So first off, let me thank you for coming to the new and hopefully improved The Death of the Mix Tape. Here you'll find more content, better surroundings, and also things to accompany your reading.
A while ago on my former space, I concluded my countdown of my top twenty favorite all time albums with #1, Radiohead's “Kid A.” For all the hardcore fans, you likely know that during the recording for the album, a wealth of great material was created and recorded. Sadly, they didn't release the albums together, but thankfully most of the material saw the light of day in terms of a traditional release. Released a mere eight months after “Kid A,” “Amnesiac” not only bridges the gap between the old and new Radiohead, but it's a suitable continuation of the experimental tendencies the band began to display around this time.
The cowbells open up on us, in the same way a sun would rise to start the day. Soon enough though, the humming of electronic motions are whizzing by like people trying to get to work on time. After that. Thom Yorke's familiar voice breaks open. One of the most random names of a song, “Packt like Sardines in a Crushed Tin Box,” is the first welcome to this extended world we thought was only held on the previous album. Honestly, I can't even imagine what the reception would have been if these two albums had been released as one. They both fit together and don't. You can hear the growth among the songs, but it's not alike in a traditional way. “Kid A” is more electronic and ambient, while in parts, “Amnesiac” is a more familiar Radiohead record.
Song two, “Pyramid Song,” is probably my favorite song by this band, so far. It's simply perfect. The first time I heard about it was in an NME magazine. During this period, the band had been touring around in a circus tent. You see, they didn't want to go the normal route and play arenas. They wanted their own space, and a circus tent it was. At the time, the song was listed as Egyptian song, and only the crowd of the tour had seen it. What showed up on the album however, was the equivalent to seeing a the wizard for the first time. It's depth, beauty, and sullen sadness are still part of my emotional core, and the crisp whimsy of the excellent video still hold images of beauty and nostalgia in my mind. It's a dynamic song, and while the other songs presented here are amazing, putting this song at number 2 does all the remaining songs a major disservice.
Like I mentioned earlier, many of these songs are reminiscent of the soundscapes heard on the previous album. The ever throbbing and strangely pulsating “Pulk Pull Revolving Doors,” and “Amnesiac/Morning Bell” are the two best examples. Both have the electronic element happening, and both are in line with the often cold feeling showcased on “Kid A.”
One of the prettiest, yet most menacing songs on the album is “You and Whose Army.” I use those two words because as weird as it sounds, this song is both of those things. The tonal sound and landscape is quite disarming and gorgeous, but the under tone is full of malicious lyrics. It's basically a fuck you to whoever the author is singing to, but it's one of the stand out tracks on the record. Like much of Radiohead's catalogue, it's a vision to see performed live. The first time I witnessed it, Thom Yorke was facing away from the crowd, but his face was showing up crystal clear on the screens on each side of the stage. It was a great moment, and one that I think of often.
Many of the songs have a layered, etheral quality to them. If you take all of the albums by this band, you quickly see a pattern. They constantly reinvent their sound, but also remain the same with some sort of voodoo magic. It's a testament to a band when they can grow in leaps and bounds, but the common fan can still sense the same fibers running through the music. This is especially apparent on tracks like “Knives Out”(the video that's based on the board game “Operation” and also “Dollars and Cents.”These two songs are some of the best parts of the record, and yet I rarely hear big fans single out these songs as stand out tracks. That's completely fine though. The band has so many different tricks under it's sleeve, that it's unlikely that everyone cares about all the songs in the same ways. “Dollars and Cents” especially is a seven minute plus journey into areas the band hadn't fully uncovered. Selways drumming is spot on here, and the rest of the band remain in excellent form also. It has almost a psychological thriller feel to it. I can imagine it in the dark world of Kubrick or Polanski. The main character, near the end of the story, is uncovering things that are both terrifying and captivating. To me it's always been a creepier song that the band normally creates. Maybe it's just my crazy head, who knows.
Next we're treated to one of the best instrumentals I've ever heard. This song changed my life the first time I heard it. Years earlier, I had become a big fan of the modern “Romeo + Juliet,” directed by Baz Luhrmann. I mention it only because there's a scene in the movie where Romeo, played by Leo Dicaprio, is on a beach in the early morning, feeling the sting of love. The song playing is in fact “Talk Show Host” by Radiohead. It has a sad, quiet early morning feel to it. Now back to the song I was initially talking about though. It's called “Hunting Bears,” and during this time in my life I was lonely, and unsure of what would come next. I've always thought of myself as a Romantic to a certain degree, and even though I know think “Romeo and Juliet” are dumb kids, “Hunting Bears” had the same type of sound to it as the music in the film did. It really struck a cord with me. “Hunting Bears” is still a perfect song to watch a sunrise to, and for years it was my goal to film the sunrise and speed it up and set the visuals to this music. I'm sorry if I lost you there, but hearing this song again after awhile away brought back all these old thoughts and plans I had.
The last two songs, “Like Spinning Plates” and “Life in a Glass House,” are both great tracks, and they each bring different soundscapes to the table. “Plates” opens with a whirling array of effects, and although it initially comes across of unfocused and slightly a mess, by the two minute mark they've somehow managed to add on even more things that shouldn't work, but do. Yorke's voice over the programming is high pitched and somewhat forced, like he has no say in the words coming out of his body. The orchestral elements are really fluid here too. The overall concept of the song and the seemingly simplistic nature of it help you to get drawn into it in some sort of ultra ambient vortex, but before you know it the song quickly disintegrates and vanishes and gives way to the concluding track of the album.
That last track, called “Life in a Glass House,” is a monster of a song. It's powerful, focused and for my money I can't think of any other song that could have ended the album. Much like the ending of companion “Kid A,” the band nails the ending brilliantly here. It has a depressing narrative going, and the horns, quiet drums and piano only add to the feeling of being in a dingy bar in the afternoon watching your life pass you by. It's also a favorite of mine because it reeks so much to me of the mindset of New Orleans. We are city full of spirit, and honesty, and sometimes that combination isn't the best trait to have. The song to me is a story of what happens when dreams are crushed, and the honesty of the harshness of the world becomes too much to bear. Which is why in this case, we meander to a quiet, dark bar to be left alone with our thoughts, and to try out the life spent living “In a Glass House.”
Thank you for reading! Welcome to the new site!!
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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