High & Dry: My Top 5 Radiohead LPs

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“Hey, here’s the new Radiohead album”, a friend offered few months ago. I put it on, listened. So this is how they sound now. Interesting, I thought. But theirs is not the kind of music that I need. At least for now. Some people find meaning in lyrics that reflects the despairing things happening around the world. I already had enough of that—not from music, but from other things.

I need music to unwind, to unplugged myself from the system—by plugging in to another. I listen to songs that could remind me of things that “brighten up the corners“, not songs that reminds me of the opposite.

What is this called? Neo-classical-rock? Wikipedia says it’s considered art-rock. Art-rock, but not as in Mellon Collie and Infinite Sadness‘ prog-meets-jazz-meets-metal-meets-grunge art-rock. It’s just old Radiohead cut in half, then half of them replaced with strings, orchestrations and whatever. Which can also be said of their other albums starting with Hail to the Thief. Hail to the Thief is half electronic, half guitars; In Rainbows is half made with laptop, half made with live musical instrument; TKOL is half old Radiohead, half beats.

And no, I’m not trashing their newer albums in favor of the old ones. Unlike with Foo Fighters, I just cannot dismiss the last three albums just because I didn’t like them. Radiohead is one of my favorite bands too, and “interesting” is probably the worst I could say of their last two or three releases. And this isn’t rare—that I like OK Computer but not In Rainbows or The King Of Limbs. Some people I know started liking the band with In Rainbows and finds anything before it inaccessible. Some even went as far as saying that Pablo Honey is the only decent Radiohead album, that all the rest reeks of arena-rock grandiosity.

So how would I rank all of Radiohead’s LP’s? Which one’s the best? I can’t rank all of them. I haven’t “really” listened to their last two albums. But from those that I have listened to, I’d pick my top five. Here it is.

OK Computer
1997. We were so into rock music. And boy bands. Green Day, Blur, The Smashing Pumpkins, our semi-charmed kind of life. Radiohead’s OK Computer descended upon us in the form of a cassette. And a news article on a broadsheet proclaiming “Radiohead returns to save the universe” on its headline. The tape was passed from one to another, never returned to its original owner. I spent a week playing it in the old radio cassette player. I never heard anything like it before or since (until Hail to the Thief). Then it disappeared. Like a dream. Never saw that tape again. Never knew who it ended up with. But the music haunted me in my wakeful dreams.

The Bends
“High and Dry” and “Fake Plastic Trees” are my most favorite Radiohead songs. They’re the equivalent of “In My Life” and “Here, There, and Everywhere” by the Beatles. To me, at least. They were my favorites even before OK Computer; even before I recognized that the song played in Romeo+Juliet’s closing credits was “Exit Music (For A Film)”. This album also got them riffs (i.e., Just, The Bends), more than Jonny Greenwood’s chugging guitars right before the chorus of “Creep” (the part which Parokya Ni Edgar replaces with “coughs” in the parody “Trip”).

Hail to the Thief
2005. This is the very first Radiohead album I owned. And this is the album that introduced me to Radiohead’s electronic-rock. It’s the post-90s album of theirs I found easiest to like. And it sounds like a direct follow-up to both OK Computer and Kid A / Amnesiac. This would be the last time a Radiohead album would grab me right on the first track. It leaves a lasting impression too: of dread, hopelessness and gloom, a wolf at the door. It’s probably the last true physical rock record I bought before the internet totally took over the musical industry, or whatever’s left of it.

Kid A / Amnesiac
This would make five a six. Whether they should be counted separately or… Yeah, I’m just lazy, that is. But yeah, they’re twin albums, a year apart. Just like The Strokes’ Is This It? and Room for Squares, just like tide/edit’s Lighfoot and Foreign Languages. It’s electronic-rock, like Radiohead trying to be DJ Shadow or Aphex Twins. Kid A plays like one big song, without much peaks and troughs—it’s very consistent. Amnesiac is a little less. But with the highlights (Pyramid Song, Knives Out, You and Whose Army?, I Might be Wrong) reaching higher highs than those in the first.

