Heading to a new site at TDMXT.COM (Or why I decided to head over to a space I can make my own)

Hey everyone, Landon here. First off, thank you very much to everyone who has ever checked out this space for the things I’ve written. It’s been really awesome, and now it’s time for a whole new adventure.

This post will be the last one at this address. My entire life I’ve known I wanted to be a writer, and as writing has been a major passion and inspiration, so has music. In the last year and a half or so, I’ve written about some of my favorite bands and artists. You’ve read pieces on Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Tool, and many many others.

Basically I’ve received a ton of great feedback, and all the feedback that hasn’t been favorable has been advice I’ve taken to heart and used to refine my skills. I feel amazing about where my writing could be going, and I sincerely hope you enjoy it enough to check out the new website.

For those wondering, the new website is listed above, and you can find it at TDMXT.COM. You’ll find nothing as of now, but there will be regular posts Monday, Wednesday and Friday of every week. Some of the things that will be showing up soon are pieces about TV on the Radio, Sigur Ros, Soundgarden, Daft Punk, The Beatles, Kanye West, Duran Duran, and many, many more. I’m even planning for next year.

Anyway, come check out my new website, TDMXT.COM. The first post will be Wednesday OCTOBER 1ST, and we’ll be talking about Radiohead’s Amnesiac.

Join me for the ride!!

Aside

My Favorite Albums of All Time #1(RADIOHEAD, KID A)

So Finally, we come to number one. After months of writing these, I’m feeling really great about completing this countdown. First let me thank everyone who reads, and also inform you that BIG changes are coming. In the next weeks I’ll be announcing them, but for now, I’m gonna talk about Radiohead’s perfect album, and my favorite album of all time, “Kid A.”

I remember the day well. I quietly and humbly asked my mom for money to go and purchase this album. Years earlier I had been captivated with brilliant new ideas about what music could be by “OK Computer,” and since hearing the first “single” “Optimistic,” I knew this was going to be an album I needed to have. I say “single” in speaking of “Optimistic” because this was around the time that the band started doing exclusively what they wanted. Instead of going the traditional route and putting an advance song out, Radiohead simply allowed radio stations( or radio head’s I guess if you think about it) to pick which song they wanted to showcase. I’ve heard of a few tracks being used, but “Optimistic” was the one most gravitated to. And that’s not a bad thing at all. “Optimistic” has a sort of immediate chant thing going on. While it isn’t instantly recognizable as the bands song, it doesn’t take long. By now we all know Thom Yorke’s familiar vocal pattern, but back then modern radio was still getting to know and love it. The beat is pretty intact most of the time, and the guitar parts and Selway’s drumming tie the song together in a seamless way. The lyrics, bringing thoughts of the “three little piggies” are also in line with Yorke’s all over the place style. Some songs are exacting and linear, but others, like “Optimistic” are all over the place. Having said that, this was for many the first taste of what would end up becoming not only my favorite album, but among many others, the best album of the aught’s.

Back to that early October fall day of 2000, I purchased the compact disc and immediately sat in my car and listened to it. Driving around for hours, the album soaked into my bones. The somber, piano driven tone of “Everything in it’s Right Place” starts the album in an unusually quiet manner. For years I didn’t really enjoy it as an opening song, if I’m being honest. For me at the time, and maybe even now, I’m a firm believer of things having to start strong and powerful, and for me, while I LOVED the song, it didn’t seem like an opening number. Seeing the song live though, was an eye opener. It’s quite beautiful, and you’ll never in your life imagine a sight like watching eighty thousand people sing along to a song about “sucking on lemons.”

The whole album is an experiment about not doing the same thing twice. So many of this bands efforts come across as being done by a completely different band, but “Kid A,” album and track were big deviations at the time. The title track doesn’t sound even remotely close to anything on the band’s previous albums. It’s a big departure, but this is a band known for big departures and drastically changing sounds. “Kid A” the song has this weird fuzz, loop thing happening that weaves all over the place. Yorke’s vocals are clearly heard, but good luck putting together everything he’s saying. By track three, the more upbeat rhythm of “The National Anthem,” we start to hear a little bit of what we’re used to from Radiohead. Not much, but a little. The funky dropping bass line from Colin Greenwood instantly forces your hips to move, and the sound effects are used to excellent accompaniment. Now it’s time for me to put my headphones on and get full sound. You can hear the murmurings of a madman in the background, but the drum beat and bass lines are all you’re interested in. The addition of the horns halfway through is a happy surprise, and the song spirals out in a haze of dancing and late night activity. When promoting the album, the band played many smaller places, and seeing some videos of this song being played in little jazz clubs, complete with full horn sections, really helped to bring the song to life in a different way. Just seeing the song live period was a cool as fuck moment, but I would’ve given a lot to see the club shows. Oh well though.

From one of the most upbeat songs on the album we transition to one of the saddest songs the band has ever released. “How to Disappear Completely” is a whirlwind of emotions for me, and the somber tone is heightened by the pain in Thom’s voice, as well as the gorgeous acoustic guitar being strung right behind him. When I hear this song, I imagine a man so downtrodden with the world that his physical self is literally disappearing. Hands are vanishing as door knobs are turned, and greetings to loved ones are evaporating in the air after exiting his mouth. The orchestral sections of this song are equally powerful too. This song just does all the right things to convey a state of desperation, loneliness, and solitude. Although it’s quite sad, the majestic nature of the track is what makes it so valuable, important, and ranks it as one of the bands best songs, period. This leads straight to the ambient background that sort of breaks apart the album and gives the listener not only a breather, but also paints a picture of a nice, clear day full of love and want. That song is the extremely overlooked song “Treefingers.”

After the powerful and previously mentioned “Optimistic,” we move right along to the glowing dream- like visuals of “In Limbo.” Now if there’s a better name for this song, I’d love to hear it. This is one of the times where a song’s name blends excellently with the visuals. Losing your way, being “Lost at Sea,” and being told “You’re living in a Fantasy” are all subject matters here, but somehow it’s going to be alright. The instrumentation is dense and vibrant, and you can’t really make out on instrument in particular. Sure you can hear bits and pieces, but they use the sound textures and waves much in the same way My Bloody Valentine had previously done in their music. It’s a lush arrangement for sure, but it also points to yet another thing this band of modern artists are amazing at.

From there we’re treated to the ever-growing perfectness that is the modern masterpiece known as “Idioteque.” Now this song is so impossibly badass that it’s difficult to pinpoint one thing in particular that is better than another thing, but quite simply, I just love it, and even after 14 years of hearing it, I still can’t get enough. The opening treats us to a heavy electronic dance thump, and breaks out in waves of sound and color. Yorke’s voice is also more crisp here than on most of the other songs. Never in your life have you ever been so happy to sing and dance to song’s about “Iceage coming” and “woman and children first.” It’s a frantic song lyrically, but the beat and atmosphere set here are hard to pull yourself away from. Among many fans favorite tracks, it might be the most oddly well-known song in the band’s canon, but I guess when discussing Radiohead, there’s no normal. That’s a good thing though!

Morning Bell” is next, and it’s another well placed song and the tempo is very even. During the recording of this album, the band found itself with too much good material, and because of this, a sort of companion album, titled “Amnesiac(which is also brilliant if I may say so) came out about a year later. I only mention this because there’s sibling to “Morning Bell” on the album. It’s called “Amnesiac/Morning Bell” and it’s well worth a listen if you haven’t before. Getting back though, the song is both tinged darkly and hopeful at the same time. The guitar and drums become brighter throughout, until the sun forces its way through and until suddenly, we’re back to even more depressing, sadistic things while we talk about how to “Cut the kids in Half.” Charming stuff don’t ya think?

