Friday, July 14, 2006

Pop Culture Event of the Week

To cleanse the palate of all this senseless soccer violence, I'm switching gears for the moment to celebrate our first taste of Radiohead in three years; the release of Thom Yorke's solo debut "The Eraser." Yes, it's not Radiohead, but we all know Yorke accounts for at least 75% of the band's creative genius, so this is at least three-fourths of a great event.

I've only given it a few cursory spins thus far; I'll say more on it next week. But it is clearly more akin to "Kid A" and "Amnesiac" than to Radiohead's rock albums, which probably means Yancy will embrace it and I will grudgingly accept it while waiting for the next album from the full band (there is one on the way, we are told).

Please feel free to comment either on this or on other great pop culture events, like "Pirates of the Caribbean" or "Scanner Darkly," or Chappelle's "lost" episodes, or the imminent death of Harry Potter, or ... the biggest summer event of them all.


  1. Nicely done, that subtle Snakes on a Plane reference.

    I do so far like the TY album, though I too have only played it a couple of times. The Pitch has a positive, and amusing, review. Amusing mostly for the end:

    Though nothing on the album sounds like Radiohead, Yorke's jittery warble has a comforting familiarity to it, whether he's singing with a live band or manipulating a blip on his laptop. In fact, as long as he continues to push the boundaries of music, we're more than willing to sit back and let him create under whatever banner he sees fit. George Bush claims he has a mandate? Fuck that. Thom Yorke gets a date with our sister and the keys to our apartment.

    Oh, and I believe, being true to un-grammar, the Linklater film is actually "A Scanner Darkly." We haven't seen it, and I was no fan (as some may recall) of his previous rotoscopic effort, but I do like Robert Downey Jr, and most PK Dick adaptations end up in the plus category.

    One last thing: in fairness to Kirk, he did, a few months ago, initially turn USA Bball down before accepting.

  2. The idea of "Snakes on a Plane" is so sublime in its ridiculousness that I don't want to ruin it by actually going to see the movie. (I think the concept was actually stolen from an SNL sketch).

    I don't know why the Pitch writer thinks he can pimp his sister out to a rock star. Especially this particular rock star ...

    Also, I don't agree that "nothing on the album sounds like Radiohead." If anything, it sounds too much like the band's "electronica" albums. I don't hear Yorke "pushing the boundaries of music" beyond what he's done before, but I'll give it more time to sink in before rendering a verdict.

    As a Linklater devotee I'm more than eager to see "Scanner" but my girlfriend refuses to see it because of the Keanu factor, so I don't know whether I'll get to go. Normally I also avoid KR like the plague, but since he's a druggie in this one I figure his talents will be well served.

    Our friends at Film Convictions give it a positive write-up.

  3. Slate bends over backwards today trying to defend Keanu from snobs like myself and Haley.

    Here's the most telling passage:

    "Critics often interpret Keanu's blurriness as a general inability to act. And not without reason: Certainly he never disappears into his roles like, say, Ben Kingsley ..." But "(i)t's Keanu's very passivity, his unflappable Zen emptiness, that makes him a compellingly quiet and focused hero."

    Well, that's one very charitable way of interpreting it. But comparing Keanu to Ben Kingsley is like comparing Greg "Poster"tag to Wilt Chamberlain.

  4. Well, she relented and we went to see "Scanner" on Friday. And what do you know?--our pop culture interests converged: the movie featured several Radiohead/Yorke songs, including "Black Swan" from Eraser.

    The movie itself was very good if not quite a slam dunk. Good luck trying to figure out the plot. Downey walked away with the movie--a great showcase for him.

    Keanu wasn't terrible. He seemed more--what's the word?--animated than usual.

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  6. Hope to see the film this week; glad y'all enjoyed it (?).

    Now I know this will probably be wasted on No Sound Card Lee, and I realize that the aforementioned Lee may be the only one besides myself still reading this blog regularly, but whatever. Terry Gross did a really great interview with Mr Yorke last week.

    Very intersting stuff. Click here.

  7. Yeah, where the hell is everybody?

    You're right, can't hear the interview. Maybe I'll order the transcript. "No Sound Card" could become my new screen name, perhaps.

    The song NPR links to, "Atoms for Peace," might be the album's best. I'm really warming up to the second half of the record, though I wish Thom would dispense with the video game sound effects already.

  8. I need to buy this album so I can meaningfully contribute. :(

  9. Come on, Scottie. Turn that emoticon upside down.

    As I said above, you can feel free to weigh in on any of the pop cultural heavyweights of the summer. "Superman Returns," anyone?

    Or we could discuss the fact that Fox Sports' 2007 mock NBA Draft projects Julian Wright going 9th and Brandon Rush going 17th (surprisingly ahead of UNC's Buster Keat--er, Tyler Hansborough).

  10. OK, I guess I'll just keep talking about Radiohead, then.

    Slate, once again following along in our wake, posted a good review about "The Eraser" yesterday. The New Yorker also weighed in recently. This article is marred only by the author's bizarre insistence on comparing Radiohead to the Grateful Dead, of all bands.

    Having listened to "Eraser" several more times, I think I'd rank it somewhere towards the bottom of the Radiohead catalogue--ahead of "Amnesiac" but just below everything else (I've still never even heard "Pablo Honey"). That's still pretty heady company, and doesn't at all mean that it isn't good.

    I find that it drags a bit in the first half, but a switch flips on at "Atoms for Peace" and it really cruises after that. "Harrowdown Hill" is pretty outstanding. Instrumentally the album is kind of a retread of "Kid A" and "Amnesiac," but unlike those albums it puts Yorke's vocals up front and center, driving the songs. This won't seem like a recommendation to some people, but it kind of puts the "Bjork" in Yorke.

