The fine gentlemen from Titus Andronicus and XL Records have decided to premier the video for ”No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future” across the NJ blogosphere. BDTD is glad to be included. Behold!
Archive for the 'Music' Category
It took the better part of the weekend. It took roughly five full listens, a spirited, beer-fueled discussion with fellow enthusiasts, and some catalogue backtracking. But it finally happened: I love this album. The first listen is pure consumption. You knew they’d release something eventually, but they spring it on you five days in advance and you find yourself in oncoming traffic, with three years of desire rushing at you like an Academy bus. So you get through it once, retaining almost nothing, then dive right back in. This time you notice the ephemeral beauty of “Give up the Ghost,” and the undeniable funkiness of “Lotus Flower.” Once more through and you’ll probably find that “Bloom” starts to grow on you (PUN!!). Its not until you’ve fully digested each track that the implications of your actions start to creep up on you: you just spent nearly five hours of your weekend listening absorbedly to one album. Why would you do something like this? Because Radiohead can’t make an album without further entrenching themselves, safely and definitively, as the best in the world.
There has been a sort of trust germinating between Radiohead and their fans for years. It is this kind of trust that leads these stalwart fans to approach one impenetrable album after another with the same unflinching confidence. Miraculously, these often-dense masterworks come off free of pretention, allowing the band to avoid the label of Great Condescender, given to so many other post-modern artists across mediums. The King of Limbs is no different. It asks that you be present, but never really grabs you out of your seat. There are moments where you’ll be begging for a song to open up, but it never does—in fact, the album as a whole never really does. It is easily the most subdued work they have produced, surpassing even Amnesiac at times for its muted, understated beauty. In this way, it is also an exercise in restraint. In Rainbows, an album at once accessible and true to form, seemed to be taking the band in a direction of popular acceptance. It was guitar-heavy, upbeat and—dare I say—catchy. The King of Limbs resists all temptation to recreate that tableau, and makes good on Thom Yorke’s promise that the band wouldn’t dive back into the “creative hoo-ha of a long-play record.”
So what do we have here? The album is a good example of that old paradoxical relationship between the natural and the mechanical, but we are not surprised when it is able to find a balance between its living theme and its electronic execution. While I’ve long since given up on trying to decipher Thom Yorke’s cryptic pen, Limbs is addressing something undeniably organic. The best example of this is on “Morning Mr. Magpie.” The guitar is hushed and fluttering, as a bird’s wings, and the speaker calls out the avian creature by name. “Feral” has an almost sylvan feel to it, placing you in an echoing wood, surrounding you with whispering, disembodied voices, and deep, creeping tones. By the end of the (very short) record, you have the impression that it is nothing less than one living, breathing whole.
The length is something to mention as well. While the depth and density keep it from being what I would call accessible, the length keeps it at least approachable. It also seems to suggest that there may be a host of excess material left over from recording, which is exciting. At the Atoms for Peace show in NYC a while back, Thom played “The Daily Mail” (which, given the nature of this whole “newspaper album” business, seems only appropriate), and an untitled track, which he mentioned would be on this album. It is not. I sense quite a few B-sides at the very least.
In the spirit of the album, I’m keeping this review short and sweet. I’ve also found I’m much better at tearing down artists than I am at propping them up, so even this much is quite an effort. But I will say this: Radiohead is the only band capable of making this type of record. They are by no means beyond reproach, but they have earned enough respect and trust to be given the benefit of five or six listens before judgment. I’ve gone one-and-done with a few albums in the past, but when Radiohead says something, you listen.
The Super Bowl was last night in Texas, and three things happened. The Packers played an almost flawless game and took home the Lombardi Trophy. Congrats to them. Christina Aguilera engineered a distracting display of vocal gymnastics and botched the National Anthem. Boo Christina. Finally, the Black Eyed Peas—complete with the two nobody knows—yelled the lyrics to their most popular earworms at the audience for ten minutes. I’m going to talk about those last two things.
As soon as the camera panned over to Christina—or, as one of my Twitter pals referred to her, “the Chubstina Aguilera robot”—America should have known it was in for a bumpy ride. I understand the girl has had a rough time of the past few months. She’s gotten divorced, Burlesque tanked, and she’s been all but removed from the limelight entirely. But the Super Bowl is about as national as the proverbial “national stage” gets; you think she could’ve run a comb through her hair? As for the singing of the anthem itself, X-tina wasn’t doing herself any favors. Even if I buy the excuse that she was “caught up in the moment,” she’s gotta know that putting her voice through the 500m Hurdles isn’t the key to keeping focus.
This performance is just one of many such performances that turn the Anthem into a display of lung capacity rather than one of patriotism. Online betting parlors offered an over/under bet on the length of the song’s final crescendo-ed, “brave.” (Smart money bet the over on eight seconds and won. I clocked a ten-second “brave” myself). We have come to expect this, for better or worse, but its been annoying me for some time now. I’m not knocking the entire vocal style necessarily; I don’t very much care for it, but I don’t listen to it, so problem solved. However, unless you are America herself, this particular song isn’t really about you. So when these artists rear back and howl the (wrong) lyrics, it strikes me not as a tribute to the nation, but as an attention-starved diva gasping for breath.
Just as a matter of comparison, if you want to hear someone get a patriotic song right, you don’t have to look too far back. Tony Bennett did a pretty great job with “God Bless America” during the World Series. No frills, no skipped verses, just a class act doing his thing. Not to mention, the guy is 84, and he can still fill a stadium with that honey he calls a voice.
Now, onto the other debacle. The Black Eyes Peas are a disgrace. I could stop there; that’s the gist of my argument. But allow me to self-indulge. The Black Eyed Peas do one thing really well: they pump out singles, all of which are power-hour soundtrack fodder. These singles don’t require much of the listener’s attention, which is good. If they did, somebody might have realized what Grade-A manure they are. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking; any given Z-100 listener is more likely to hear one and say, “OMG, they’re soooo right! Tonight is gonna be a good night!”
As if being miserable weren’t enough, these clowns have six goddamn Grammys. SIX. Some of the award-worthy gems include the single, “Don’t Phunk With My Heart” and that perennial classic, “My Humps,” not to mention an Album of the Year nomination for The E.N.D. I literally cannot imagine a single human being who firmly believes that The E.N.D. was actually the best album made in 2010. I try to conjure an image of what that sort of person might look like if it existed, and my mind cannot render its form; this must be what its like to see God.
Last night’s performance—or really any live performance of theirs—ought to have been a revelation for most. The problem is, the Super Bowl’s core audience already knows how worthless the Black Eyed Peas are. Either that, or they don’t know them at all, which is just as good. Last night, they amounted to little more than the latest in a long line of terrible halftime shows (Bruce and Tom Petty excluded). There’s a classic Lewis Black bit about watching the halftime show during Super Bowl XXXV, in which he refers to N’Sync, Aerosmith and Britney Spears as the “Trifecta from Hell.” He’s not wrong, but I get the feeling he’d admit that The Black Eyed Peas, Usher and Slash came pretty close.