I considered talking about both “Kid A” and “Amnesiac” in one full review, but seeing as the band thought it best to release them separately and not as a double album it seemed silly. Having said that though, don’t miss a chance to check out “Amnesiac.” It’s brilliant in the same ways this album can be, and when listening to it you can clearly seeing how the albums are kindred spirits.

The finale to this powerful life changing album comes to us in the form of “ Motion Picture Soundtrack.” The organs used here are immaculate, and the stubborn vocals are an added touch. The chimes and back ground effects are used to an almost god like level here, and it sets the album off to sail in the vast ocean of songs in a way that few songs are capable of doing. “Motion Picture Soundtrack” is the supreme icing on the cake of the best listening cake you’ve ever heard.

In happy times, “Motion Picture Soundtrack” is used for hopefulness and gratitude to the people you love and cherish, and in times of sadness it can be used to remind us that everything has a way to it, and that overcoming obstacles is a part of life. This band is a perfect example. They were dismissed as a one hit wonder, and shoved aside, but they chose to keep going, and given the right state the mind, they eventually became a band that is not only regarded as one of the most influential bands of all time, but also as a band who hold, at least in my eyes, the distinction of making not only the best album of the 90’s(OK Computer), but also the best album of the 2000’s(Kid A). This is band that will keep improving not only their sound, but also the lives of everyone who is lucky enough to come into contact with their music. Thank for you reading, and I hope you continue on this awesome path with me. Have a good night.

Aside

My Favorite Albums of All Time #2(DEFTONES, WHITE PONY)

As we near the end of the list, all of the albums become gigantic. Maybe not in terms of reception, or albums sold, but in terms of how monumental an impact they had on me. Our number two is no exception. “White Pony” by the Deftones is still an album worth checking out, more than a decade after it was released. Number two on my favorite albums of all time, “White Pony” by the immaculate Deftones.

When I first got this album, I was speechless. It was everything I never knew I needed in a record. Sure I had been a fan of this band for a while now, but this was a different creature. They managed to take the aggression featured on “Adrenaline” and especially “Around the Fur” and bring that to a place where the aggressiveness was as big of a part of the album as the tender, pretty tones and soundscapes were. Immediately on “Feiticeira” you become aware that this isn’t a typical album you might expect from a “Nu Metal” band(they’ve since left that horrible affiliation behind them and continue to make interesting music), but that’s what they were trying to prove.

This album still to this day brings back all of the feels. It was at this moment in my life that the world seemed the easiest. With my best friends, we dove into the album, listening constantly and nurturing every beat, all of the nuances of the record,and giving our lives to one of the most underrated albums of the decade. Songs like “Digital Bath” not only work outside of the normal Deftones range, but they managed to still come off as feeling pure. One of the things that the band perfected on the album were the heavy and heartfelt. Vocalist Chino Moreno’s voice has the shriek of a deadly siren at times, but also the tenderness of a true lover in others. The band surrounding him, bassist Chi Cheng(R.I.P.), drummer Abe Cunningham, guitarist Stephen Carpenter, and new member Frank Delgado are the exact people to back his voice. Frank Delgado, especially, is a huge part of the shaping of this record. Before this album, he had only been a live performer, but on “White Pony” and even now he’s a full-fledged member. The sounds he brings through his deejaying are remarkable, and they add a layer of lush movement and glistening hope to a sound that was, to say the least, rough around the edges. “Digital Bath” is an early example of how different this album is compared to the earlier records, but it gets even more thick and lush as it goes on.

Now don’t get me wrong. Tons of these songs are still very heavy and in your face. Number three, “Elite,” and number eight “Korea” are without question the two heaviest tracks on the album. “Elite” has a weird vocal pattern and sound to it, like he’s growling for breathe while being drowned. It’s an interesting sound, and for the song’s intensity, it works well. “Korea” is a plain power house of force though. It builds from a futuristic opening space sound but quickly heads in the way of heavy. The vocals are sung nicely, and Moreno doesn’t unleash his intense vocals until the chorus approaches. Ahead of the album release, the band was on “OzzFest,” and this was the sole song debuted during those sets. You really can’t pick a better song from this album to play at that type of show, and it got people excited for what was coming.

Rx Queen,” about Chino’s then wife, comes to us next. There’s really much that sets this apart from the vibe on the rest of the album, but it’s a nice little interesting song with some great drum work and it fits nicely in the sonic tone of the album. The next song of note, and one of the best songs ever by this band is “Teenager.” This song was the closer of many of the tour’s shows, and while the band has since gone to closing with incredibly heavy/ intense songs, this was a gently, lovely closer. This song belongs to Delgado and Moreno, and as such, they were the only two performing it during these shows. It’s one of the most romantic songs they’ve ever done, and it’s also the only song my wife even remotely enjoys. I’ve always felt it fit well in the world of “Blade Runner.” It has a future sound to it that places it gorgeously in the room when Harrison Ford and Shaun Young are getting close, and if you have seen this film, you might agree. It’s a love song through and through, and it builds hope and happiness on a massive scale. Hearing this song on a gloomy but pretty rainy day and knowing things will work out is a beautiful reminder of this greatly textured journey, and is a memory I’m happy to possess.

From here, we get strong song followed by strong song. “Knife Prty” is another driving force on the record, and it’s still one of the best songs they have at their disposal. One of the great qualities of this band has always been Moreno’s epic mode of storytelling. He’s able to reach out and speak about normal everyday things while touching on mythological themes and terrifying heartache and loss. “Knife Prty” is one of the better example of his style. For me, the female vocals near the conclusion of the song are the definition of mythological. Courtesy of Rodleen Getsic, they deliver full in tandem with Moreno’s own wailing spirits. It’s very reminiscent of something you might see in a greek drama film, or especially the seen in “300” when Leonidas climbs the mountain to visit the oracles. I always think of that when hearing this song.

Passenger,” found to be the ninth song, is a force of nature, and easily my favorite song by the band. It probably has something to do with Maynard James Keenan from Tool being on the song. It’s fucking incredible to say the least. The back and forth between two of my favorite singers, not to mention two of the most interesting vocalists in the rock genre, is what ultimately drives the song,but it works in every way you want it to. The guitar parts are really slick and polished, and once again the background soundscapes by Frank Delgado add a mysterious undertone to the track. For a long time, I never realized that this could in fact by the sequel to the band’s “Be Quiet and Drive,” but looking back now it seems obvious. Having said that, sequel might be a misstep. Listening now, it might be the same event being looked upon from a different set of eyes. BQ&D might be one character sitting in the car wanting to escape, while “Passenger” could very easily be from the person in the seat next to him, who we weren’t even aware was in the car. Either way, whether I’m right or wrong, the song is exacting and is perfection in the form of music.

Change( In the House of Flies)” comes next, and it’s the big single for the record. This was for many the first taste of what the concept of the album and sound approach might be, and it was a thrilling one. This is the band firing on all cylinders. Even the video is a great presentation of the song. The placing of the song is cool and unorthodox also. Not often are the lead singles found on the second to last track of the album. It just has to do with the casual fans wanting to hear something they recognize early on before they delve into the rest of the music, but here the band just ignores that. It’s placement is spot on, and for many, this was the song that introduced the band. It’s near the end, but clearly with this gem of a hook of a song, they didn’t just put a weak song near the records conclusion. Quite the opposite in fact. The last three songs might be the strongest songs on “White Pony,” but that unfairly implies the other songs aren’t as good. For my money, all of them are bad ass, and this album is a time capsule of that amazing summer.

