Mark Knopfler: Golden Heart (1996)

Mark Knopfler
Golden Heart; 1996
Warner Brothers
My Rating: 78/100
As frontman and artistic visionary for the wildly successful pub/prog act Dire Straits in the 1980’s, Mark Knopfler might not have become a household name but his signature guitar style was as omnipresent as the voice of Huey Lewis. After Straits fell apart in the early 90’s, Knopfler embarked on a solo career which begins with GOLDEN HEART. Judging from these results, leaving behind the overamibitious aspects of his mid-80’s work may have been the best move Knopfler could make. While acknowledging the requisite lyrical guitarism and flawless execution, Knopfler makes his greatest strides as a songwriter. There isn’t a skipper on here, which could only be said of one Straits album (their last, actually, ON EVERY STREET), and there are at least five songs that are as close to perfect as an artist can get. Additionally, Knopfler plays up the Celtic and Euro-continental influences, making this a world/roots rock record of sorts, a fabulous modernization of folk styles. With GOLDEN HEART, Knopfler artistically eclipsed the work he did in Dire Straits, and the great thing is, it keeps getting better from here.
Cohesion (4.5/5)
Concept (4.5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Tracks:
1. Darling Pretty (4.5/5)
2. Imelda (4/5)
3. Golden Heart (5/5)
4. No Can Do (4/5)
5. Vic and Ray (4/5)
6. Don’t You Get It (5/5)
7. A Night in Summer Long Ago (4.5/5)
8. Cannibals (3.5/5)
9. I’m the Fool (5/5)
10. Je Suis Desole (4/5)
11. Rudiger (5/5)
12. Nobody’s Got the Gun (3.5/5)
13. Done with Bonaparte (5/5)
14. Are We in Trouble Now (3.5/5)

MK_Golden_HeartMark Knopfler
Golden Heart; 1996
Warner Brothers

My Rating: 78/100

As frontman and artistic visionary for the wildly successful pub/prog act Dire Straits in the 1980’s, Mark Knopfler might not have become a household name but his signature guitar style was as omnipresent as the voice of Huey Lewis. After Straits fell apart in the early 90’s, Knopfler embarked on a solo career which begins with GOLDEN HEART. Judging from these results, leaving behind the overamibitious aspects of his mid-80’s work may have been the best move Knopfler could make. While acknowledging the requisite lyrical guitarism and flawless execution, Knopfler makes his greatest strides as a songwriter. There isn’t a skipper on here, which could only be said of one Straits album (their last, actually, ON EVERY STREET), and there are at least five songs that are as close to perfect as an artist can get. Additionally, Knopfler plays up the Celtic and Euro-continental influences, making this a world/roots rock record of sorts, a fabulous modernization of folk styles. With GOLDEN HEART, Knopfler artistically eclipsed the work he did in Dire Straits, and the great thing is, it keeps getting better from here.

Cohesion (4.5/5)
Concept (4.5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)

Tracks:

1. Darling Pretty (4.5/5)
2. Imelda (4/5)
3. Golden Heart (5/5)
4. No Can Do (4/5)
5. Vic and Ray (4/5)
6. Don’t You Get It (5/5)
7. A Night in Summer Long Ago (4.5/5)
8. Cannibals (3.5/5)
9. I’m the Fool (5/5)
10. Je Suis Desole (4/5)
11. Rudiger (5/5)
12. Nobody’s Got the Gun (3.5/5)
13. Done with Bonaparte (5/5)
14. Are We in Trouble Now (3.5/5)

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Tracks of the Decade: “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” by Counting Crows

Counting Crows, “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” from THIS DESERT LIFE: Arriving early in the decade, “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” was the centerpiece of Counting Crows’ last great record, THIS DESERT LIFE. An epic, cinematic masterpiece that captures all of Adam Duritz’s coffee-shop-romantic angst in bite size, “Lullaby” encapsulates the star-crossed dreams of America in the 1990’s, one last optimistic fix before the sobering events of 9/11. Accompanied by an absolutely fabulous music video (see below), the song blends “City of New Orleans” and Dylan’s “Memphis Blues”, with blindingly grandiose lyrics (“If dreams are like movies/Then memories are films about ghosts”), decadent production, and incendiary performances to boot. It may not be their most popular hit, but it’s got my vote as their best song. A huge claim, given the artistic wealth of their first two records, but you judge for yourself.
PS First one to callout the pre-fame cameo at 5:05’s the winner!