Pablo Honey
1998. Pablo Honey, or the tape I borrowed from someone who also borrowed it from someone and never returned. I wanted to listen to The Bends, while “No Surprises” haunted my dreams. But there I was, stuck with the album that houses that well-worn hit “Creep”. It has a few hidden gems (Prove Yourself, I Can’t). Then I remember Rico Blanco, in the middle of one of their songs, singing a few lines from “Stop Whispering” (And the thin man said I don’t wanna hear your voice) in one Rivermaya gig in Saguijo. And it was such a spiritual experience, being one of the few souls in that specific moment, who knew the words he’s singing and from what song they’re taken.

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Picture of the floppy from feelnumb.com.

Foo Fighters’ Albums, Ranked From Worst to Best

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The Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl’s solo studio project that quickly evolve into a full band, are now well on their way to becoming a “classic rock” band. More than two decades old and they’re still at it. For better or worse. They are like the granddaddies of corporate rock now—irrelevant and boring—in the same way Van Halen and Aerosmith were during the nineties. But that’s not to say the Foos never had excellent albums. They had a few. And before you start typing a hundred word vomit in defense of your favorite rock band, hear this: they’re my favorite band too. Or at least they used to be on my top five. Until they eventually slipped, around the time they released another album produced by Gil Norton, around the same time their concerts got bigger and bigger, while their songs started to sound more and more like lesser variations of their older hits.

One by One (2002)
The band’s least favorite album is also their worst. That makes sense. Over-produced, formulaic, and over-compressed—while arguably not their weakest set of songs—One by One is easily their worst sounding record. Tellingly, the best song from the album is the raw acoustic version of “Times Like These”, which can’t be found on the actual album.
Notable Tracks: All My Life, Have It All

Sonic Highways (2014)
You can resort to all sorts of gimmicks—TV documentaries, record your songs in different cities, invite your idols—or you can write your best damn songs and never worry much about the extraneous stuff. None of the eight tracks here are downright bad, none half-assed. If anything, they’re more likely to be full-assed or over-assed (i.e., one song features three guitarists plus the guy from Cheap Trick). But none of which are Continue reading “Foo Fighters’ Albums, Ranked From Worst to Best”

How the Foo Fighters Got Old Really Fast

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In the closing scene of The Hurt Locker, Sgt. William James told his son that “As you get older, some of the things you love might not seem so special anymore.” Function of age, I guess.

The Foo Fighters were news to me back ’97—“Monkey Wrench” on MTV, a friend’s got a tape of The Colour and the Shape, Grohl’s new short hair, Pat Smear’s gay, etc., etc.

Are they still news to me now, twenty years later?

Hardly. Actually, hardly anything not about Stephen Malkmus, Pavement, Eraserheads and a few other artists/bands could pass as music news to me. It just so happen that I was trying to write something about the Foo Fighters, so I searched them and found this news article.

Foo’s latest single “Run” was released on June 1 and it’s already got six million views on YouTube. Good for them. If you haven’t seen or heard it yet, it’s good—but you’re not missing a lot. Nothing exceptional. Except maybe for the fact that the video reminds me of “Kick the Can” from The Twilight Zone.

The Twilight Zone—that’s a nice movie, that one you shouldn’t miss.

10 Things I Learned In Japan

Disclaimer: No offense meant for people who usually gets offended by lazily written articles that contain stuff like compact discs, bikes, and Maria Ozawa. Also, no offense meant for Spotify-lovers.

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Stand on the right, walk on the left. It’s not just for the work-crazy Japanese, always rushing to get to work. It’s also for us who are always rushing to get back home from work, those who are rushing to the next big sale in the mall, those who are rushing on their way to work to catch the morning bell. We’ll probably take years to learn this simple trick. Not because we’re slow. But because we love to break rules. Or simply, maybe, we hate rules and prefer chaos over the orderly.

