Pickled Onion Head

So I bought the new Radiohead album, the worryingly Coldplay-esque titled “A Moon Shaped Pool”. I had heard the first single “Burn The Witch”, seen the inevitable genius video and read the glowing reviews about the number one album in the country. I downloaded it with fervour on Saturday, as I thought it would be the perfect accompaniment to the two hour drive myself and my girlfriend had to undertake in order to reach my sister’s house for the annual Eurovision-drink-a-thon (more on that later).

I love Radiohead. From my first listen of The Bends in 1995 to the unrelenting scratches that cover my CD copy of The King of Limbs in 2011 I have regarded them as the highest notch on my musical influence broom handle. As individuals they are not perfect studio musicians with unlimited technique. Thom Yorke always sounds like he’s half way through eating a pickled onion and Philip Selway’s drumming seems like he’s been dragged away from a very hot bath and is eager to return. An old friend and past band member of mine once said that you could play any music you wanted to a dog underwater, and it would think it was Radiohead.

All this aside, I think that they are possibly the most consistently astounding band ever to grace my eardrums (The Beatles don’t count because I don’t regard them as a band, just as flowers don’t regard the Sun as a big hot yellow wobbly thing in the sky). Radiohead continually evolve, reshaping their style and presence like a virus. Just as there is no cure for the common cold, so too there is no tiring of what Radiohead can produce. Plus, they always seem to prove me wrong.

Before we set out on our car journey I had a quick listen to the bulk of the tracks on the album, just to get a feel for the mood. The first song is the aforementioned first single, a perfect melding of intrigue and expectation with just a light dusting of danger. I imperceptibly salivated at what might come next. Four tracks later I felt slightly sick. Hollow. This can’t be right? Yes it was all very well crafted music with sweeping choral strings, but where were the SONGS?! I expected to hear something that would make me either want to dance, cry or become a Norwegian performance artist, but this was just, nothing. After 30 seconds of track six I noticed myself hit the skip button on my iPod. Surely not? I felt my physical form slump into a chair and by track nine I was dead inside.

My other half clicked her seatbelt into place and adjusted the drivers chair while I put the overnight bag in the boot and shut my jacket in the passenger door of our hire car. It was not until we were safely in the warm arms of the M25 that I decided to give the album a second chance. I tried to sync my iPhone to the cars Bluetooth music player and after a short ice age (which largely comprised of me being sweary at technology) the speakers were warbling with music.

Fuck. I was an idiot. They duped me, again. The album is perfect. Everything. Everything from the unashamed bass lines, right through the twitch-inducing groovy drums and all the way up the back of the ethereal guitar tones to the hypnotising vocals of old pickled onion face.

If my band recorded an album like that (we wouldn’t be able to) then we would have doors all over London slammed in our faces. Not hooky enough. Where’s the catchy chorus? We need more oooooooh’s so festival crowds off their heads on MDMA can sing along.

How do they do it? How do they get away with it? Mainly it’s because Radiohead have already done that, proved their talent and now they have tenure to record whatever the hell they want. So many artists get to that point and just release limp shadows of their previous sound (Mr Gallagher I’m looking at you) but not so with any of Radiohead’s last 3 albums. They just keep morphing into a group that moulds my jelly brain into a new shape.

With regards to the Eurovision party, there was Champagne, beer, brandy, various sickly fruit cocktails, pizza and more cocktails. My 5 year old niece was at the point of tears when the “pretty man” from Russia didn’t win and to be honest by the time the UK entry came on stage I was so drunk I couldn’t spell UK.

C x

Paradise Last

How long can you live in a dream? It’s an odd thought but one that has been surfacing in my mind for a while now. I’m not talking about actual dreams (I don’t really have those and when I do they are so boring – usually I’m walking down the street and then I buy some tea bags –  I try to forget them as soon as I can) I’m talking about perceived “happy-ever-after” dreams. The paradise places we would like to ultimately spend our days in with the people we love. Think about it now for a second… If you could leave everything and everyone behind and bugger off to your fantasy location FOREVER where would it be? And who would you go with? A desert island? A log cabin high in the mountains? Guildford?

