Epic Decks, QOTSA, Radiohead and some PJ Harvey

Following on from my most recent my post I thought I’d give you an update as to what as I’ve been listening to this month. Well, not so much listening, more what’s been on repeat nigh on constantly.

1. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
2. Queens of the Stone Age
3. James Blake
4. The Bloody Beetroots – Best Of…Remixes!
5. The Black Keys – Brothers
6. The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar
7. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
8. Radiohead – The King Of Limbs
9. Foo Fighters – White Limo
10. Adele – 21

Now those who known me for years will know that up until very recently I have not been Radiohead’s biggest fan. Scornful of those who drop song titles (from “OK Computer” no less) purely to sound as if they have a reasonably cool taste in music. I remember one conversation in particular where I was at friend’s birthday party, and his mother’s godson (who will be hereby known as a mini-Zane Lowe) pops along for some small talk, banter ensues (as it does) and the birthday boy says “nah you’re paranoid” and he immediately responds with “Android, mate”…he smiles smugly immediately expecting us to know what he had just said, his other friends were obviously not into Radiohead (punk, I think or hardcore, maybe Kings of Leon you never can tell) and to his credit, the birthday boy thought the mini-Zane Lowe was referring to “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, I just looked at him and thought various x-rated Charlie Brooker style rants that can’t possibly be uttered here,responded with “Kid A is far superior” (Which it is, imho, and at this point it is fair to say that I had checked this album out already) and walked away…can’t remember where, probably to set my ears on fire. Which comes to my point, I didn’t get Radiohead and I didn’t want to get Radiohead…I didn’t want to be part of the scene, dominated by over-enthusiastic tools who litter their conversations with “mate” and “to be fair”, who only like Radiohead to sound as dreamy and mysterious as its lead-singer. It’s a only really a small portion who feel at one with his lyrics and yadayada, and to be fair that’s Radiohead; you know the band that wrote these songs, sorry, gospels in the first place…but more importantly, after a few listens (and believe me I had to relax and set aside sometime for this as they are difficult to listen to) I get their sound, their Pink Floyd-ian electronic vibes. “Creep” on the other hand I did like…it was simple, not pretentious. This Radiohead era did the maths; 2+2=4 as opposed to equalling 5.

But back to the point at hand, I guess it was only a couple days prior to that which was when I frequented HMV (where else do audiophiles go hate ripping mp3s from torrents?) and was flipping through some CDs and fell across the exact album I came across, “Kid A”, so I relented. Don’t know why. Maybe it was the eye catching album cover. Maybe I felt sorry for it. God knows. So I purchased it and checked it out and thus surprised by the sheer scale of its beauty. Every album is different, but yet so typically Radiohead.

Which brings me back to my point. Now after its early release do we truly get to listen to what we have been looking to in the past three years, heightened especially in the last week. The only thing we had to go on, in terms of what the album could sound like was Thom’s playlist on his website and even then I was dubious.

Why? Because after eight albums surely we get their mopus operandi? And even now, even the most hardcore of radiohead fans miss the point completely…we should expect the unexpected. Going past evidence of their albums we should have expected exactly this. After two albums of near “Nirvana-lite” quality, they gave us “Ok Computer”, which was such a radical deaprture from everything they had ever done up until that point. Previous work had a classically soft grunge kind of vibe and very much of the loud quality, the album opener on “Pablo Honey” is testament to this dynamic.

So my thoughts on where they stand in the industry, rejecting the “honesty box” method they upheld on their last effort? And more importantly my thoughts on their album? Well the answers are simple to both. They are the pioneers of the changing face of the music industry. No leaks, no press coverage, no campaign, not one wift whatsoever that the labum was coming out this soon. I assumed the album would come this year, no less, due to the fact that it has been on the 50 albums to watch out for in 2011, in every magazine at the start of the year. They are about the music pure and simple…which is simple that’s rare these day, with every new artist copying Lady Gaga (yes Jonelle Monae, Nicki Minaj and Jessie J, I’m talking to you)’s product-consumptive package (yeah that made no sense, but you’re still following, right?). And what of the album? Well, following on from my little rant earlier, I thought you would realise that whilst I have indeed purchased it I haven’t listened to it, no when I get home I’ll set aside my tasks, thoughts and bask in it and listen…that’s only when you truly “get” the band ;).

But onto a more exciting band (yeh ok); QOTSA. I am so excited that their first album is getting a re-release. I actually cannot wait. The audiophile in me resents the fact that I have to settle for shitty YouTube downloads until it drops (again) on March 1st. Speculation is also rife that they will tour this album and perform it in its entirety in intimate venues around the UK. Personally the thought of zoning out to Regular John in the middle of Hammersmith Apollo, is almost too much to bear. I am already on e of the lucky 1,000 that will get their mitts on a limted edition 7″ single ‘How To Handle A Rope (A Lesson In The Lariat)’ that will be accompanied by the B-side ‘Avon’…I have yet to go to a proper QOTSA gig (festivals don’t count) so I’m going to be keeping my ears fixed to the ground this coming Monday, where hopefully a tour will be announced.

And to conclude this blog, I’m going to review PJ Harvey’s latest effort “Let England Shake”. What war does to the perpetrator and what war does the victim are two rarely tackled, and often labelled as taboo topics. But this is exactly what Polly strives to do here, and she does it so well. But if you’re looking for pop-hits and a softly-softly approach then you’ve come to the wrong place I’m afraid: “Death hung in the smoke and clung/ to 400 acres of useless beachfront/ A bank of red earth, dripping down death.” she brutally sings on ‘All and Everyone’. No barrel of laughs, is it?

But it’s very difficult and almost nigh on impossible trying to fault her work here, the only other songwriter of her calibre where this is comparable is Bob Dylan. All the songs are so intricately woven, detailed and let’s faceit; just beautiful.

This album is not with out its satire, and a dark comical element is added to “The Words That Maketh Murder” (What if I took my prblems to the United Nations), leaving us wondering if only that were the solution to all our problems. But that’s not a criticism though, it just gives you an outsider’s perspective on an already bleak political landscape, minefield even.

It’s fair to say I haven’t listened to an album that’s as flawless as this in a long time, an album that you just have to digest all the way through, otherwise it’s an injustice to the songwriter herself. It is a concept album after all 🙂


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