Trains are cool, trains are great. They’re fast, effective and convenient too. I remember Jello Biafra saying something like “9/11 might have been averted if America was as crazy about trains as they were about airplanes”, that it would be “more fun to travel across the states in bullet trains.” We only have four train lines in Metro Manila. Imagine if we could double that number. It wouldn’t be much compare to Japan, but it would surely felt heavenly for commuters. Or, it could be worse. Imagine all of them not in good working condition, with all trains taking hours to arrive, and you have to suffer long lines before you reach the turnstiles.

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They even have dedicated walkways with color coded tiles for the blind. Color coded tiles. For the blind. Go figure.

Book-Off is a record collector’s paradise. You can buy old stock CD’s—lots and lots of them—for as low as ¥250. You would usually find albums from the most popular 90’s bands: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Green Day, Garbage, Radiohead, Foo Fighters, NoFx and The Offspring. If you’re lucky and patient enough to check all those alphabetically arranged racks every once in a while, like me, you’d probably find some rare items—something from either the Pixies, Stephen Malkmus or My Bloody Valentine.

There are also lots of old (e.g, The Beatles, Ramones and Jimmi Hendrix) and current (Imagine Dragons, anyone?) stuff, but not in the bargain section; which means you need to bring more cash with you if you are into them. Or you can wait till one of those CD’s gets transferred to the cheap section. Like the time when I found a very mint copy of Sgt. Pepper’s priced at ¥500 and I went straight to the cashier. The next time I saw another Beatles album sold for less, it was The Abbey Road. If you guessed that I grabbed it right there and then with all my might, you are most probably right. But that’s not saying I’m one big Beatles fan. I’m not.

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Hard-Off is pure hard-on. From bikes, to turntables, to gaming consoles, to electric guitars, it’s haven for those who don’t mind owning pre-loved items.

A for Effort, Z for Delivery. Putting effort means putting more hours. Even if it means being inefficient. For as long as you look busy and focused (even if at times, you’re only pretending) and stay at the workplace for as long as you can, your boss will appreciate your effort. You cannot relax and show that you’re really enjoying what you do by humming a Barry Manilow song while your hands are on the keyboard and go home at 5pm. Applying the take-a-break-every-30-minutes rule, is also a big no-no.

Japanese girls in yukata will bring out the inner samurai in you.

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It’s almost impossible to lost your wallet with all your important cards and ID’s in it. If you have a contact number in it, you’d most probably get a call. If you lost it on a train, you can contact the train station. One morning, there was this one guy reading manga while on the train, who just left the manga inside the train when he dropped off at the next station. The following day, I rode the same car on the same schedule and found that same guy reading the same manga he was reading the previous day.

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If you find one of Jimmy Page’s guitars displayed in a store in Ochanomizu, you’re not allowed to touch it. Unless, in our case, we didn’t know that there is such a rule. So, the store owner had to rush to us and tell us not to touch it after we already did. There goes my fingerprints side by side with those of the great Led Zep guitarist.

Maria Ozawa is overrated; Manami Hashimoto is the shit.

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Images taken from here, here, here, and here.

The Colour and the Shape (Foo Fighters, 1997)

PhotoGrid_1462693049920This is how rock music should be – loud guitars, propulsive drumming, plenty of hooks and catchy choruses. All these check boxes I’d like to tick – Foo Fighters’ The Colour and the Shape has them in spades. It has parts loud, abrasive, and unruly – ruckus intertwined with melody – and parts quiet and tender. There’s the post-breakup catharsis of “Monkey Wrench”, angry rant on “Wind Up”, the inspirational “My Hero”, pogo starter “Enough Space” and the loud-quiet-loud staple, “Hey, Johnny Park!”, which would have been a classic by now, had it been released as a single in ‘97. For the quiet and tender, there’s the ultra-mushy “Everlong”, the first half of “Up In Arms”, jangly opener “Doll”, the X-Files-utilized “Walking After You”, and “February Stars”, which features the album’s loudest whispers. Needless to say, The Colour and the Shape is chock-full of post-grunge goodies that come in big radio-ready packages – some of which would become Foo Fighters’ biggest hits. This is post-grunge at its finest.

P.S. The Michel Gondry-helmed “Everlong” MV is fucking surreal. It’s funny people always mention Inception, when “Everlong” is way way better – funnier and scarier too.