The last song, “Pink Maggot,” starts out slow and creepy, but it explodes in a ray of sun and glistening guitar parts. Moreno’s voice is at it’s best here, and you get to see him demonstrate all the range he’s capable of. It’s also a great high school song. It captures the ups and downs of that section of your life, but advises you to stay true and let’s you know how important it is to keep on keeping on. Carpenter’s guitar is the last thing you hear as the song and album breathes its last, adventurous death. Finally the heartbeat of the album is heard, and it reminds us yet again that this is all a process of life, and that as long as you stay the course, you will end up where you want. Next, we’re gonna discuss my number one, about A Kid who changed the world and is currently in his thirteenth year of life. Thanks for reading.

Aside

My Favorite Albums of all Time #3(TOOL, LATERALUS)

One of my favorite all time bands is Tool. Since first hearing Sober in the years of my adolescence, it was something I gravitated to. Among all of the bands I love. Tool is the band I’ve seen the most, second only to Nine Inch Nails. I’ve been to Tool shows 20 times. Flown to California, driven to Bonnaroo, and seen them in about six different states. All of those shows have been amazing, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Their third full length album is the perfect melding of all of the things that made the first 2 albums and the early Opiate E.P. worthwhile. It has anger, long songs, experimental rhythms and cords, and a kinda of free form spiritually that isn’t often heard in heavier rock. My third favorite album of all time, Tool’s Lateralus

Does anyone else thing the opening moments of “The Grudge” sound similar to an elevator going down in a creepy horror film? Maybe it’s just me, but it always signified the beginning of a musical journey that blows all of the previous albums out of the water. The thumping of Danny Carey’s drums are immediately heard, while Keenan’s vocals slowly lurk up from the background. When the album was being created, things were a bit tense within the band. Many times it seemed like things might not be completed. Thankfully for us though, cooler heads prevailed, and we got this excellent album.

One of the things I like especially about this album is how mythological some of the lyrics and ideas conjured here are. Talk of “Saturn Ascends,” and “Wearing the Grudge like a Crown,” show where the band was at this point. Or maybe Tool is just a band that likes to lead fans on wild hair-brain theories for their own amusement. Either way, it makes for interesting conversations among die hard fans. The almost Egyptian guitar part at the tail end of the song is also done very well. For some reason I’ve just always found Adam Jones’ style and overall guitar sound to be ancient, clean, and yes, Egyptian.

So if you’re a fan of Tool, you by now know that these “songs” tend to be a little bit long. I say “songs” because a few times they cover more than one track on the album. While the proper album stretches to thirteen tracks, many of these are two and three parters. Ultimately the album ends up being eight “Songs.” The first, and one of my personal favorites is “Eon Blue Apocalypse/ The Patient.” The quiet segue to “The Patient” is appropriate and leads slowly down a darkened path, The chimes and cymbals from Carey’s drums are whistling in the background, and you hear Keenan’s vocals echoing distantly in the background until you hear a breathe and the words are more intelligible. The song has all the makings of a classic among the other songs on the album. The buildup’s are simply incredible. I’ve probably heard this song over one hundred times in my life, but it still rewards me every time. The up and down measures and notes keep coming all the way to the end, and we’re treated with not only some of the best lyrics of the bands career, but the vocals are completely mind blowing. I’ve seen this song probably 9 times live now, and every time it’s a pretty emotional thing. It’s just a masterpiece in my opionion.

Even the singles on this song are pretty cool. Over the next two “songs”, we get the ultimate rocking of “Schism” and the slow tension builder of “ Parabol(a)” “Schism” talks indirectly about the tensions in the band, and the jam out part at the conclusion is one of the best moments of the entire record. The vocals are a little angry and raspy, but the guitar part is what really stands out in this song. “Parabol(a) builds up in a very quiet and gentle way only to let it self go and enter into the heavy arena rock territory the band had now begun filling up. Now you are likely thinking that my spelling of the song is incorrect. I guess to an extent it is, but honestly I just really like the way it looks. To me it makes perfect sense. Parabol comes first, warning us of the impending doom, and then Parabola comes to seek its payment. But there’s more to this song. It may get very heavy at times, but it’s one of the more uplifting and spiritual songs on the whole album. Sonically it’s in your face and chaotic, but the lyrics aren’t in that vein at all. It’s a song about living life, and giving it all in a positive way to make your world a better reality. “We are eternal but this Pain is an Illusion” is a perfect example of how Keenan felt around this time. Working to one goal can be hard as fuck sometime, but it’s important to keep your eye on the prize. In interviews during this time, MJK had spoken about the “Saturn Return.” Essentially it’s a theory that around the ages of twenty-nine or thirty, people have an awakening of sorts, and these new revelations about themselves and the world serve to lighten their load and allow things to get easier. I think that is lyrically what’s happening here. “Celebrate this chance to be Alive and Breathing” perhaps points to the bands difficulties and how MJK wants to learn from the mistakes of the past and let the anger that was so obvious on the first albums dissolve and become a non issue. This is all just speculation on my point, but thought like this make me grateful that even heavy music can at time be meaningful and positive. That’s the magic of Tool.

The next song however, come from an older place. “Ticks and Leeches” is easily the most angry, throw back Tool song on the album. The drums in this song are FUCKING INSANE. They open at the extreme start of the song, and they never even slow down a little bit. It’s a pissy, venom filled song, and while it doesn’t lyrically fit in snug with many of the other songs, it still showcases how Tool can still be pissed off. Keenan’s vocals are without a doubt the most aggressive of the whole album. While I’m thinking about it, can we talk about the epic hellfire scream that’s unleashed near the end of the song? “Suck me dry” is quietly whispered at first, but as the song breaks into madness, these same lyrics are screamed at an incredible intensity for well over thirty-five sections. Now, that might not be super impressive to you, but the sheer intensity of it always impresses me. It’s really quite badass. As a conclusion to that scream conversation, it’s so difficult for Keenan to perform live this is one of the songs that rarely is played live.

Now, the next song is a juggernaut. The ninth track on the album, which also happens to be the title track, “Laterauls,” begins with a nice but slow guitar part. Before long though, the drums and Justin Chancellor’s bass come thumping in and the song really takes off. The song is probably among the best the band has ever written, and it’s also one of the most popular. Again the lyrics here speak to a certain otherworldly positivity that wasn’t really embraced on previous albums. It’s a song about “Over thinking and over analyzing” and about “separating the body from the mind.” Pretty progressive stuff happening here if you ask me. For many of the shows I witnessed, this was the closer, and it’s perfect. The song makes you want to go into the dark willingly, and tackle whatever obstacles may face you. It’s about the pain we suffer, and the love we give, and how without one we can’t possess the other. It’s an overwhelmingly thought-provoking song, and with this concluding a concert you truly feel like you can go out into the world and be victorious over anything you need to conquer. Finally getting to the music itself though, the time signatures here are really something. The original name of the song was 9-8-7, which is the 16th number in the Fibonacci sequence. This is interesting because while music was being made, the band had no idea this would happen. The time signatures happened just to be 9-8-7. To tie all of this together, the themes of spirals in the song also tie into the Fibonacci sequence. Now, there’s no way to know if this was done on urporse, but it’s pretty cool to think about.

The album concludes musically with a three-part beast of a song. The first part, “Disposition,” is a quiet drop off from the after effects of the previous song. While it’s very slow and even, it musically is very interesting. The drums are quiet and light, as are the vocals and guitars. It’s a pretty great transitional song, even more so when you consider where the song is going from here. As “Disposition” ends, a drum beat appears that isn’t like the beat you hear on the song. This signals the second movement of this piece. The slow rise and pull of part two, or “Reflection,” glides over and once again we’re greeted by music I imagine you would here in a Stargate type movie, except this music is better than anything found in that movie.