Mrs._Potter's_LullabyCounting Crows
“Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby”
from THIS DESERT LIFE

Arriving early in the decade, “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” was the centerpiece of Counting Crows’ last great album, THIS DESERT LIFE. An epic, cinematic masterpiece that captures all of Adam Duritz’s coffee-shop-romantic angst in bite size, “Lullaby” finds a muse in the star-crossed dreams of America in the 1990’s, one last optimistic fix before the sobering events of 9/11. Accompanied by an absolutely fabulous music video, the song marries “City of New Orleans” and Dylan’s “Memphis Blues”, with blindingly grandiose lyrics (“If dreams are like movies/Then memories are films about ghosts”), decadent production, and incendiary performances to boot. It may not be their most popular hit, but it’s got my vote as their best song. A huge claim, given the artistic wealth of their first two records, but you judge for yourself.

PS First one to callout the pre-fame cameo at 5:05’s the winner!

Weekly Review Roundup 8/29/2009

Radiohead’s Top 12 Non-Album Tracks…
10 to 12
7 to 9
4 to 6
1 to 3

Other reviews:

R.E.M., Out of Time
The Fire Theft, The Fire Theft
Dinosaur Jr., Beyond

Coming next week:
– a look back at one of my top tracks of the decade (the first in a series that will produce my top 20 or so)
– CD reviews of:

  • Modest Mouse’s  This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About
  • Mark Knopfler’s Golden Heart
  • Nathan’s Key Principles
  • Fleet Foxes’ self-titled debut

Radiohead: Top 12 Non-Album Tracks 3-1

3. “Cuttooth” from the KNIVES OUT singles: Bearing one of the most strangely enticing song titles in the band’s catalog, this one comes straight from the depths of the KID A sessions. It’s a piece of shimmering, propulsive Krautrock that shows Radiohead pretty much mastering the genre overnight. While it’s all for the best that they moved on, and although “Cuttooth” bears the sunny glow that reasonably excluded it from KID A or AMNESIAC, it’s nevertheless one of the coolest things the band has ever recorded. With “Cuttooth”, Radiohead joined the ranks of artists like Springsteen and Pavement, where the myth of lost tracks began to rival the myth of the albums.
2. “Pearly*” from the PARANOID ANDROID singles: Although ultimately it doesn’t feel right at this point to question the band’s judgment on the tracklisting for OK COMPUTER, it still makes me scratch my head that this one was left off that album in favor of “Electioneering.” Featuring similar subject matter and a similar sonic trajectory, “Pearly*” is far more exotic and otherworldly, once again featuring some marvelous instrumentation from both the guitar and the drum sections. “Pearly*” is the “Maquiladora” of OK COMPUTER. Seriously, couldn’t they have made room for just one more?
1. “Talk Show Host (Nellee Hooper mix)” from the ROMEO AND JULIET soundtrack: Some might argue with the fact that I chose a cinematic cut-up of “Talk Show Host” as the band’s number one non-album track, but Nellee Hooper’s remix just gets it right. Go back and listen to the version from the STREET SPIRIT single and see for yourself. The bass and drums are just a little too aggressive, a little too direct. But Hooper expertly brings trip-hop subtleties to bear on the song’s bare bones, exposing the emotional heart of the song, and fleshing out a cinematic and musical masterpiece in the process. Don’t settle for the original in this case; Hooper’s remix is the real deal.

