • Maynard James Keenan / Tool
  • A Perfect Circle
  • James Iha
  • Mila Jovovich / Puscifer
  • Phil Anselmo / Rex Brown / Pantera
  • Down
  • Pepper Keenan / Corrosion of Conformity
  • Kirk Windstein / Crowbar
  • Jimmy Bower / Eyehategod
  • Broken Social Scene
  • The New Pornographers
  • Damon Albarn / Blur
  • Gorillaz
  • The Good, The Bad, & The Queen
  • Mike Patton / Faith No More
  • Fantômas
  • Rahzel
  • Wolfmother
  • Electronic
  • The Gutter Twins
  • Afghan Whigs
  • Screaming Trees
  • Wu-Tang Clan
  • Mad Season
  • Axl Rose / Slash / Guns ‘n’ Roses
  • Velvet Revolver
  • The Postal Service
  • Moby
  • Weird Al Yankovic
  • Snoop Dog / Snoop Lion
  • Craig Finn / Franz Nicolay / The Hold Steady
  • Iggy Pop
  • Ian Curtis / Joy Division
  • New Order
  • Paul McCartney / John Lennon / The Beatles
  • Wings
  • Lou Reed / John Cale / The Velvet Underground
  • Michael Stipe / Peter Buck / R.E.M.
  • Henry Rollins / Black Flag
  • Jello Biafra / Dead Kennedys
  • Kurt Cobain / Nirvana
  • Codeine
  • Jeff Mangum
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Pearl Jam
  • James Dean Bradfield / Nicky Wire / Manic Street Preachers
  • Efterklang
  • Sigur Ros
  • Bright Eyes
  • Iron & Wine
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REVIEW: Atoms For Peace – Amok

What’s your favorite supergroup? I guess, the real question with that question is, of the supergroups you really like, how many of them are as good as the parts? Broken Social Scene and The New Pornographers are among the most well-known, but the members of both maintain that they aren’t actually supergroups. In my mind, even the best of them have a lot of time overcoming the pitfalls associated with being associated with a bigger band. This is exactly why Atoms for Peace have been given a weary eye by most people: you take Thom Yorke’s voice and guitar, Flea’s bass, Nigel Godrich’s keys, and Joey Waronker’s drumming, and, if you’re think about what it might end up sounding like, you hit on what Amok actually does sound like. But let me assure you first: Amok is a neat little record.

Thom Yorke will never be anything but the frontman of Radiohead, and Flea will never be anything but the bassist for Red Hot Chili Peppers. This is not an insult to them, or their abilities; Thom Yorke has been a driving force in my life, and Flea may be one of the best modern bassists working today. However, that’s a lot of the problem. When I heard that Atoms for Peace was going to be a thing, I immediately wondered how much it would sound like a Radiohead record. The lucky thing for Amok is, it does not sound like a Radiohead record. It does, however, sound a lot like Thom Yorke’s solo album, the criminally underrated The Eraser. And it sounds like that on every single track.

The upside is that Amok serves to mend a few of the problems with The Eraser, in that it was very much clear that Yorke was attempting to go for something decidedly un-Radiohead with the record. The imagery on the album left almost nothing to the imagination, the production was sharp as a tack, and everything felt a bit Bends-era, but done with Nigel Godrich’s saccharine beats. While all of these things made The Eraser a beautiful record to listen to (even if it could definitely do with a re-sequencing), this album serves to make something slightly closer to a Radiohead record, without making something that makes you ask, “why didn’t he just do this back home?” Yorke’s current interests were incredibly evident on The King Of Limbs, an album that largely stripped away the lush guitar work of In Rainbows in favor of drum machines and repetitive tempos, much in the same way that Liars changed their entire makeup to make the stark, beautiful WIXIW last year. This far into Yorke’s career, it’s a comforting thing that he’s restless, because it means that he’s content with just trying out new things and new masks, instead of shutting everything down completely.

But, you may be asking yourself, what does Amok sound like? A fair question: one of the things that truly serves the album well is the fact that Yorke’s voice sounds more like an instrument than ever. His words have stopped being so far in front of everything else, meaning the sound of his voice ceases to be that focus, and becomes something to isolate, rather than pick apart, in the same way that you might stop to analyze the percussion on its own. This is a mark of the talent that Godrich has always has, because after being Radiohead’s unofficial 6th member for almost 20 years, it’s obvious that he knows how to play to the strengths of everyone in the band, and in this band, it serves well for everything to be a blend of everything at once. On most records, this would be a death mark. But here, it’s a comfort, and makes it more rewarding when you do manage to isolate a small section. Repeat listens reward you with the gift of discovery, like when you notice the howling backup vocals that coarse through “Stuck Together Pieces,” or the tribalism that come to the table courtesy of both Joey Waronker and Mauro Refosco, who blend together in a way that feels hard to ignore a lot of the time.

This is a damn good record, and while it doesn’t have the same hit ratio that The Eraser did, this never works as a disadvantage. It works well as an aurally pleasing bit of art that you might stop to examine, from time to time. Over time, certain things spring up as being bits you like more than others, like how the beginning groove of “Before Your Very Eyes…” reminds you of an especially great mid-period (read: the 90s) Chili Peppers track, back when Anthony Kiedis was full of great, persistently groovy ideas. You might also appreciate that “Ingenue” sounds, at least for a minute, like it might erupt into a door-shaking dance track very soon, but it instead keeps along its same path of glockenspiel hammering and Godrich’s semi-funky keyboards toiling away as a portrait of someone trying desperately hard to not be excessive. It’s going to take a decent amount of time to truly sink my teeth into, but after a few listens, it’s clear that, in five year’s time, people will likely talk about giving this album a listen-through, and finding something new and exciting to connect with.

