Radiohead, ‘Lotus Flower’

Thom Yorke

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.”

Advertisements

[5] Goldfrapp, ‘A&E’

Goldfrapp

I might have been mean to Goldfrapp. I took them to be ersatz trip-hop (and there was plenty of that about), then ersatz electroclash (imagine – a sorry copy of Fischerspooner), and finally, ersatz glam. Maybe I should reassess their work, because Seventh Tree is a gorgeous album. Or perhaps they’ve just learned how to be gorgeous. ‘A&E’ is the mother of all comedowns – still, we’ve all woken up in a backless dress, right? – but somehow it’s warm, beautiful and shiny as a new pin.

Junior smiled as it faded in, then hummed along and told me, “We have this in the car.” She asked me the singer’s name. “Alison Goldfrapp.” “Oh, the one who emerged on ‘Pumpkin’, from Tricky’s peerless debut album, right, Dad?” She’s really coming on.

[4] Tricky, ‘Aftermath’

Yes, it was released next year, the following year, that is, 1995, but Maxinquaye was a fantastic album, wasn’t it? Weed-killed, paranoid Tricky and Poltergeist girl-a-like Martina weaving hydroponic magic out of a punk-bred hip-hop, yet still managing to sound pop – and resolutely NOT trip-hop. Way too aggressive for that sort of chilled-out entertainment.

‘Aftermath’ was the initial signal after Tricky had fled the increasingly banal Massive Attack, and it’s a dark delight filled with punchy beats and half-inched Japan lyrics. Plays havoc with the PA, too, if you’re confrontational with the bass.

Not in the best frame of mind to welcome the Brizzle apocalypse, Junior sat sulkily in the naughty seat, having shook the muslin rather too pointedly in her little sister’s direction. By the time we reached the false endings of the track, she was up in her room.

[14] Tricky, ‘Makes Me Wanna Die’

Paranoid, narcotic, sinister, disjointed and resolutely undanceable. But enough about me, sort of. Junior found a way to dance to Tricky’s brooding curio, but then the girl has rhythm and style beyond the common punter’s wildest dreams.

Is this record widely known? I used to play it to death, loved the Rhodes piano and Martina’s broken vocals, but I might have been the only one. It was the third single from Pre-Millennium Tension, yet still a Top 30 SMASH.

No.29, in fact.

[15] Finley Quaye, ‘Sunday Shining’

Finley was 1997’s one year wonder. Smash hit single, monster album, scene-stealing Brits appearance (in ’98, admittedly, but you know what I mean), Mercury nomination… hmm, apparently no Mercury nomination. He must’ve been gutted. The flippin’ Propellerheads got a nomination. ROBBIE BLEEDING WILLIAMS got a nomination.

Well, I thought Maverick A Strike was quite good. 60-70% of it anyhow. ‘Sunday Shining’ takes a Bob Marley tune, makes it interesting, adds some light rawk, a sprinkle of cool and maintains the ma-ri-ju-ana quotient. Wikkid, man.

Junior and the iDog hook into the sinuous beats and lazy, slinky guitar licks. “Yes, sweetheart,” I say, “I know Robert de Niro didn’t seem like much of a ‘hero’ in Meet The Fockers the other night. Finley’s referring to… erm, jeez, I dunno.”

He’s Tricky’s uncle, doncha know. These segues are getting worse.

[6] Massive Attack, ‘Protection’

Postscript: all the dance records that get in the charts these days sound like Spagna’s ‘Call Me’. I don’t know if it’s any better in the clubs, because I’m too old and a dad.

Massive Attack redefined a small area of club music. Blue Lines was the pinnacle, and it still holds up today with ease. Its reputation grew over a few years until the expectation surrounding the Protection album was nigh on unbearable; in the end, they couldn’t take the weight. Tricky was reduced to cameos and Mushroom became estranged, some truly awful tracks got past quality control.

This single was a beauty, affecting, hypnotic, metronomic, with the newly fashionable Tracey Thorn to the fore. Junior was spellbound, only breaking free and demo-ing the new cockateel dance towards the end, so it’s a hit with the infant jury.

What happened next? Mezzanine, was a “dark”, “moody” piece beloved of the tastemakers. Yep, dull. A feature length BMW ad soundtrack. Then there was the unlistenable, po-faced tosh of 100th Window. Either excessive marijuana use has muted the muse, or 3-D without his cohorts is a bore. The new single is ok thanks to Terry Callier’s rich voice, but it’s still melodically uninteresting. It’s all been such a disappointment.

[18] Tricky, ‘Black Steel’

“How long has it been they got me sittin’ in the state pen?” thought Junior as she stared up once more at the hanging bars of the Winnie the Pooh playmat. “I gotta get out, but that thought was thought before. I contemplated a plan on the cell floor. Turns out it’s just a few original AA Milne illustrations of Tigger, Eeyore et al. I’m not a fugitive on the run. I can barely sit up, let alone crawl away from this land that never gave a damn.

“I got a letter from the nursery the other day; opened it and read it, it said they were suckers. They wanted me for Happy Hippos or whatever – picture me givin’ a damn, I said never.”

Superb record, inspired cover. Tricky was at the top of his game in 1995, Maxinquaye an album that was so right for that very moment. It doesn’t happen often. 3 Feet High & Rising, Debut, Screamadelica. Throw me a bone here.