Tuesday, October 09, 2007

High & Dry

Song: High & Dry
Artist: Radiohead
Album: The Bends

Back in 1995 two college roommates and I got tickets to see R.E.M. in Buffalo, N.Y. At the time, R.E.M. was pretty much my world… I had fallen in love with them since “Out of Time” and subsequent records, and the purchase of all of their early records solidified them as my favorite band. I hadn’t seen them live yet, they had just released “Monster,” their “rock” record and I can’t think of any show I had anticipated more before or since. Unfortunately, the band and the show did not live up to my expectation. (Though they have since blown me away on both the “Up” tour and their “Greatest Hits” tour… it was, after all the tour that Bill Berry had a brain aneurysm, Mike Mills had to undergo abdominal surgery, and Michael Stipe had hernia surgery. It was sort of “The Tour that Broke R.E.M.” In more ways than one.) But more importantly, that show was my introduction to the greatness of Radiohead, who were opening for the band on the tour.

Despite knowing their MTV alt-rock hit “Creep,” I didn’t care much about seeing the band… all of my excitement was for R.E.M., and I was actually a little surprised they had chosen them as an opener. (What… was Candlebox busy?) What I, and most of America, had gotten wrong was that Radiohead were not a flash in the pan grunge act. Despite “Creep” being a huge single, it wasn’t represented of Radiohead… or at least what they were about to accomplish. When they began to play I only recognized “Creep” as well as “Fake Plastic Trees” which was their current single, the first from their sophomore album “The Bends.” I have NEVER had a concert experience like I did seeing this band for the first time. I knew none of the other songs and yet they electrified me from start to finish. I bought the album the next day and thus started my Radiohead obsession. Who was to know that in just three more albums they would be considered one of the most import bands of the last decade, basically creating the careers of acts like Travis, Coldplay, Keane, and Muse.

Tomorrow marks a big day for Radiohead fans, and for the music business in general as the band are releasing their seventh studio album in a very unconventional way. While rumors had Radiohead working on a new album for an early 2008 release, it came as a huge surprise when last Sunday the band posted a short note on their official website stating they had completed the record, and you could get it in just seven days off of their website. As you can imagine, the blog-sphere exploded… why hadn’t this thing leaked yet? But that wasn’t the end…

With the completion of their sixth studio album “Hail to the Thief” in 2003, Radiohead had satisfied their contract with EMI, basically making them label-less. Since then, they have taken the longest break between albums (just over four years) since they started making records. But tomorrow will see the “release” of “In Rainbows” and because of this I am making this week “Radiohead Week” here at Wecastmusic. Though the week is short I will spend the next three days discussing the music of Radiohead’s past and then on Friday, will do my best to do a three day review of the new album.

First off, this new record is important not only because Radiohead is currently one of the more important rock bands on the planet, but its distribution is unlike any other thus far done by such a major act. The download of the album is currently only available through the website www.inrainbows.com which is part of their official site and the kicker is… you decide how much you want to pay for it. That’s right, you decide if you’re going to pay anything (you can enter “0”) or up to £99. I chose £5 or ($10) which I thought was fair. Or, you can also order the “discbox” which contains the album on CD and vinyl, including a bonus disc of extra tracks, along with artwork, booklet, and the download available tomorrow. (The discbox is shipping “around Dec. 3rd” and costs £40 or $80… yikes.) I am not sure I get the strategy, but I am sure hoping they publish the amounts people paid for it. Just to see what people decided it was worth. Crazy!

Well, enough about “In Rainbows,” more on that on Friday…

I decided to highlight “High and Dry” off of “The Bends” as it is one of my favorite Radiohead tracks, and a good start if you know nothing about Radiohead. Actually… “The Bends” is a good jumping point because this is where Radiohead mastered straight-up rock songwriting. The depressing lyrics were there, but all in all this was the last time the band did anything “straight-forward,” and it is excellent. Literally every song is now considered a modern masterpiece and while in retrospect it may seem like just a collection of songs (vs. the album-as-concept they donned for “O.K. Computer”) it is by all accounts “classic’ just twelve years old now.

The band has said this record was difficult to make, as they were trying to at once cater to the MTV crowd that made “Creep” a hit, and wanted to repeat on that, but also just to make a much better record. They didn’t get a hit bigger than “Creep” (and still haven’t) but the album went platinum none the less, and 3x platinum in the U.K. Many still consider it their best, I just think it’s awesome… one of the best melodic modern rock records around.

The album has only grown in popularity and truly didn’t take off until the release of final single “Street Spirit (Fade Out.)” It was an understatement that after the records cycle was complete, the world was waiting for what they would do next….


Fake Plastic Trees

High and Dry

I’ve always liked this video too.

Street Spirit (Fade out)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

greatest band in the world, bar none. i'm curious and excited to hear what's in store for this week.

funny tidbit on "high & dry": for the record, one of my fave radiohead songs. the kind of brilliantly effortless song only truly great bands can make. of course, thom yorke hates it. i read that he begged the studio to not release it as a single, fearing it would attract the wrong kind of crowd to radiohead. hmmm... not sure what he was worried about. i suppose what keeps thom up late most nights is worrying that people actually DO like his music.