Radiohead_knivesout3. “Cuttooth” from the KNIVES OUT singles: Bearing one of the most strangely enticing song titles in the band’s catalog, this one comes straight from the depths of the KID A sessions. It’s a piece of shimmering, propulsive Krautrock that shows Radiohead pretty much mastering the genre overnight. While it’s all for the best that they moved on, and although “Cuttooth” bears the sunny glow that reasonably excluded it from KID A or AMNESIAC, it’s nevertheless one of the coolest things the band has ever recorded. With “Cuttooth”, Radiohead joined the ranks of artists like Springsteen and Pavement, where the myth of lost tracks began to rival the myth of the albums.

Paranoid_Android_CD12. “Pearly*” from the PARANOID ANDROID singles: Although ultimately it doesn’t feel right at this point to question the band’s judgment on the tracklisting for OK COMPUTER, it still makes me scratch my head that this one was left off that album in favor of “Electioneering.” Featuring similar subject matter and a similar sonic trajectory, “Pearly*” is far more exotic and otherworldly, once again featuring some marvelous instrumentation from both the guitar and the drum sections. “Pearly*” is the “Maquiladora” of OK COMPUTER. Seriously, couldn’t they have made room for just one more?

Romeo_+_Juliet_Soundtrack_Vol._11. “Talk Show Host (Nellee Hooper mix)” from the ROMEO AND JULIET soundtrack: Some might argue with the fact that I chose a cinematic cut-up of “Talk Show Host” as the band’s number one non-album track, but Nellee Hooper’s remix just gets it right. Go back and listen to the version from the STREET SPIRIT single and see for yourself. The bass and drums are just a little too aggressive, a little too direct. But Hooper expertly brings trip-hop subtleties to bear on the song’s bare bones, exposing the emotional heart of the song, and fleshing out a cinematic and musical masterpiece in the process. Don’t settle for the original in this case; Hooper’s remix is the real deal.

Radiohead: Top 12 Non-Album Tracks 6-4

6. “Four Minute Warning” from IN RAINBOWS CD2: I think this track may have been the one Ed referred to as “Bombers” during the KID A sessions. Can’t be sure, but nevertheless, it’s one of the best songs the band has recorded period. It might have closed out IN RAINBOWS just as easily as “Videotape”, the white-noise fade-in evoking a cinematic landscape of bravenewworld devastation. Coming from the same subconscious goldmine that gave us “Pyramid Song”, the lyrics and music working together to evoke a similar slow-motion waking dream. Proof positive that Radiohead needs to record an album of piano-based ballads.
5. “Maquiladora” from HIGH AND DRY SINGLES:  Taking second place only to “Just” as the most in-your-face brit rock track in the band’s repertoire, “Maquiladora” is another b-side that “might have been a hit” for the band during THE BENDS era. With Jonny G.’s incendiary lead and the explosive refrain “Oh – BAY – BAH – BURN!!!!!”, this is the sort of track that the band should still be rolling out as an encore every once in a while. Also priceless – the clean cut breakdown (aka the pretty part) between the episodes of thundering heaviness. Simply brilliant all around.
4. “A Reminder” from PARANOID ANDROID SINGLES: Once considered as the lead-off single for OK COMPUTER, this one didn’t make it onto the album proper, but still stands as one of the strongest examples of the band’s aesthetic at that time. Slowly building around a locomotive drive, it’s an obtuse little love song, evocative of a train trek across the sub-continent of Europe in the prime of one’s youth (this is helped by the actual sounds of a Czech rail station opening the song). Like Richard Linklater’s BEFORE SUNRISE, the song’s narrative revolves around two people, the speaker and the addressee. Highly personal and minimally detailed, it nevertheless expresses a deep romanticism that the band hasn’t quite achieved since.