The reason I ask is because the very thought of that scares me to death. For one very blatant reason, boredom.

I recently saw the Tom Cruise sci-fi film Oblivion (which is basically a documentary about how to blow a film budget on CGI and realise there’s no money left for costumes, script editing or more than 3 members of cast) and without wanting to spoil the ending for you (like you’ll care) Mr Cruise’s character winds up spending the rest of his life living in a wooden shack on the edge of a tranquil lake with his wife. Bliss. Or is it?

Forever. In a shack. With your wife.

Can you possibly put your hand on your heart and say that, even in your dream location with your dream companion, after 6 months you wouldn’t want to scoop out their  eyes with a shoehorn? Even golden boy Tom Cruise would surely be losing it in his shed by the lake. Shortly after the 700th game of shirtless monopoly he would be pouring the remains of his dandelion soup over his head and ramming the little dog and top hat into his ears.

Now, I love my girlfriend with all my heart, I adore the very air she breathes and when we go on holiday for a couple of weeks to explore far away lands I’m filled with unbridled excitement. 10-14 days just me and her enjoying each other’s company and discovering new places, new customs and new things about ourselves. However, if we were alone on a desert island I dare say that it wouldn’t be a huge amount of time before we both tied coconuts to our ankles and walked silently into the sea. My Knock-Knock jokes can only keep our morale up for so long and she’s already heard 60% of the top quality stuff.

“Knock-knock.”

*Sigh. “Who’s there?”

“Mr Parrot.”

“I’m going to kill myself.”

These paradise places that we dream of are really just easy ways for film makers to end their films. They end up together in paradise and walk off into the sunset, fade to black. The only way you can possibly stay sane is by keeping yourself occupied with all the stresses and strains that come with living in modern society, and then the time spent in nice places is all the more enjoyable. So, if you do find yourself at any point in the future at work thinking “this is actually quite enjoyable”, maybe poke yourself in the leg with a fork.

C x

 

 

Oxygen

For the vast majority of people, music plays a fundamental role in their lives. It is very rare that you will go through an entire day without listening to some form of music, either in a secondary or tertiary capacity. You wake up to the radio, listen to music in your car, through headphones as you sit on the train to work, sit at your desk listening to the office radio, in the bar after work, again on your commute home and finally bombarded with background music from the TV as you munch your second bowl of coco pops (girlfriend is at yoga).

I love music. I need it in my life as much as I need oxygen. But what I’ve realised recently is that I can’t enjoy it anymore. For the last ten years I’ve been in bands trying to carve out a career in music. Trying to get to the point where I don’t need to worry about my 9 to 5 job and can concentrate on doing what I love. This has made me very robotic and analytical when it comes to music.

I grew up in a family where there was a lot of different music being played around the house. My father is an accomplished jazz and blues guitarist so there were plenty of instruments lying about to tempt me. If he wasn’t playing Bix Beiderbecke standards on his banjo he was listening to Muddy Waters on the vinyl player. In contrast, from another room would come my older sister’s music, OMD, Pet Shop Boys, INXS. All my friends were into post-grunge rock and metal. So I was served up a veritable endless buffet of musical canapés and I found that I loved everything. I can still remember putting on Dark Side of the Moon, laying back and getting lost in the endless soundscapes that were being created. Same with the White Album, Master of Puppets, Stoosh, Axis Bold as Love and hundreds of other albums that blew me away.

Now though, I’ve lost that.

When I hear a new song I’m immediately analysing it. That snare is too loud. The vocals aren’t loud enough. Why is this 20 year old singing about the complexities of relationships? I seem to be unable to simply enjoy the sounds coming out of the speakers. Likewise with live music. At gigs I can remember going crazy, dancing like a demented squirrel to the cacophony of thunder being blasted at me. Now I just stand, transfixed at every movement of the frontman, every chord change of the guitarist, systematically identifying what they are doing and how I can steal it to make me better. Perhaps this has ruined me? Will I ever again be able to be lost in the aura of tones resonating from an amp or have the feeling that my heart will burst through my chest due to the bass?

My despair doesn’t last for long however, as that is exactly how I feel when I’m on stage with my band.

C x