The unfortunate thing is, people will never be able to talk about Amok without talking about the works of Radiohead. You can already hear the internet, full of Radiohead fans, pushing up their collective glasses and readying a 1000-word dissection of how, exactly, this album is weak compared to OK Computer, and how Yorke will never make another Kid A. He is a force larger than life, and though having Flea in your band is no small potatoes, people will undoubtedly relate this album to any given Radiohead song before they even think to compare, say, the bass throb of “Judge Jury and Executioner” to any given Red Hot Chili Peppers song. This, really, is why the idea of the supergroup is inherently flawed: no matter how much you enjoy the touches that different musicians bring to the table from their day jobs, those albums are never quite going to live up to the best records those people made with said bands. But that does not, however, mean that those records aren’t any less enjoyable.

In short: this isn’t Radiohead. This isn’t Red Hot Chili Peppers. This is Atoms for Peace. Listen to them as a completely new band. I think you’ll be surprised what you find.

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Radiohead: A Song to Keep Us Warm

On my left elbow, I have a very large, ugly scar. I got it when I was 17, and working for my grandfather’s caretaker, trimming an overgrown hedge at her house. I slipped on the fairly waxy leaves, and brought the hedge trimmer down to my elbow, slicing it open. I had to come back the next day and finish the job as a result, because of the time spent travelling to, and waiting in, an ER waiting room to get stitches and a tetanus shot. That day I learned a few things: I learned that I shouldn’t trim hedges, and that tetanus shots don’t hurt that much, and that “Subterranean Homesick Alien” by Radiohead is a very, very good song.

During that summer, I had made up my mind to listen to a CD player more than my iPod, because it made it more difficult to let my ADHD get the better of me when it came to album switching. For the most part, it worked: I would listen to albums on repeat for days on end, digging into them as much as possible. That was the summer that I listened to Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible on single-song-repeat, listening to every single song 20 times in a row. That summer, more importantly, was the summer that I clicked with the bits of OK Computer that I had yet to click with. But, we’ll back up a bit. I was 16 when I bought the album based solely on reputation. I had sold all of my video game equipment, which I no longer used, and picked up the Violent Femmes self-titled, Bjork’s Telegram, System of a Down’s Mesmerize/Hypnotize, and OK Computer. It sat on my shelf for months and months, until one day, I decided to dust it off. It took me awhile to finally click with it, but I remember exactly where I was when I fell in love with the band. My father and I were on a motorcycle trip with a couple of family friends, and I put the album on to listen to. I listened a couple times through, and enjoyed it. Then, at one point, I began to doze off with my head on my father’s shoulder, in the fall Washington rain. “Exit Music (For A Film)” came on, and a switch flipped in my head. It was a mysterious feeling, one that I had experienced a couple times before that, but had never felt in a way like this. The moment and the music became inextricably linked, and I became a Radiohead devotee.

There will always be an ever-raging battle over the best Radiohead album with its fans, but if a gun were to my head I would choose OK Computer any day of the week, despite not being as poised as its beautiful follow-up Kid A. When I heard songs like “Paranoid Android,” and how incredibly it was written, it gave me hope as a teenager that art could be incredibly loud and incredibly well-written. I became mystified by the heart-on-sleeve beauty of “No Surprises” (to this day my favorite Radiohead song, who’s opening bars and refrain of “no alarms and no surprises please” I have tattooed on my forearm) and its resigned tone. This was not music for someone who wanted to die. This was the music of someone who had come to peace with the fact that he was going to die. I even loved “Fitter Happier,” and its robotic message of dependence on a live made of routine and habit.

The problem with “Subterranean Homesick Alien” is that it is situated between “Paranoid Android” and “Exit Music (For A Film),” two songs that are easily among the best in Radiohead’s catalog. As such, I found it hard to listen to the song, for no reason other than the fact that it stood in the way of me standing in my living room howling, “WE HOOOOOOPE, THAT YOU CHOOOOOOOOOOKE, THAT YOU CHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOKE.” Keep in mind, this was when I was a bitter teenager who had just come to terms with past abuses; I was troubled, but I had the depth of a mud puddle. The words there spoke to me. OK Computer is an ode to disillusionment and alienation in a computerized world, and though I never connected with the latter part of that, I was well-versed in that feeling of feeling separate from the rest of the world. I’ve always felt like I was somehow out of place with the world, and Thom Yorke understood that, in his own way.

And then, I maimed myself doing a job I really probably wasn’t qualified to be doing. I got lost in the words of the song that I couldn’t get past, suddenly hearing Yorke’s words clearly for the first time:

I wish that they’d swoop down in a country lane,
Late at night when I’m driving.
Take me on board their beautiful ship,
Show me the world as I’d love to see it.

I’d tell all my friends but they’d never believe me,
They’d think that I’d finally lost it completely.

I didn’t realize until the next evening how much of an impact this had on me. That evening, I spent a couple hours with my girlfriend, and I asked her to marry me (I was 17. Keep that in mind). She said yes, and the next day, called me to tell me that it was a crazy thing to do, and a crazy thing for me to ask. After hanging up, I realized that there was a distance between me and everyone else, and that I would never get to a point where I could be okay with that distance. In short, I felt like an alien. And I would never have the ability to explain that. I’m 22 now, and as of this writing, I still struggle with those feelings of alienation and confusion. I have wondered if it would be worth it, given the opportunity, to travel back and let 17-year-old Hollister know that feeling never goes away, but I worry that it would crush his spirit. I still believe in the lessons that Thom Yorke taught me at that age, even if a lot of them are hard to really understand at times.

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