Radiohead_Nude6. “Four Minute Warning” from the NUDE singles: I think this track may have been the one Ed referred to as “Bombers” during the KID A sessions. Can’t be sure, but nevertheless, it’s one of the best songs the band has recorded period. It might have closed out IN RAINBOWS just as easily as “Videotape”, the white-noise fade-in evoking a cinematic landscape of bravenewworld devastation. Coming from the same subconscious goldmine that gave us “Pyramid Song”, the lyrics and music work together to evoke a similar slow-motion waking dream. Proof positive that Radiohead needs to record an album of piano-based ballads.

High_and_Dry_Planet_Telex_CD15. “Maquiladora” from the HIGH AND DRY singles:  Taking second place only to “Just” as the most in-your-face brit rock track in the band’s repertoire, “Maquiladora” is another b-side that “might have been a hit” for the band during THE BENDS era. With Jonny G.’s incendiary lead and the explosive refrain “Oh – BAY – BAH – BURN!!!!!”, this is the sort of track that the band should still be rolling out as an encore every once in a while. Also priceless – the clean cut breakdown (aka the pretty part) between the episodes of thundering heaviness. Simply brilliant all around.

Paranoid_Android_CD14. “A Reminder” from the PARANOID ANDROID singles: Once considered as the lead-off single for OK COMPUTER, this one didn’t make it onto the album proper, but still stands as one of the strongest examples of the band’s aesthetic at that time. Slowly building around a locomotive drive, it’s an obtuse little love song, evocative of a train trek across the sub-continent of Europe in the prime of one’s youth (this is helped by the actual sounds of a Czech rail station opening the song). Vaguely recalling Richard Linklater’s film BEFORE SUNRISE, the song’s narrative revolves around the hopes and fears of two young people intimately connected for a moment in time. Highly personal and minimally detailed, it nevertheless expresses a deep romanticism that the band hasn’t quite achieved since.

REM: Out of Time (1991)

REM
Out of Time; 1991
Warner Brothers
My Rating: 90/100
REM apparently spent three years exploring their options. After producing six albums in as many years, the band catapulted into the national spotlight in a big way with OUT OF TIME. It also marks a huge stylistic shift for the band, featuring a far more acoustic delivery and incorporating rootsy instruments like the mandolin, accordion, and symphonic string arrangments. Although it is common practice to slam this album for its cutesy excesses (witness the silly rapping on “Radio Song” and the delightfully annoying “Shiny Happy People”, both of which are actually decent songs), it’s the lesser known tracks that really shine. While “Losing My Religion” was the song that redefined the band’s sound, “Belong” and “Texarakana” both came out of left field and stand as huge artistic leaps for the band. “Near Wild Heaven” jangles its way into a masterpiece of nostalgic pop (featuring lead vox from Mike Mills), while “Me In Honey” features an irresistibly soaring chorus and classic REM riff. All in all, what’s not to like about this album? It may not be their most influential or the one that all the cool kids talk about, but I can’t think of another time when REM made such irrepressibly joyful music. In a world of pretense and image, OUT OF TIME stands as REM’s boldest musical statement, and one of the most consistently delightful records in the history of rock and roll. OUT OF TIME? Try timeless.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (5/5)
Tracks:
1. Radio Song (4/5)
2. Losing My Religion (5/5)
3. Low (4/5)
4. Near Wild Heaven (5/5)
5. Endgame (5/5)
6. Shiny Happy People (5/5)
7. Belong (5/5)
8. Half a World Away (5/5)
9. Texarkana (5/5)
10. COuntry Feedback (4/5)
11. Me In Honey (5/5)