Reflection” is to me an example of where the band would go even more so on the next album “10,000 Days.” Lyrically it starts out late, and you can tell the band went many different directions before they decided ultimately on going down this meandering route. The music bob and weaves down into uncharted territory until nearly four minutes in when Keenan’s voice comes into voices. The echo effects used on his voice are really spectacular, and it helps to add another layer of depth to this already solidly deep song. This might be the song where MJK’s voice is most unlike what was expected of him, and that is awesome, because he shows you yet again his exceptional range and how he knows precisely how to use his instrument, his voice. The buildup and crescendo of the finale is great, and it gives the song a little boost when it’s needed to put it right over the edge. “Triad,” the last part of this arrangement, is totally instrumental, and is basically one pulsating drum part over and over again. There’s not much variation, but it completes the song in a really care

The last song on the album, is the super fucking creepy, is it or isn’t it real “Faaip De Oaid.” While I know now it’s not a real thing, it’s still cool to my conspiracy theory filled mind to think that it’s true. Basically a caller is trying to reach out to anyone who will listen. As the call goes, the man becomes more frantic in explaining how since his firing from Area 51, he’s been chased around the country, and how ultimately the government, with the assistance of E.T.’s are trying to get people into giant metro to wipe them out. It’s incredibly creepy, and I’m really not doing it justice, but it’s the last moments of the album, and it takes a toll.

This album is still great, and I hope you enjoyed reading and thinking about this awesome record. Next time we’ll be talking about a band that was shuffled in with horrible bands during the “Nu Metal” movement, but ended up making big “Changes.” Thanks for reading!

My Favorite Albums of all Time #4(NINE INCH NAILS, THE FRAGILE)

Wow, it only took a few months and now we’re left with four entries on my top albums of all time. I must confess though. Picking among the next four has been extremely difficult. All of these albums are monumental to me, and each one brings something different. The last four albums were all also released within two years of each other, so you could say these records came to me at a very important period in my life. Before we get to the top three though, we’re going to be talking about number four, Nine Inch Nails severely underrated “The Fragile.” This double behemoth of a record is basically Nin’s version of Weezer’s Pinkerton. Among casual fans it’s appreciated vastly, but at the time of the release it didn’t change the world in the way the previous album had, and for some, it was a disappointment. For most hardcore fans though, it’s not only the best album Reznor has made to date, but it has everything a nin fan could want. The songwriting is excellent, and he takes the success of “The Downward Spiral” and adds to it in even more experimental ways. Number Four on my list, Nine Inch Nails “The Fragile.”

This album, recorded at the now defunct Nothing Studios in New Orleans is sonically, conceptually, and emotionally heavy. While “The Downward Spiral” brought the band, and Reznor especially into the forefront of cutting edge rock music , its success ushered in the ability for the band to explore even more and create an all time classic as far as I’m concerned. “Somewhat Damaged,” which opens the album with a crushing instrumental section and lyrics that are full of venom, gives way to the somber, heavy, and eerily gorgeous layers that make up “The Day the World Went Away.” Many of the songs on this record were firsts for the band, and this is an early sign that this is an album that will both surprise and reward the listener. I venture to say that aside from Radiohead, there was no other well known “rock” band of the time who did more for original, forward thinking rock music. TDTWWA is full of soul, sadness, and the nah nah nah’s at the end of the song really work in the construct of the song. These chants were supposedly created by emptying a bar close to the studio and having drunks chant the part.

At the time, Reznor was going through a rough patch. His grandmother had passed, and drugs and alcohol were slowly ruining his life. Hearing the album now, you can hear the pain in his voice, and at times it even appears that he’s slipping even further down a dangerous hole. Having said that, the beats on this album, along with the very high production value, are amazing, and while the tone of the album isn’t bright, the message comes across beautifully. Songs like “Please,” or the “The Frail” and “The Wretched,” are densely compacted with samples, textures and layers that set up a perfect dim room album. “The Wretched” especially is a force of nature. It comes early on in the over two hour record, but it’s placement is key.

Probably my favorite song of all time by this band comes next in the form of “We’re In This Together.” There was always just something about this track. The beat quickening and then sinking into ominous doom, before picking up again with a bombastic drumbeat, it gets you into a groove very fast and doesn’t let it’s grasp go for over 7 minutes. It’s such a beautiful song, and sadly, one that is never played live. I’ve read things regarding this that seem to point out that it’s among Reznor’s favorite songs of all time, and he doesn’t think he could ever do it justice live. Even if that’s not the case, the vocal range of the track is quite difficult. There’s simply not enough good things I can say about it, so I’ll just leave it at that.

This album also has some absolutely killer instrumental tracks. Usually instrumentals are known for not being as in your face, but on “The Fragile” it’s almost the opposite. “Just Like You Imagined” is remarkably bad ass, and the chaos in the song isn’t really matched at all on the whole first disc. It’s a journey through war, and darkness, and if you’ve ever seen the trailer for “300” which uses this track, you know it’s basically the best trailer of all time. Now, I use the term instrumental slightly loosely here. This song does have vocals, but it takes up essentially 10 seconds of the song, and it doesn’t even have lyrics. Either way, the song is incredible, and it’s placement on the record is at a great point and keeps the listener engaged for what is next to come.

The other prominent instrumental here is “Pilgrimage.” Following the beat heavy but low tempo “Even Deeper,” “Pilgrimage” is a death march made up of unrelenting beats and drilling that pummels the listener into submission. It very much brings ideas and visuals to your head that make you think of the Nazi’s storming the world, slowly trying to take over everything.

Going back to “Even Deeper” though. It’s one of the more dismissed songs when I talk to other fans, and I can never seem to figure out why. It follows the same boundaries and rules of the other songs on the album, and Reznor’s voice and lyrics here are a spot above most of the other tracks on the album. The song to me is a wake up call to the character, and a warning that things happen, and sometimes it sucks, but you have to keep going and work through it.

The first disc comes to a brilliant conclusion in the way of “La Mer” and “The Great Below.” Both lovely songs, they are the ying and yang on this album. “La Mer” creeps up on you with a quite smile in the form of beautiful French sung lyrics, and translated they are quite pretty. Translated, they spell out “And when the day arrives, Ill become the sky, and I’ll become the sea, and the sea will come to kiss me, for I am going home. Nothing Can stop me now.” You might recognize that last line from the “The Downward Spiral’s” “Piggy,” but beyond that it’s one of the prettier and light songs in the band’s whole discography. It also just happens to be the only appropriate song by this band that we could play at our wedding. The piano throughout the song is airy and floaty, and the way the drums come in and give the song a boost is executed well. From the slow fade in this song, we venture into darker territories to find ourselves becoming one with “The Great Below.” One of my favorite of the slower nin songs, this is the emotional cliff at the end of the trail for the first half of this record. As a listener it’s deep and layered, but as a person imagining being in that position, there’s a certain amount of willingness to let go and let the chips fall where they may. Seeing this song live (It hasn’t been played since the Fragility V2.0 tour) featured Reznor playing in front of screens depicting rocking waves hitting roughly over deserted rocks in a kind of forgotten world. This song is a forgotten world, with the author singing quietly but emotionally of a love that the world forget. It’s the usual slow closer that so many of the albums have, but it’s also among the most sincere. The imagery is some of the best on the whole record too, and the synth quietly making themselves known behind the straining pains of the vocals is the perfect way to end the first record.

If you think about it, this album seems to be very well thought out in terms of pacing and timing. The character from “The Great Below” is resigning himself to going through whatever he has to, and he’s prepared to leave it all behind. To do that though, he must continue. “The Way is Through” is a hard fought struggle to get through this shit, but ultimately it’s a very strong song, and with it, we enter the second disc(or Right). “I will keep on” sets the tone of the song, and the beats and drums are picking up the rear, slowly but surely building power and strength until the explosive core of the song is reached. It’s one of the most amazing starts to a album I’ve ever heard, and it’s among my all time favorite nin songs. Finally getting to see this song performed live at Bonnaroo 2009 was a highlight of all my concert experiences, and it still gives me goosebumps to hear it.

