Feb 14, 2011

Their Entire Catalog

Amidst recovering from a long, hazy weekend full of pizza and sugar and C2H5OH, I rediscovered Hail to the Thief, the only of Radiohead's four full-length releases (Yes, Com Lag, the In Rainbows b-sides, etc. are all good as well.) over the past decade that I wouldn't have previously labeled "a classic." I'm not sure why, but I'd never really fully understood the album, however enjoyable and punctuated with genius moments, specifically the shift in "2 + 2 = 5" and the opening riff of "There There."

I'm not sure if it was the post-bender glaze of a Monday-morning commute or the new lens I see all music through as I age and become a more knowledgeable musician myself, but for the maybe the first time ever, I completely consumed and absorbed and swam through the clicks and sighs and breathes of HttT. My recent discovery of their "secret playlist" hasn't hurt my renewed enthusiasm for the band in general either.

Radiohead is a band that have become so ubiquitous in the minds of anyone with even the slightest interest in music that it's hard to say much about them. Whether ambitious young musicians are referencing influences or Kid Rock is trying to carve out his cultural significance, the band cannot be ignored when analyzing the first decade of the 21st century.

Kid A was a kind of wake-up call to labels and bands and whoever else cared that a bar had been set, and (along with Nine Inch Nails and a few others) In Rainbows recalibrated the distribution dial. So it's fitting that this decade, still fresh in every way, will see Radiohead's newest effort released this weekend. You can pre-order now.

Everyone: take note.

Feb 11, 2011

The Kills - Keep On Your Mean Side

Remember, if you can, Dear Reader, the first time you heard that one album. That one time it took only the first few seconds for you to fall in love? A love so deep and painful that the only way you could express it would be to rip your skin off with pliers or at least bloody your hand on some rusty guitar strings.

Maybe you've never had this experience, Dear Reader. In that case, I mourn for you. You've never had your Keep On Your Mean Side.

2003: It was a late night after a few rounds at the bar. Maybe we'd stopped at a gas station for cigarettes or beer or both. Maybe we'd been playing pool or talking poetry. I don't recall. For the first and only time, I sat in the spacious, thrift-furnitured living room of the house he shared with some roommate or three. As usual, we talked music with semi-automatics, blasting names and songs and labels back and forth with sharp precision.

At some point, he changed the record and then . . .

. . . the faint, lo-fi clicks of some rescued beat box rolling around my skull. Then—

—that guitar. That. Guitar. Like a hobble-legged demon growling from down the hall. "I will rip you." Just three notes and lots of space, but that was enough. And always will be. Forever.

There was that voice, too. The demon's ghostly familiar. But it really only took that 10 seconds—not too change my life, for sure—to change everything I ever thought music and bands and rock and energy and love and lust and cool could be.