OutOfTimeCoverREM
Out of Time; 1991
Warner Brothers

My Rating: 90/100

REM apparently spent three years exploring their options. After producing six albums in as many years, the band catapulted into the national spotlight in a big way with OUT OF TIME. It marks a huge stylistic shift for the band, featuring a far more acoustic delivery and incorporating rootsy instruments like the mandolin, accordion, and symphonic string arrangments. Although it is common practice to slam this album for its cutesy excesses (witness the silly rapping on “Radio Song” and the delightfully annoying “Shiny Happy People”, both of which are actually decent songs), it’s the lesser known tracks that really shine. While “Losing My Religion” was the song that redefined the band’s sound, “Belong” and “Texarakana” both came out of left field and stand as huge artistic leaps for the band. “Near Wild Heaven” jangles its way into a masterpiece of nostalgic pop (featuring lead vox from Mike Mills), while “Me In Honey” features an irresistibly soaring chorus and classic REM riff. All in all, what’s not to like about this album? It may not be their most influential or the one that all the cool kids talk about, but I can’t think of another time when REM made such irrepressibly joyful music. In a world of pretense and image, OUT OF TIME stands as REM’s boldest musical statement, and one of the most consistently delightful records in the history of rock and roll. OUT OF TIME? Try timeless.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (5/5)

Tracks:

1. Radio Song (4/5)
2. Losing My Religion (5/5)
3. Low (4/5)
4. Near Wild Heaven (5/5)
5. Endgame (5/5)
6. Shiny Happy People (5/5)
7. Belong (5/5)
8. Half a World Away (5/5)
9. Texarkana (5/5)
10. Country Feedback (4/5)
11. Me In Honey (5/5)

Radiohead: Top 12 Non-Album Tracks, 9-7

9. “Lull” from KARMA POLICE SINGLES: You could argue that some of Radiohead’s best b-sides might have replaced tracks on some of their albums. “Lull” isn’t really like that. Recorded during the OK COMPUTER-era, its closest kin is the far superior “Let Down.” No, the charm of “Lull” lies precisely in its qualities as a throw-away. Unlike other b-sides of the era, it features appregio guitar progressions rather than Jonny’s inflammatory work and a wonderfully upbeat melody. “Lull” is all musical efficiency, as if written by Radiohead for a songwriting workshop. So there you go – the “Lull” referred to is a case of writer’s block. If only every band’s creative lull sounded this good.
8. “Kinetic” from PYRAMID SONG SINGLES: Mentioned early and often in Ed O’Brien’s journals during the KID A sessions, the glacial pace of “Kinetic” speaks volumes on Radiohead’s new approach to making music. How many bands would name a song “Kinetic” and leave it in first gear? What’s really great about this track though is how it reveals the creative process that led to the first great album of the new millenium. No guitars. No backbeats. Just go to your dark place, kids. All in all, an aural feast.
7. “How Can You Be Sure?” from FAKE PLASTIC TREES SINGLES: HCYBS must have been a strong contender for inclusion on THE BENDS. It features one of the grandest pop melodies in the band’s catalog, and comes close to the acoustic glory of “Fake Plastic Trees” and “(nice dream).” The ?female? vocals that accompany Thom are a rather nice touch, the sort of thing the band might explore again if they ever do find their happy place. File this one under “might have been a hit.”

KarmaPolice9. “Lull” from KARMA POLICE SINGLES: You could argue that some of Radiohead’s best b-sides might have replaced tracks on some of their albums. “Lull” isn’t really like that. Recorded during the OK COMPUTER-era, its closest kin is the far superior “Let Down.” No, the charm of “Lull” lies precisely in its qualities as a throw-away. Unlike other b-sides of the era, it features appregio guitar progressions rather than Jonny’s inflammatory work and a wonderfully upbeat melody. “Lull” is all musical efficiency, as if written by Radiohead for a songwriting workshop. So there you go – the “Lull” referred to is a case of writer’s block. If only every band’s creative lull sounded this good.

Radiohead_pyramidsong8. “Kinetic” from PYRAMID SONG SINGLES: Mentioned early and often in Ed O’Brien’s journals during the KID A sessions, the glacial pace of “Kinetic” speaks volumes on Radiohead’s new approach to making music. How many bands would name a song “Kinetic” and leave it in first gear? What’s really great about this track though is how it reveals the creative process that led to the first great album of the new millenium. No guitars. No backbeats. Just go to your dark place, kids. All in all, an aural feast.

