It was like Now That’s What I Call Music, wasn’t it? A Moon Shaped Pool was stuffed, once more, with wall-to-wall hits purpose-built for warbling in the shower, soundtracking summer BBQs and filling your favourite banger playlists. And ‘Burn The Witch’ was the catchiest of the lot with its convulsive judder, portent-heavy chorus and bouncing bassline. We got our Radiohead back.
You know, a bit.
“Apart from the singing,” observes Junior, “the music’s actually quite good! I can’t imagine playing it on my flute though – it’d be forte all the way through.”
This one’s from the Girls season three soundtrack, features Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij and, to me, sounds tenuously related to the version of ‘Morning Bell’ on Radiohead’s Amnesiac and the school choir rendition of ‘See The Morning Star’ that my brother took the lead on. Chiming instruments dredged from the bottom of the ocean. Its fairylike “ooo-ooo-ooo”s are a hit with my girls, but Junior is irritated when Junior 2 starts repeating them, seemingly forever.
Jenny Lewis says ‘Completely Not Me’ is inspired by Teen Wolf. O the vagaries of the artistic process.
In Rainbows and Sound Of Silver were all well and good, but the best album of 2007 was, of course, Miracle Fortress’s Five Roses. The Canadian Prince Rogers Nelson – as no one has called him until now – Graham Van Pelt did it all himself, lovingly concocting a modern Beach Boys album set to shimmering bucolia (you know what I mean, sounds like a heat-hazed summer meadow) with, improbably, a devastating hook in every song. It was almost too perfect to sell. So it didn’t.
Four long years later, only endured by playing Five Roses at least once a week, Van Pelt is back with a new album Was I The Wave? that looks set to make a mockery of Adele’s chart feats. It’s a rather more electronic affair that I’ll be reviewing for millions of pounds in the next day or so, and ‘Miscalculations’ is the killer single. Actually, ‘Raw Spectacle”s the single – or “free download”, to give it its accurate title – but Van Pelt should see sense soon enough. You see, it had Junior doing a spontaneous hula dance which, as we’ve seen over the last five years, is the interpretive equivalent of holding up a card marked ‘Hit’. And about as successful as Jukebox Jury predictions ever were too. Hit!
While on important business stashing old baby clothes in the loft last week, I discovered an even more crucial use of my time – rescuing some old self-made mixtapes from the dusty cassette drawers to take downstairs and not play because my tape deck’s broken, and therefore clutter up the dining room even more.
One that I can’t wait to enjoy again at some distant point is a gloomy mix made at the end of 1995. Starting off with Tricky’s oh-so-coolly-obscure ‘Nothing’s Clear’ and moving through Parliament Funkadelic & P-Funk All-Stars’ foggy take on ‘Follow The Leader’, Goldie’s ‘Inner City Life’, some acoustic Jhelisa and smoky D’Angelo, it’s sunshine all the way. I think The King Of Limbs would find kindred spirits here, and ‘Lotus Flower’ in particular would snuggle up to Ingrid Schroeder’s ‘Bee Charmer’, where DJ Muggs makes spooky trip hop all drum and bassy.
Separated from Thom Yorke’s daft, standing-on-a-live-rail dancing, ‘Lotus Flower’ is an eerie blues. Remove thoughts of Thom’s convulsions entirely and it’s almost sexy. Its final 30 seconds go higher and higher, a trance state whipped away as The King Of Limbs plunges into its fantastic three-song finale: deep, feet-planted chords and a hook place ‘Codex’ above cousins ‘Pyramid Song’ and ‘Sail To The Moon’; ‘Give Up The Ghost’ is devotional, somehow tender (or ‘Tender’); ‘Separator’ finds a groove in guitars that resemble George Martin’s speeded-up, ‘In My Life’ piano. There’s much to admire in the album’s first half, but it finds its feet with increasing assurance until it’s moving them with controlled joy.
All this analysis is peripheral for Junior, who cuts to the chase, to what we take for granted: the band’s name. “Radiohead? Radiohead?! You have a radio in your head.” She gets up and moves robotically across the room. “I-AM-RA-DI-O-HEAD.”
The one surefooted monster among Hail To The Thief’s dreary missteps, ‘There There’ finds time to play at Bjork’s ‘Human Behaviour’ before letting rip with fiery guitars and palpable thrills. It reminds me of painting my old flat. So does that Zwan album. Decorating in 2003 was all about suspiciously lumpen, sneakily enjoyable rock.
Junior says: “When’s the good bit?” I’d built Thom and Jonny’s axe-clash up a bit. She also suffered a potential lethal blow to her nascent understanding of mathematics, when reading ‘2 + 2 = 5’ on the CD cover.
Keeping up the contradictions, ‘Paranoid Android’ alienated swathes of fans and took Radiohead to the Top 3 for the first and – so far – only time. It’s a six-minute riot of joyous Italo-house pianos, frog choruses, Elton and Kiki Dee-style cheeky vocal interplay and Junior Senioresque infectiousness.
Nah, it’s a six-minute trial of studious fretwankery. But pretty good with it. It’s certainly worth a flash of air guitar, as Junior appreciated, and a wave of the castanets. I think she was being sarky there.
Now – forget your standard rock candidates – The Bends is The Best Air Guitar Album In The World… Ever! I could never be doing with all that angsty navel-gazing ‘Creep’ stuff, so imagine my surprise when ‘My Iron Lung’ turned up with its friends in tow, with all that melody, warmth, heart and biceps. There was no better album in 1995.
‘Fake Plastic Trees’ doesn’t call on your Aircaster. Junior sat back and listened to her dad’s early morning cracked voice singing along, only livening up with a few giggles and leg-slaps when the soothing keyboard line came in towards the end. It’s a soft, sleepy record about, erm, plastic surgery or something and the, er, fragility of the psyche, living up to modern ideals. Help me here. Ah, it’s beautiful and affecting, whatever.
The whole warmth and melody thing became a bit of a millstone for Radiohead, of course, so they set about excising it from their oeuvre.
‘There There’ is the only song on Hail To The Thief that I ever play.