Now, many people think that the Right Disc of the record isn’t as great as the Left side. To an extent I agree, but I still wouldn’t dismiss it completely. Unfortunately Right does have one of the worst nin songs of all time(Starfuckers, Inc.)but in other places it has some of the best, and most ambitious songs. “Into the Void” is pretty catchy, and the beat is hard to evacuate from. Another great, and proper instrumental comes to us at number four, with “The Mark has been Made.” The song is dire, and very much speaks to me in regards to abandonment. Often times I feel alone in the world, and to be honest, I feel that way currently. This slow burn of a song and the ultimate intense conclusion signals to me the end of the road where everything you’ve done wrong catches up to you, and you can’t change anything. You have to surrender and give up, because once “The Mark has been Made,” there’s no going back.** Expression is faulty **(That last thing just appeared on my word document, and I kind of like it, so it stays).

Through my life, numerous things have impacted me, and from time to time it gets hard to breathe. A way out is always on my mind in these moments, but I try my best to hold on. Those are the times I need this album the most. I guess a part of me feels like during the making of this album, Reznor felt the same. As I mentioned earlier, his grandmother who had raised him had passed away. As someone who was most close in this world to their grandmother, I can relate to the emotions presented here. While “The Downward Spiral” is known for being self destructive and melancholy, this record is deep, deep pain. “Please” is angry and in your face, and other songs like “I’m Looking Forward to Joining You, Finally” immediately make me think of my grandmother. Sometimes there’s nothing I’d rather do than end it all and meet her where ever she is, but I try to remember that maybe other people need me too, and even though I let her down and wasn’t there when she left this world, she still loved me, and maybe if there’s an after life, I’ll somehow see her again, Even writing this now I’m in tears because this song impacts me so much. It’s a song that features a singular theme musically, with the only prominent sound not sung lyrics coming from deliberate and steady drums. The end is pretty cool too, and it really adds a good dynamic to the track,

The last three songs are some of the best tracks on the entire record, and they perfectly capture the feel and emotional core of the record. “The Big Come Down” is one of my favorite songs by this band ever, and every time I hear it I like it more and more. The beat opening the song is similar to the beat in Pilgrimage, in the way that it has drilling characteristics. The vocals are throaty and pissed off, and it reminds me of a man running through alley ways trying to escape a big monster. It’s appropriate that it’s near the end of the album. We finally get “The Big Come Down.”

Underneath It All” follows it, and it’s just as intense, maybe more so than the previous tracks. Again it’s a pummeling song, and it very much is the sign of the end. I always wonder where this theme of unrelenting beats came from. It’s a theme that goes through many of the songs, and while I don’t know if I was deliberate, I’m glad it’s a noticeable theme on the album, because it fits. The album closing choice, “Ripe with Decay,” is the slow burn song above all slow burn songs. It’s pretty dark and creepy, and I believe that even though it was made a decade before Reznor’s Score work started happening, this let’s us know that the work would be good, and that he can without a doubt make ominous music to set moods and elevate situations.

The Fragile” remains an unparalled album of depth and scope, and it’s likely going to stay among my favorites until I die. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this. Next time we’re taking about what happens when someone with a Grudge meets someone who is Patient. Thanks for reading.

Aside

My Favorite Albums of all Time # 5(DAFT PUNK, ALIVE 2007)

I still can’t believe it happened so long ago. April of 2006 was the first time of three that I would see my one of my favorite all time bands, Daft Punk. I had ventured all the way to Indio for Coachella, basically only to see Tool and Daft Punk. From the extreme success of that single show, they would embark on another tour during the summer months of the following year. That tour, the “Alive 2007” tour, would end up becoming a live album. I, along with my sister, my mother, and my now wife, would be lucky enough to witness this groundbreaking show at the other worldly venture known as Red Rocks, Colorado. Now, while I won’t be taking about this show specifically, the live album was recorded during the tour, so it’s essentially the Red Rocks show that we witnessed. Number 5, Daft Punk’s “Alive 2007.”

Live albums as a whole tend to be tricky. You don’t want to overdo and play only hits, but you always want to give the people a certain amount of what they want. It’s hard to say what Daft Punk actually choose to do. This show, along with most of the shows it helped to spawn, doesn’t really follow a traditional song pattern. Throughout the 12 “tracks” displayed here, each one has at least two songs constantly intertwining. Sometimes, a beat from a song will disappear entirely from a song, only to make it self known down the line. This is the mastery that these French fellas were able to pull off. When you witness the show, it’s literally non stop for the duration of the set. Time flies. From the opening beats of “Robot Rock” that propel you to a happy movement unlike anything else you’ve experienced, to the ending notes of the returning “Human After All,” you don’t really stop moving. It’s simply infectious.

Just as a warning, I’m gonna do my best, but this likely will turn into a very long-winded tale of the 3 nights myself and my changing group of friends were held prisoner by the brilliant European beat makers. By this tour, I had gotten the chance to see this tour twice, so going in you are pretty aware of what you’re about to see. This is both true and untrue. Since the show was unveiled 14 months earlier, the show had been tweaked in small but very noticeable ways. The “Fuck It Fuck it Fuck it” coursing through track two “Touch It/Technologic” wasn’t presented at the previous shows, but that’s the kind of thing you can do when you spend a year or so making a perfect show even better.

The story goes that the only reason they even accepted the Coachella offer was because the amount of money was enough to put on the stage show they had ideas for. This idea became known as the pyramid, and it kinda changed how live shows are approached. ESPECIALLY for dance acts. Now its common place to see a edm artist with a giant high energy stage show, but it wasn’t always so. After the monumental success of the Coachella set, the band decided to tour for the first time in ages. The shows were awe-inspiring to say the least, and after having conquered the whole, they again disappeared for many years. Even though they haven’t played a proper show since 2007, rumors still persist that they will be at every music festival.

Probably my favorite section of the show comes pretty early on. The beats from “Television Rules the Nation” bust out of the speakers, while “Around the World” gloriously rips through on the audio vocal end of the music. The music, on top of th e accompanying visuals really do the job of capturing human existence. It’s hard even now just listening to it not be grateful to be on Earth. The buildup is something to behold. “Crescendolls” joins the fun created by the first two tracks and things get wild. The build up and explosion is maybe the best thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Even at the shows, I remember being torn between filming it or enjoying the moment. I think in the end I filmed maybe 5 seconds and chose to lose myself to dance(see what I did there?).

There’s a reason these two men are supremely important to the current electronic music scene. Their hands are the only ones that are responsible for so many artists giving it a try. Much like Kraftwerk were instrumental in the 70’s and 80’s, Daft Punk have taken similar risks in bringing their unique style of “Robot Rock” to mainstream audiences. The contribution is incalculable and utterly important. The impact that this band has had on my life only has been incredible. I’ve witness this show with quite a few people who I deeply love and respect, and those moments are forever a part of the great experiences we’ve had. I mean for fuck’s sake, my groomsman at my wedding WAS the Daft Punk helmets. They came out amazing. I honestly don’t know what kind of person I would be if I hadn’t discovered Daft Punk in high school. They were among the first non-metal bands I liked during that time, and they’re still one of the best things to ever happen in music.

I picked this album specifically because while I do have a favorite stand alone album, the sheer talent and skill represented in this live album brings everything to the table. It has songs from every album, mixed and arranged in a way to make them their own unique songs. The cut it up, slice it, and transform these songs to work in the live setting. One of the best examples is how “Steam Machine” enters at the end of one section of a beat and carries the tone and elements over to the next section where “Around the World” returns and is joined by the beat of one of the better songs in their catalogue, “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.” It stops abruptly, but slowly a singular beats lays down under the vocals and gradually brings the tempo back up to a party atmosphere. The band had mentioned that this show felt like an opera to them, in the way that opera’s have movements that flow effortlessly, and little things in each movement are allowed to change as long as the end goal remains the same. You can really see the motivation on this track. It seems like a mess at times, but it might just be because no one was used to hearing so many elements from so many songs happening at the same time.