Fakeplastictrees1

7. “How Can You Be Sure?” from FAKE PLASTIC TREES SINGLES: HCYBS must have been a strong contender for inclusion on THE BENDS. It features one of the grandest pop melodies in the band’s catalog, and comes close to the acoustic glory of “Fake Plastic Trees” and “(nice dream).” The ?female? vocals that accompany Thom are a rather nice touch, the sort of thing the band might explore again if they ever do find their happy place. File this one under “might have been a hit.”

The Fire Theft: The Fire Theft (2003)

The Fire Theft
The Fire Theft; 2003
Rykodisc
My Rating: 83/100
You can’t really blame the Sunny Day Part Deux trio of Enigk/Hoerner/Goldsmith for splitting after THE RISING TIDE. While that album had a few brilliant moments, overall it was a mess of genre-synthesis gone bad. Kudos for trying, but the band just couldn’t find a happy medium between their emo roots and their prog leanings. The great news is that the Sunny Day Part Tre trio of Enigk/Mendel/Goldsmith (aka The Fire Theft) found an excellent way ahead on their 2003 debut, abandoning emo all together and creating a sublime piece of prog majesty. Once heard in the right context (“Chain”, “Heaven”), Enigk’s voice is a no-brainer for prog, nuzzling itself into the happy medium between Peter Gabriel and Geddy Lee. The abandonment of punk tempos hasn’t left the music boring either, as the band’s instrumental chops are still firmly intact. But it’s the songs that really stand out for The Fire Theft. From the aggressive and soaring “Chain” to the gorgeous, piano-based “Summertime,” it’s exceptionally rewarding to see a group of musicians with so much water under the bridge find so many new ways forward. Sunny Day Real Estate reunions aside, I find myself in the small camp of those thirsting for a follow-up from The Fire Theft.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Tracks:
1. Uncle Mountain (3.5/5)
2. Waste Time Segue
3. Oceans Apart (4/5)
4. Chain (5/5)
5. Backward Blues
6. Summertime (5/5)
7. Houses (5/5)
8. Waste Time (5/5)
9. Heaven (5/5)
10. Rubber Bands (4/5)
11. It’s Over (5/5)
12. Carry You (5/5)
13. Sinatra (4/5)

FiretheftThe Fire Theft
The Fire Theft; 2003
Rykodisc

My Rating: 83/100

You can’t really blame the Sunny Day Part Deux trio of Enigk/Hoerner/Goldsmith for splitting after THE RISING TIDE. While that album had a few brilliant moments, overall it was a mess of genre-synthesis gone bad. Kudos for trying, but the band just couldn’t find a happy medium between their emo roots and their prog leanings. The great news is that the Sunny Day Part Tre trio of Enigk/Mendel/Goldsmith (aka The Fire Theft) found an excellent way ahead on their 2003 debut, abandoning emo all together and creating a sublime piece of prog majesty. Once heard in the right context (“Chain”, “Heaven”), Enigk’s voice is a no-brainer for prog, nuzzling itself into the happy medium between Peter Gabriel and Geddy Lee. The abandonment of punk tempos hasn’t left the music boring either, as the band’s instrumental chops are still firmly intact. But it’s the songs that really stand out for The Fire Theft. From the aggressive and soaring “Chain” to the gorgeous, piano-based “Summertime,” it’s exceptionally rewarding to see a group of musicians with so much water under the bridge find so many new ways forward. Sunny Day Real Estate reunions aside, I find myself in the small camp of those thirsting for a follow-up from The Fire Theft.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)

Tracks:

1. Uncle Mountain (3.5/5)
2. Waste Time Segue
3. Oceans Apart (4/5)
4. Chain (5/5)
5. Backward Blues
6. Summertime (5/5)
7. Houses (5/5)
8. Waste Time (5/5)
9. Heaven (5/5)
10. Rubber Bands (4/5)
11. It’s Over (5/5)
12. Carry You (5/5)
13. Sinatra (4/5)

