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Music Reviews

This page is basically a window on my CD collection and maybe my soul (?!).  I might get round to reviewing all the CDs I have or no more.  Who knows.
As you can see I dont really like what some people call popular music, but I know what I like and I dont care if only one other person in the world likes it.  So there ! :p

So far the list of reviews is
Kraftwerk - Computer World
Radiohead - The Bends 
Radiohead - Kid A


Kraftwerk - Computer World
Kraftwerk is one of these bands that although hugely influential - how many bands ( from Africa Bambataa to Ultravox to Depeche Mode ) and musical movements of the 80s, 90s and even 00s owe their existence to the complicated rhthyms and arrangements here and the other albums - never made it huge. Although it is probable that the band and especially its core Florian Schneider,Ralf Hutter were glad of that fact.

Computer World is an exultation of the new computer technology in all its forms from the opening track to the closing. Although a measly 34 minutes long, Kraftwerk have never been ones to push quantity at the public and again followed the trend here.

The opening track brings back so many memories, can anyone else remember it being used as the opening theme to a BBC computer TV show? But the music, ah the music. I have had this album for almost 20 years now in various formats having worn through 1 LP and I still find it as fresh and invigorating as ever. It is exact and precise yet still brings out emotion and human frailty. One of the most common arguments about not liking them is that they are too cold, too precise, not emotional.

To which I reply, nonsense. Some of the phrases - as disembodied and seemingly random as Thom Yorke will recreate many years later - will have you repeating them without realising. "FBI and Scotland Yard/Interpol and Deutsche Bank" from the title track anyone? No? Then try the pocket calculator that plays a little melody every time you press a special key! This from unsurprisingly Pocket Calculator. Who says they dont have a sense of humour? How about a song where the vocals are just repeating number counts anything from 1 up to 8 in different languages - inspired.

Listen to the tracks time and time again and you pick out new nuances and subtle differences in the background rhythms every time, it is simply mesmerising listening. Still not convinced ?

OK, try the keyboards chords in Computer Love and tell me they are not as shimmeringly beautiful as anything you have heard elsewhere. The closing tracks of Home Computer and Its More Fun To Compute again use the hypnotic rhythms and treated vocals to move the tracks on, leaving you wondering where the 34 minutes had gone and wanting more.

As an introduction to Kraftwerk, this cannot be faulted, only perhaps The Mix could be better.

radiohead the bends

Radiohead - The Bends

After immersing myself in Kid A and Amnesiac for months I got this out and rediscovered the joys of listening to simpler, more accessible, almost singalong, good old fashioned adult rock. This for me is the best album they have so far produced. Add to the fact that they dedicated it to Bill Hicks just raises them in my eyes by another notch.

This was actually the first Radiohead album I had bought, enticed in by the ethereal sounds of Street Spirit on a free magazine cover disk. Thank you Q !!

From the opening reverb and guitars on Planet Telex to the opening words, you can force it but it will not come sums up the style of writing and delivery of song in this album and later that will soon take over his entire voice in Kid A etc. In this particular song Thom sings with a gusto and only a hint of an edge leaving it balanced and complementing the song rather than trying to take it over by forcing our attention onto it.

The Bends at times almost dives into heavy metal only to save itself suddenly at the last moment with neat twists in the riffs and shifts back into quiet sections with Thom pleading before the band launches into full scale guitar hero mode. Unlike many tracks it also asks serious questions and allies itself to many peoples confusion to paraphrase where in fact do we go from here?

To High and Dry is the answer. I always find this is one of the songs I quite happily hum along to putting my own spin on the lyrics rather than the dark shadows and meanings that gave birth to it. The music itself, if broken down to its individual parts arent that good, the bass is solid and steady, the drums go along for the ride and the lead guitar just gently strums along but that is the beauty of it. It sucks you in leading you away on a four minute journey waking up at the end thinking what happened ?

What happened, well all these shiny happy people got found out to be false and worthless and made of Fake Plastic Trees. Taken at any level, this can be aimed at a single person, a group, a thing, a country or a feeling. One of the best depressive songs of the decade with the acoustic guitar, keyboard drums, Thoms voice all mixing in and out of each other in one long plaintive beautiful whinge against anyone and everyone.

For me Bones just doesnt quite click, I dont know what it is about it, the lyrics are as acute and pointed as ever, talking about the ongoing pain of life. The mix is maybe a bit too grungy, I dont know. Perhaps the weakest track on the cd.