From this point, the show keeps on going in the same way it has been. Over the next three songs we’re treated to re working of at least 7 songs. I imagine if you had only seen or heard this album, you might not be aware that these aren’t the album versions, but it’s totally understandable. That’s a testament to what great producers Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter are that as two individuals they can mix multiple things and bring an incredible stage show and have the end result be a seemless mix of beautiful visuals, gorgeously layered sounds, and leave the crowd still wanting more after a full concert.

This is where the set begins to change a little bit compared to the Coachella show from a year earlier. Basically it only changes in terms of things being added, but we’ll get to that in a bit. The familiar bells of “Aerodynamic” give way rather quickly to the unmistakable ding of hopefulness that is the mega hit “One More Time.” I swear I’ve heard this song hundreds of times and it’s still as awesome as it was the first time it ventured into my life. If there’s a single part or song that captures the full message of the show and the energy it brings force, it’s easily “One More Time” The breakdown and blatant add-on of the “Aerodynamic” beats imposed over the previous beat is also really smooth and precise.

This is the part of the record where they slow things down again simply to bring it up again. The double whammy of vocals provided from “Primetime of Your Life,” interlaced over the rough scratching of “Brainwasher” really make it a deliberate entry into the set. On traditional records both of these songs are super heavy in terms of rocking bass, but in the live setting, it’s pretty killer. The beat also only ramps up as the song goes on, but at a full on dance party, you kinda have to do so. You want the crowd to go away thinking this was the best show I’ve ever seen, and for many of the people I’ve met and/or discussed this live experience with, it ranks among the best.

With two songs left, we find the group doing something that they’ve perfected by now: Very quietly inserting segments from the next song into the mix in such a way as you can barely hear it until it’s at your door ready to party. This time, the track in question is maybe the song with the best beat to it, “Da Funk.” How they do it though slightly varies. You can hear the intro in the previous song, but it ends mid way through, only to have it re-emerge in full force on this track. It’s one of the few parts of the show were this song is the only one on display, even if it’s for a brief moment. “Da Funk” is clearly an incredible song, and the placement here is quiet appropriate.

This, unfortunately brings the last “track of the album,” and as far as show closers go, it doesn’t disappoint. We open up with the heroic vocals from “Superheroes,” but that isn’t the only thing prevalent here. The beat from “Human After All” is also there, and that’s where the song really soars. If you’re trying to make a complete show, it’s logical for a band who opens with “Robot Rock” to then close with “Human After All.” I like to think it’s to demonstrate that while they have been performing for the crowd, in a way we’ve been performing for them, and making them feel good. We’re gifting each other with a legendary experience.

In closing, This band is likely the most important electronic band every to make music, and this collection of songs proves why. It’s timeless, fun, and thoughtful all at the same time. This is also a band that has been apart of a few awesome memories involving people I care about, and in the end, “Music Sounds Better With You.”

So we’re down to the final four of our list. Next, we’re gonna set “Somewhat Damaged” and try not to break. Thanks for reading.

Aside

My Favorite Albums of All Time #6(MICHAEL JACKSON, THRILLER)

Even today, the numbers and figures of this album are absolutely incredible. Twenty-nine million copies sold in the United States. As you are likely aware. We are only one country. Some estimates have it as high as 110 million copies sold worldwide. That’s a lot of albums. This album has been hailed as not only the masterpiece of the 80’s, but as one of the best albums created in the history of all music. Say what you want about his personal history, and whether or not certain things are true (I doubt they are), but there’s no denying the incalculable contribution this artist has had on music. You may have figured out by now that the artist in question is Michael Jackson. From a young age he had a big role in shaping how music effected my life, and even now when you go back and listen to albums(Especially “Thriller”), you can tell there was just something about it. Many times my mother has mentioned how I wore out records and tapes from constant listens, and most notably how I’d dance around the house in my MJ outfit. This album had such a big part in my early life that even at my wedding, the Bridal party all wore watching sequined gloves and danced down the aisle to the title track, all while doing the universally known dance that is featured in the video. Number six on my top albums of all time, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Released in the eleventh month of my birth year, 1982, from the opening notes of “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin,’” which feature a very clearly 80’s synth rocking, you are aware this isn’t just any album. Jackson always prided himself on advanced sounds and an excellent production value, but on this, his sixth album, the bar was set so ridiculously high that it really hasn’t been topped, especially in terms of traditional “pop music.” That’s what is so great about not only this album, but his work as a whole. A consummate professional, as well as a perfectionist, you can tell it was painstaking process to get to a point where a song or idea was fully formed and completed. So much of the first song lays the way for advancement in music history. Everything from the vocal schemes, to the horns and keyboards are exacted in a precise manner. “Wanna Be Startin’ Something,” does just that. It starts the listener down the trail of the not only the best selling album of the 80’s, not only also the biggest winner in the history of the Grammy’s, but also of the most important recording in the history of pop music, at least from my point of view.

So many of these songs are classics. This would never happen now, but this album was at the top for so fucking long that of its 9 total songs, 7 of those were singles. That’s a staggering number. Once you get past that number and actually listen to the album, its not super surprising. A lot of the songs have a timeless quality to them. Jackson’s voice is great at not only singing, but also knowing the best moment to change his vocal style and approach to a song. Sometimes it’s heartfelt(“Baby Be Mine”), other times it’s forceful and defiant(“Beat It”), but it’s always unique and perfect.

By the third song, “The Girl is Mine” featuring Paul McCartney, we get a chance to hear a gorgeous textured love song. McCartney’s approach and gentle voice compliments the concept of the song, as well as the aesthetic of this lovely summer time ballad. I mean seriously, this song is made for a beautiful day in a nice park with someone you love. At the time this song was thought to have been a misstep, but listening now it’s another in a seemless row of awesome songs. From then on, the next three songs are impossible to deny, and the impact of these songs is still felt to this day.

We start this trilogy of bad ass songs with the title track “Thriller.” Easily one of the best songs of all time, and likely his best known song. The build up is unstoppable, and the beat is just plain sick. I wish I would have been of an age to witness how forcefully this song must have captivated the world, but I was barely born, and wouldn’t be exposed fully to its awesomeness for some time. The video is also nothing to dismiss. For the time, and limitations in terms of production and effects, there’s no denying the power and influence it had. It was in many ways a film, and it set the stage to more theatrical videos and helped to define music videos as a legitimate art form in a time where it was sorely needed. A little trivia for y’all. It’s been said that Jackson wanted Vincent Price to deliver the monologue throughout the song, but Price refused, citing religious reasons. The thing was, Jackson and Price were the same religion, and after a conversation with Jackson, Vincent agreed to do it. The end is history. Plain and simple, the song “Thriller” is a masterpiece, and still one of the most popular songs ever recorded. From there the synth rocks back to life and we dive straight into “Beat It.” This one is another one with an amazing video. I mean seriously, what kid didn’t want a red leather jacket after seeing this video. Aside from the video, the song is another gem. While not the best song on the album, it’s still a testament to the staying power held in the fiber of the music. The song bridges the gap in the middle of the album where most albums tend to slow down. “Thriller” doesn’t do that at all. It’s pretty smart actually. A lot of people check of the early tracks and the later tracks, but in an era where vinyl’s were extremely popular, putting the three strongest songs in the middle of the album was a genius move, and forced everyone to keep going based off of the momentum set up.

