header("Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8"); ?>
This surprised everyone coming only half a year after "Kid A", but it's a collection of leftover material from the same sessions. As such it doesn't hold together nearly as well. Even though it's not a "proper" album, it's a valuable insight into this band's period of huge creativity, and between the fluff it has its share of fine moments.
The itchy electronica, and relentless experimentation, which had replaced their guitar rock, is still the driving force. The clanking metallic noises of "Packt Like Sardines" firmly establish this mood. The most effective use of electronics here is on "Like Spinning Plates", where the wobbly backwards noises actually evoke the title. The taunting of "You And Whose Army" is enhanced with humming backing vocals. Along with the muffled strings on tracks like "Dollars And Cents" these effects help to create an old-fashioned vinyl feel. But "How to Disappear Completely" and "Motion Picture Soundtrack" were much better showcases for this style.
"Pulk Pull.." is a merely B-side quality techno instrumental (think "Fitter Happier" as a full track). "Morning Bell" is an interesting remake of the song on Kid A, which actually sounds bell-like. It's mildly too happy-clappy though. The previous version had a more powerful edge with its jagged guitar ending, and probably deserves to be called definitive. The guitar noodle of "Hunting Bears" seems rather a pointless addition.
However they were still not afraid to simply write good songs. With "Pyramid Song" they are back in familiar territory, with Thom Yorke's beautifully plaintive lament over lazy piano chords. "Knives Out" sees them return to their OK Computer days with a simple but piercing tune and sinister culinary imagery. "I Might Be Wrong" recalls "Optimistic" with its sparse rhythm guitar backing.
As Radiohead have always done, they end the album in style. "Life in a Glass House" starts off as another plaintive piano ballad, but Thom is soom joined by a traditional jazz band. But unlike "National Anthem", the horn-blowers don't go bonkers, instead they each seem to independently lament their own bluesy dirge, as if they had got quietly drunk in an old Western bar.
December 15, 2003