Nice Dream takes us back to the territory of the acoustics taking the lead, the bass and drums not being over done, creating again, well a dream a like quality. A Nice Dream indeed except for the large explosion of heavy guitars in the middle. Was it a dream or a nightmare? Or more confusingly a mixture?

Just is probably the closest Radiohead will get to doing a full psychological profile of a victim who cant break the downward circle of fear. Scary song, scary guitars, scary voice.

My Irong Lung is surprisingly an almost totally live track, only the vocals were re-recorded. What were the band going through we are losing it cant you tell ( and did they realise things would get worse in later years ) when they wrote this. Whatever, for anyone having a hard time I recommend it as a defence against the world.

From the hell that was to the heaven that awaits. Bullet Proof is a gentle wistful thing that would willingly send you to sleep it you let it. All is designed to comfort not to worry, from the vague touches of the guitars, the almost inaudible keyboards to the merest brushing of the drums.

Black Star is again for me a bit of a filler in the album, in another album it would be seen as very good but battling against the standard here it loses out.

Sulk lives up to its name with Thom throwing a big one but somehow pulling it off and carrying it above his head like the world cup, showing it off to the world. For me the best part is the last minute or so when Thom just lets himself free and his voices soars carrying all before it and the rest of the band with it almost not keeping up with his pace.

To what is the best Radiohead track of all time. Street Spirit. This is in fact the first track I had ever heard of theirs and what an introduction. The gentle introduction of a single guitar repeating the same pattern again and again, then Thoms voice fading in and out ( pun intended ) the rest of the band then joining in, gently, patiently, with a ting of a triangle it builds, emotionally physically leaving you knowing nothing but its beauty until with a final plea of immerse your soul in love it dies.

Kid A

This is a slightly updated version as I wrote this originally in October 2000. I am adding a bit more info on the track listing and giving my current view of the CD.

At first I did not know what to make of this album. It is only now after 4 weeks of listening that I am beginning now to express my real feelings towards it.

It experiments more than any of the other three albums, moving from ambient to jazz to guitar rock to synth rock and back.

Track listing

1. Everything In Its Right Place.
A gorgeous ethereal experience with Yorkes' voice layered over and over and bent against itself

2. Kid A
It seems strange but the feeling that comes to mind is listening to Kate Bush. Listen back to The Sensual World and The Hounds of Love and see what I mean. A fragile twilight drifting to sleep song.

3. The National Anthem
This starts off with a stonker of a bass line which then drives the song onwards to Yorke pleading his lyrics. Classic Radiohead until it slips into the chaos that is free form jazz. A discordant noise I call it. A flawed thing of beauty.

4. How To Disappear Completely.
Im not here, this isnt happening he sings. Dont worry be happy, to use another song Thom. This is one of the best songs you have ever created. This gently lopes along subtly pulling you in and with it until you drown in bliss.

5. Treefingers
Definite ambient exposure here from The Orb, Aphex Twin and Eno. If you like ambient superb otherwise dull.

6. Opimistic
Stylistically, this probably fits somewhere between Pablo Honey and The Bends with its background drums and short cord guitars. Probably the most predictable ( and none the worse for it ) track. A banker.

7. In Limbo
A curious track this, with sometimes three or four tunes trying to get out at the same time. Not a tune for easy listening but one that gains depth and texture with repeated listening.

8. Idioteque
I have read that this is supposed to be a dance track ?! I dare anyone to dance to this. Instead of using their guitars to create a rhythm they have used just a harsh steady drum beat with overlaid keyboards and multi layered vocals. Inspired !

9. Morning Bell
Again a quirky off the wall drum beat with low tone keyboards, nonsensical lyrics you can keep the furniture that somehow pulls together and works brilliantly.

10. Motion Picture Soundtrack
A mournful cooling down to the end of an eclectic album with harps and strings to mark its heavenly passing.

In summary, in parts weird, beautiful, unexpected, difficult listening, inspired often in the same song. This is an album that will probably not convert anyone to being fans but will keep current ones happy without being overly ecstatic.

In this world of boy blandness, godbless them for being original.

Having now owned the CD for a couple of years, much of what I wrote at the time is still valid. I still hate that jazz bit at the end of The National Anthem and I still LOVE the beginning. Overall I have though dowgraded it to a 4star as parts of it have not aged as well as their other albums. In Limbo and Treefingers now not quite spoil the CD but I do tend to skip those tracks

And everyone is blonde
And everyone is beautiful
And when blondes and beautiful are multiple
They become so dull and dutiful