The next track is a giant hit too. In a way it’s nauseating to see how good these songs are, because not everyone is capable of brilliance at this level. “Billie Jean” is a love song gone wrong, but in that lies it brilliance and staying power. The drum beat through the course of the song is great, and Jackson’s impeccable voice implores us to “dance on the floor, in the round.” The bridge about “breaking young girl’s heart” has always been a favorite of mine, and the “whoo” is truly badass. The song has this strut to it that also has a timeless quality to it. It’s one of the best mid tempo songs I’ve ever heard, and even though the tempo isn’t super in your face, it’s impossible to resist dancing and singing to it.

From there, the hooks keep on coming. “Human Nature” is another gorgeous song that showcases more of his genuine voice and less of the exact production that other songs feature. I’m not trying to imply the production is less prominent here, but rather that on this track, the main draw is Jackson’s quiet, nurturing voice, and how it slowly pulls you in and makes you want to live inside the world he’s created for as long as you possibly can. Oh all the songs on the record, this might be among my least favorites, but it’s still a better song than 99.99% of the things you hear on current pop radio. Also, it’s kinda hard to follow-up a triple threat like “Thriller,” “Beat It,” and Billie Jean” and keep the awesome momentum going. The next song though, keeps the party going. “P.Y.T.” is feel good song about the innocence of being young and love, and it paints the perfect picture for the vibe of the song. “P.Y.T.” knows very well how to not throw too much at us at once, and not to overdo it. The beat is simple, and the introduction half way through of the abrasive guitar really adds a unique view-point to this overall positive song. That’s why this able is so hard to deny as a classic. It forces you to dance, and it doesn’t really let up during the whole duration of the album. There isn’t an artist even around now that was able to bring so many different elements to the table and meld it to create one awesome soundtrack for millions of people to embrace. The last song, the easy-going and quite beautiful “The Lady in my Life” delivers in a way that only a few of the other songs can do. It’s a song about love first and foremost, and Jackson’s voice is a voice in which you can trust. I’m aware of how cheesy this sounds, but it’s true. It’s almost as if he knew he couldn’t follow-up the force of the big three songs we’ve discussed earlier, so he chose to go a different route and have the last three songs follow a more down tempo, layered vibe as to not diminish the overall strength of the album. This is the way the end product of the album succeeds.

After decades, this album is still a testament to how much an amazing artist he was, and how there will likely never be anyone like him again. He’s one of the foundations of popular music in the lexicon on important music, and for all the pretenders who have come after him, there will always only be one “King of Pop.” Next time we’ll be talking the about the only live album on the list, and also the about the stage show that set the trend of electronic musicians having incredibly elaborate stage shows. And no, it’s not deadmau5. The dudes behind this album practically invited him. Thanks for reading.

My Favorite Albums of all Time #7(RADIOHEAD, OK COMPUTER)

Often times a good indicator of where a band is going would be the albums previously released by said band. Every now and then, that ends up not happening, and the end product is something that is light years ahead of their previous efforts. Taking everyone by storm in the spring of 1997, “OK Computer” falls in the latter of the types of albums I previously mentioned. The bands previous released “The Bends” was quite good in fact, but it lacked a certain amount of experimentation for me.

This is the album that made everyone aware of what this band was actually capable of, and since then, they’ve not only become one of the most well known and sought after bands in the world of music, they’ve also continued to release albums that push the term of what can be considered popular music. Every show sells out, and watching them you get to see five people who weren’t meant to do anything else except play music. Number 7, “OK Computer” by Radiohead.

The album opens with the appropriate screeching of “Airbag.” Quickly though, the beat brings us mixtures of electronica, slight orchestral tones and a cache of slightly futuristic rock. One of the best things about the band is the way in which the unorthodox voice of Thom Yorke goes with the music. I’ve heard many times that his voice isn’t really that great, and while I can understand where those people are coming from, for me the voice itself has always gone well with the music. I can’t imagine anyone else being the vocalist in this band. The unusual voice is the perfect inclusion to the overall sound. This isn’t a traditional band making radio friendly music. The depth, scope and precision of the music goes perfectly with Yorke’s voice.

So many of these songs are now considered fan favorites, but one of the first glimpses the world got of the album was the second track on the record, “Paranoid Android.” It’s difficult in many of their songs to pinpoint certain instruments and notations, simply because Radiohead does such an exemplary job of bringing in things to fill the sound while not showcasing exact things. This song is one of the best examples of that. Aside from the bass line and the wild guitar solo that brings us to the half way point of the song, you don’t really hear individual instruments too much. The song goes off in a variety of directions, but towards the end it builds into a slower pace while Yorke is imploring “Come on rain down, from a great height.” It’s one of the prettiest sections in the whole record, but as the verses of “God loves his children, yeah” enter the situation, the song reverts back to it’s dark and somewhat electronic frenzy and leaves us in a world of hurt and suffering.

Some people thought this was a concept album about one main theme and idea, and to some extent they were right. But it’s not a linear story in anyway. Band members have mentioned from time to time that quite simply, the single coherent theme of the album is a story of systems breaking down if I remember correctly. Unlike the very personal nature of “The Bends,” songs on this one weren’t super personal and sad. The music, coupled with the general positivity that Yorke was trying to find at the time make this perhaps the most chipper record of their career, even if you can’t tell at first glance. Upon first listening, you might think songs like “Subterranean Homesick Alien” and “Exit Music(For a Film” were very dark, but that’s not really the case. I think maybe Yorke just has a more somber voice, so many people just automatically think it’s sad shit. “Exit Music” especially is a really interesting track. Obviously the music is slow and somber, but the song has always made me think of two young lovers escaping from a place where they weren’t free to do as they pleased. To me that’s a happy escape, even if the situation is less than ideal. I’m just assuming that the “let you choke” section at the conclusion of the song is in reference to the father mentioned earlier in the song.

Some songs are downright gorgeous both texturally and lyrically. “Let Down” has been one of my favorite songs by the band for as long as I can remember. The guitar work here by Johhny Greenwood and Ed O’Brien here really make the song glitter in the night the way it should. Yorke’s voice happily ringing about are just an added bonus if you asked me. The song has a very translucent quality to it. I imagine myself at a party, and it’s late at night. Everyone is living in the same haze, and it’s a happy time where chimes are slowly moving in the air as pretty and subtle lights are hanging over head. The end of the song is amazing too. I love the way the vocals peak out as we then move to a song more focused on an interesting sound effect and Phil Selway’s always great drumming. “Let Down” is a song that mixes well with the album, and is a for sure hidden gem of excellence. If you’ve never taken the time to actually listen to it, I highly suggest you do, it’s quite marvelous. \

Karma Police” quickly reminds us that things can’t always be bright and chipper. The lyrics, while interesting and off the wall, aren’t really the main attraction here. The instrumentals are simply sublime. One of the best things about the song are also the little things you don’t pick up on. For years, I never heard the echo and background vocals of O’Brien throughout the song, but probably in the last 2-3 years I’ve discovered it, and now it’s one of my favorite parts of the track. The end is also really cool. The band is playing their hearts out while the backing recording of a literal computer dying slowly fills the track space and when it’s all said and done, that’s the only thing you hear. It’s a perfect form of track sequencing. From there we go perhaps the darkest and most reflective track on the album. “Fitter Happier” is both one of the most interesting songs the band has ever created, it’s also extremely dark.

Fitter Happier” for me is the story of human beings trying to be as human as possible but still not wanting to do so much work to get there. Just listen to the song. It’s a horribly depressing song full of regret, and of not meeting expectations that are expected of you. That’s how we begin the second half of the record. Following that delightful gem we hear a jangle of a tambourine (I think), and we’re right in the middle of “Electioneering.” This song adequately juxtaposes chipper guitar parts and a more upbeat attitude musically with the lyrics promoting a man who will do anything to get your vote. As Yorke exclaims during the second verse, “It’s just business.” That’s the impression I get from many politicians. It’s their business, and while they’re not actively trying to fuck you over, they couldn’t care less if they do. The lyrics really drive this point home also. Themes like “voodoo economics,” and “i go forward and you move backwards” are just a few things explored here. Thom Yorke and other band members have briefly mentioned their dislike for politicians, and on this solid track they present their case in one of the best ways.