Radiohead: Top 12 Non-Album Tracks, 12-10

12. “Palo Alto” from AIRBAG/HOW AM I DRIVING? EP: Originally titled “OK Computer”, this track might have birthed the creative concepts behind the homonymous album. Encapsulating many of the same themes, it immediately evokes the false pleasantries of THE TRUMAN SHOW as Yorke greets the listener “I’m OK/How are you/Thanks for asking/Thanks for asking.” Still, underneath it all is Yorke’s old nemesis, the omnipresent fridge buzz. “In the city of the future/It is difficult to concentrate.” It also shines as one of the most chipper mid-tempo rockers in the band’s repertoire, effecting a Beatles-esque glee through Jonny’s noodly leads. Simultaneously a chunky guitar fest and an effects-laden dreamscape, it evokes the best of The Bends AND OK Computer in one little track. Muy bueno.
11. “Last Flowers” from IN RAINBOWS CD2: A mysterious tune that’s been floating around since the days of OK Computer, it didn’t see the light of day for nearly ten years. Through all the changes for the band, this comes across as one of their most sober and lovely little tracks, and proves that when you strip away all the bells and whistles, what you have is a great band of musicians in the most timeless sense. Featuring some of Yorke’s most emotionally potent lyrics (“You can offer me scape…if you take me there you’ll get relief”), its arguably his most disarming performance since another great b-side, “How I Made My Millions.” It can be easy to forget that so many of us fell for Radiohead because of their weepier stuff – “Fake Plastic Trees,” “High and Dry” – but this lost beauty brings it all back home.
10. “Fog” from KNIVES OUT SINGLES: Introducted to the world via concert in 2001 as a “silly little song,” this lullabye about humans as sewer gators is quite simply one of the most obtuse and artful tracks by any band ever, a whimsical ode to lost innocence. Although it seems to come across as a throwaway, it features one of the best melodies in the band’s catalog, and works itself into a great jam at the end, featuring everything but the kitchen sink. Bonus points here for the stark visuals drawn by the music, proving once again that Radiohead is great because they think in like, I don’t know, five or six dimensions.

Airbag12. “Palo Alto” from AIRBAG/HOW AM I DRIVING? EP: Originally titled “OK Computer”, this track might have birthed the creative concepts behind the homonymous album. Encapsulating many of the same themes, it immediately evokes the false pleasantries of THE TRUMAN SHOW as Yorke greets the listener “I’m OK/How are you/Thanks for asking/Thanks for asking.” Still, underneath it all is Yorke’s old nemesis, the omnipresent fridge buzz. “In the city of the future/It is difficult to concentrate.” It also shines as one of the most chipper mid-tempo rockers in the band’s repertoire, effecting a Beatles-esque glee through Jonny’s noodly leads. Simultaneously a chunky guitar fest and an effects-laden dreamscape, it evokes the best of The Bends AND OK Computer in one little track. Muy bueno.

17563562-17563565-slarge11. “Last Flowers” from IN RAINBOWS CD2: A mysterious tune that’s been floating around since the OK COMPUTER-era, it didn’t see the light of day for nearly ten years. Through all the changes for the band, this comes across as one of their most sober and lovely little tracks, and proves that when you strip away all the bells and whistles, what you have is a great band of musicians in the most timeless sense. Featuring some of Yorke’s most emotionally potent lyrics (“You can offer me escape…if you take me there you’ll get relief”), its arguably his most disarming performance since another great b-side, “How I Made My Millions.” It can be easy to forget that so many of us fell for Radiohead because of their weepier stuff – “Fake Plastic Trees,” “High and Dry” – but this lost beauty brings it all back home.

Radiohead_knivesout10. “Fog” from KNIVES OUT SINGLES: Introducted to the world via concert in 2001 as a “silly little song,” this lullabye about humans as sewer gators is quite simply one of the most obtuse and artful tracks by any band ever, a whimsical ode to lost innocence. Although it seems to come across as a throwaway, it features one of the best melodies in the band’s catalog, and works itself into a great jam at the end, featuring everything but the kitchen sink. Bonus points here for the stark visuals drawn by the music, proving once again that Radiohead is great because they think in like, I don’t know, five or six dimensions.