    I'd still prefer to hear him back with the band, giving us a little more rock and a little less angst, but if he keeps making albums of this quality I won't really have much cause to complain.

  11. For the sake of closure:
    Zidane and Materazzi were both given fines and 2-game bans by FIFA. Since Zizou's retired, he'll do community service (?) in place of the ban.

    And the Ball?

    "It wasn't even discussed at the meeting," said Fifa spokesman Andreas Herren (BBC).

  12. Deron-
    You found the New Yorker article only marred by the comparison to the Dead? I thought it was a terrible article. How could the author not like Radiohead lyrics? What band writes better lyrics? "the panic the vomit the yuppies networking" that is brilliant, accessible, evocative social criticism. although the author has a point about the repitition of "i will eat you alive" that seemed a bit SMashing Pumpkins-esque.

  13. OK, maybe the article was marred by many things, not least of which is the question, why did it take him so long to appreciate the greatest band of the last decade? (I believe the author is a man despite being named Sasha-Frere.)

    I don't see lyrics as being one of Radiohead's strong suits, compared to their other attributes. They fit the music, but I can't think of any that would really read well on the page.

    I think Sasha has a point about Yorke's vocals being an instrument in the music, a la early REM, while the lyrics themselves are not foregrounded--they're kind of vague and impressionistic. I mean, "Myxomatosis?" What the f--k was that about?

    And Yuppie references are sooo 1986, man.

    But, since you ask what band writes better lyrics, at present I can't think of one. Lots of bands have in the past, I'd say, but I can't name anyone currently on the charts. Maybe some rappers ...

  14. I do like:

    "Karma police, arrest this man.
    He talks in maths.
    He buzzes like a fridge.
    He's like a detuned radio."

  15. He's no poet, but I think Tweedy's lyrics are pretty good.

    Emily did just receive the Kanye West album for her birthday; we all know Gold Digger's a hilarious song, but for my money, these lines from Crack Music aren't too shabby;

    How we stop the black panthers?
    Ronald Reagan cooked up an answer
    You hear that?
    What Gil Scott was hearin
    When our heroes and heroines got hooked on heroin.
    Crack raised the murder rate in DC and Maryland
    We invested in that it's like we got Merril-Lynched
    And we been hangin from the same tree ever since
    Sometimes I feel the music is the only medicine
    So we cook it, cut it, measure it, bag it,sell it
    The fiends cop it
    Nowadays they cant tell if that's that good shit
    We ain't sure man
    Put the CD on your toungue yeah, thats pure man.

    As far as hip-hop goes, though, Blackalicious and J5 can't be beat.

    Going back to Thom Yorke, that title track really likes me. My enjoyment was only increased when I heard on Fresh Air that the piano track was played like 2 years ago by band-mate Jonny Greenwood and recorded on a "20 quid dictaphone."

  16. Yeah, Wilco's last few records do have meatier lyrics than R-head. "My lies are always wishes..."

    My personal fave among the rappers is Jay Z:

    "I'm like, Che Guevara with bling on, I'm complex,
    I never claimed to have wings on,
    Nigga, I get my "by any means" on
    whenever there's a drought, get your umbrellas out,
    'cause that's when I brainstorm."

  17. or, "I'm not a businessman- I'm a business, man"

  18. my favorite tweedy lyrics:
    "The best song will never get sung
    The best life never leaves your lungs
    So good, you won't ever know
    I never hear it on the radio
    Can't hear it on the radio"

    "All I can be is a busy sea
    Of spinning wheels and hands that feel for
    Stones to throw and feet that run but
    Come back home
    It made no difference
    Ever known, it made no difference
    Ever known to me"

    "Tall buildings shake
    Voices escape singing sad sad songs
    Tuned to chords strung down your cheeks
    Bitter melodies turning your orbit around"

    "So he slept on a mountain
    In a sleeping bag underneath the stars
    He would lie awake and count them
    And the gray fountain spray of the great Milky Way
    Would never let him
    Die alone"

    now that that's covered - radiohead. well,like pink floyd, i can appreciate but have never truly jump into their stuff with both feet. it's a little cerebral for me.

    here's some fun de la soul lyrics:

    "Man the underground's about not bein exposed
    So you better take you naked ass and put on some clothes"

    "Fell in love with this fish who got caught in my mesh
    But yo she burned my scene up like David Koresh"

    my favorite de la soul line of all time may be this non-sequitor that has no connection to the surrounding lyrics - either as a rhyme or content-wise.

    "Rush Limbaugh autograph her left titty"

  19. Love that "gray fountain spray" line.

    Per your Radiohead comment: they do tend to be a bit dry. I wouldn't mind if they cultivated their potential as entertainers a bit more, as opposed to avant-garde artists. Wilco seems to have found a pretty healthy balance between the two.

    On the other hand, Radiohead continues to sell like gangbusters, so maybe avant-garde music isn't so avant-garde anymore. Have the masses become more cerebral than Chris?

  20. Haley Harrison5:05 PM

    Mr. Yorke sounds fabulous but it just isn't the same without the rest of Radiohead. Deron did me the favor of putting on the new album while I wrote this post so I could feel "inspired." So the real question is when is the next Radiohead album?
    Boys, I would appreciate it if we kept this "Jayhawk Nation" blog to Radiohead (Not Jeff Tweedy...Chris or this Kanye West fellow...Yancy). Everyone knows this isn't a Jeff Tweedy blog. Silly.
    I'll stop wasting everyone's time. Just wanted to give my two cents and say that I give this album 3 thumbs up...if I only had three hands. I miss you all.