Dinosaur Jr.: Beyond (2007)

Dinosaur Jr.
Beyond; 2007
Fat Possum Records
My Rating: 82/100
Huzzah – another indie legend gets the band back together. By 2007, after reunions by Pixies, Slint, and every other 80’s/90’s act that could possibly swing it, a new Dinosaur Jr. record barely registered with me. And why would it? With a few exceptions, I never really dug the OLD Lou-era stuff, and only bona-fide classics like “Out There,” “Start Choppin’,” and “Get Me” made a dent with me in the mid-90’s. Well, this here record is proof-positive that hype CAN be a good thing, as I finally gave this one a shot round about early 2009 and was surprised to find one beefcake of a record. Seriously, upon investigating the band’s back catalog, I don’t think they ever made a record as consistent and cohesive as this. “Crumble” tugs the heartstrings like only the best hard rockers can, and late album beauties like “We’re Not Alone” and “I Got Lost” avoid Mascis’ tendancy to frontload the best tracks. Barlow’s contributions are good too, especially “Back To Your Heart”, a big, melodic, mid-tempo sludgefeast. (It’s kinda funny to think about the subtext there – “Back to your heart, J.” Awwwww….) Dinosaur Jr. have truly distinguished themselves by reuniting and delivering what fans really want – a second go at making records. And what a record! As far as indie reunions go, that means Dinosaur Jr. gets my award for best of the decade.
Cohesion (4.5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Tracks
1. Almost Ready (5/5)
2. Crumble (5/5)
3. Pick Me Up (4/5)
4. Back to Your Heart (5/5)
5. This is All I Came to Do (4/5)
6. Been There All the Time (4.5/5)
7. It’s Me (5/5)
8. We’re Not Alone (5/5)
9. I Got Lost (5/5)
10. Lightning Bulb (3.5/5)
11. What If I Knew (4/5)

DinosaurBeyondDinosaur Jr.
Beyond; 2007
Fat Possum Records

My Rating: 82/100

Huzzah – another indie legend gets the band back together. By 2007, after reunions by Pixies, Slint, and every other 80’s/90’s act that could possibly swing it, a new Dinosaur Jr. record barely registered with me. And why would it? With a few exceptions, I never really dug the OLD Lou-era stuff, and only bona-fide classics like “Out There,” “Start Choppin’,” and “Get Me” made a dent with me in the mid-90’s. Well, this here record is proof-positive that hype CAN be a good thing, as I finally gave this one a shot round about early 2009 and was surprised to find one beefcake of a record. Seriously, upon investigating the band’s back catalog, I don’t think they ever made a record as consistent and cohesive as this. “Crumble” tugs the heartstrings like only the best hard rockers can, and late album beauties like “We’re Not Alone” and “I Got Lost” avoid Mascis’ tendancy to frontload the best tracks. Barlow’s contributions are good too, especially “Back To Your Heart”, a big, melodic, mid-tempo sludgefeast. (It’s kinda funny to think about the subtext there – “Back to your heart, J.” Awwwww….) Dinosaur Jr. have truly distinguished themselves by reuniting and delivering what fans really want – a second go at making records. And what a record! As far as indie reunions go, that means Dinosaur Jr. gets my award for best of the decade.

Cohesion (4.5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4/5)

Tracks:

1. Almost Ready (5/5)
2. Crumble (5/5)
3. Pick Me Up (4/5)
4. Back to Your Heart (5/5)
5. This is All I Came to Do (4/5)
6. Been There All the Time (4.5/5)
7. It’s Me (5/5)
8. We’re Not Alone (5/5)
9. I Got Lost (5/5)
10. Lightning Bulb (3.5/5)
11. What If I Knew (4/5)