A quiet chill then takes over with the track “Climbing up the Walls.” It’s quite haunting and foreboding, and paints images in my head of a Victorian period horror film, with a character dancing through the darkness with only a candle to protect her. This comes in stark contrast musically to the track that follows it, “No Surprises.” While the video is a bit depressing, and the lyrics don’t really make you feel any better, for me it’s always been a somewhat positive song. This is another example of mentioning the government in a less than favorable way. Quite simply, “They don’t speak for us.” Towards the end though, the exacting music and lyrics really do make the song a favorable one, and it’s one of the Radiohead songs I can actually smile while singing. The ending is especially pretty with Yorke singing about “Such a nice house and such a pretty garden.” I’m not sure if it’s meant to be sarcastic, but I also kinda choose to make my mind up about it being a happy song.

The album get near to the close with the slow but very well built up “Lucky.” It’s one of songs with a great opening on the record. I love the way Yorke is singing amid a slight guitar part, and then it’s almost as if the Greenwoods, O”Brien and Selway envelope him in an ocean of sunlight. The texture are also really really cool. Even know, this album is still decades ahead of anything currently happening in music. There’s a reason this has been called the album of the 90’s. It’s easily my pick for the honor, and every time you do back to it, you understand why a bit more.

From here on out, the band continued the experiments that led to this brilliant record, and for those many these albums were just as good as this one. For me though, “OK Computer” is one of the defining albums in my life, and it likely will continue being so. Next time we’ll discuss not only the best thrill pop music ever received, but also one of the highest selling records of all time. Thanks for reading.

Aside

My Favorite Albums of all Time #8(THE BEATLES, ABBEY ROAD)

Paul, George, John and Ringo. The Beatles. In short this is the band that all other bands thrive to be. The lasting appeal of this band is still the insane amount of good, amazing music they gifted to the world in such a short period of time. Although one previously recorded album was later released, “Abbey Road” is the last proper album recorded. Tensions were high to say the least. Now, for whoever is a fan of her’s, I’m sorry, but by this point Yoko and her fingers had firmly grasped Lennon, and obviously when four intelligent people are trying to create something, things can get heated anyway, so you don’t really need someone with virtually no talent trying to tell you how to be the best band ever. I digress though

Anyway, This album changed my life in a way that only a Beatles album can. It has great hooks, firm storytelling, and for a band whose importance in unrivaled in music history, it’s an extremely satisfying swan song of greatness. My number eight favorite all time album, The Beatles “Abbey Road.”

At first glance you wouldn’t think “Come Together” would be a good opener for this record, but not only is it a good starter, there aren’t many obvious choices here. The song starts with a groovy rhythm section popping and while it’s slightly non sensical and has no clear story, you don’t really need that to enjoy this song. By this, their 11th album, they knew exactly how to make incredible music. There’s a reason people still think they’re best band to ever exist; They Are.

The first time I heard this record I don’t even know if my frail young mind was able to handle it. It’s just not everyday you discover such an absurdly great band. One of the songs that jumped out most to me was “Something.” For the record my favorite is George. His precision, and skill at multiple instruments is the secret weapon of the entire band. When I was lucky enough to see McCartney at Bonnaroo, he told a wonderful story. It goes that one day Paul and George were hanging out and Harrison starts playing a ukulele and Paul becomes quite enamored with it. Never having played one before, Harrison teaches Paul to play it. Years later George is fading and everyone is aware. Paul gets a package in the mail and opens it. It’s a gift from George Harrison. The ukulele. It’s at this moment that Paul tells this giant audience that the instrument he’s holding is the gift from George. Then he plays “Something.” Let me tell you. Man tears were shed, and it was a moment I’ll never forget.

The songs on “Abbey Road” are at once songs that showcase how the band had grown into vital musicians while still embracing the basic rules that led to their ascension to the throne of popular music. While much of the album is a forward thinking strategy, songs like “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” harkon back to the beginnings. Reportedly, other band members hated the song but Paul insisted on its inclusion. They felt it was boring and old, but for me it’s fitting and brings a little nostalgia to the mix.

Everyone in the band gets their chances to shine here, and it makes the album better for it. Ringo’s contribution is the great,fun, carefree and often overlooked “Octopus’ Garden.” It has a very lovely floaty feel, and Starr’s voice goes perfectly with this overall scheme. I know Ringo get’s a bad wrap as being the least talented member of the band, but not only wouldn’t they be the Beatles without him and his ideas, but wouldn’t you prefer be the worst member in the best band of all time then be anyone in Nickelback, Creed or any other half wit band ever? I think so.

I want you” comes next and is a slow burn of a song, and it’s totally killer in the way it pillows like smoke in a dark bar late at night. It has a very winding road quality to it. Now I hate Yoko Ono(I’ll try not to mention her again), but as far as love songs go, Lennon hit it out the park with this one. I love the guitar parts especially. To me they do a brilliant job here of making the bass and guitar sound almost like the same instrument. There are points where you really can’t tell. I have this on vinyl (On loan from my parents in law), and to hear not only this song but the whole album on that format is almost like watching Michalengo paint the Sistine Chapel. There’s no better way to experience it. The warmth coming through leaves one speechless,and to be frank, it’s simply perfect.

So when my wife, my now father in law, my mother and myself were trying to figure out what to have our group dance be at my wedding, we weren’t sure. It wasn’t until the seventh song on the record “Here Comes the Sun” came on, that we knew what we were choosing. For the four of us, fellow Beatles lovers, it made perfect sense. This song is now a major part of my life, and every time I hear it I’m transported back, even for a little bit to that day where my best friend became my wife. It was a great, wonderful day, and this dance number was the moment where everything seemed right. The song is like a breath of fresh air after the downward struggle of the end of “I Want You,” but yet again it showcases how this band can be everything all at once. The upbeat sounds of the music intertwined with the ever-growing positivity of the lyrics make this song a perfect complement not only to the tense backgrounds of the album, but also to the everyday struggle people face. Eventually the sun will come up, and you should try your best to enjoy it when it does.

The album keeps riding on, and through solid song after solid song, we find ourselves treated to the hazy perfection of “Sun King,” followed by the poppy “Mean Mr. Mustard,” the ever rocking “Polythene Pam.” This second half of the record is essentially one long song divided up by movement. This was Paul’s major contribution to the recordings, and as you can tell, it came out pretty awesome. The songs I just mentioned go very easily together, and in the this 7 song, 16 minute epic perfectly ties everything into a wonderful bow. This “song” didn’t happen by accident if I’m guessing correctly. These fella’s don’t strike me as the types of men who aren’t fully aware of what they plan to do when making music. These moments for me are where the band really shines. Although they were at each others throats, the music had never been better, and in that way at least, they were still compatible.

Now, in this instance, and once again in my opinion, this is the part of the album where it becomes more than just an album. These next three songs, which are also part of the medley, are probably the best songs on the whole record, and for once someone saves the best for last, or at least almost last. A quiet piano and orchestra opens up and we hear Paul’s voice. We’re entering the gorgeous, perfect world of “Golden Slumbers.” Even listening to the song now I’m getting goose bumps. Holy shit this is the best band to ever exist. It’s such an amazingly happy song. It makes me feel as if he’s letting all of his frustrations in life into the creation of this piece of music. Even as he sings the song’s title, you hear the pain and emotion in his voice. It’s a quite short song, but it’s really only part of a larger idea, and soon we’re treated to the chanting positivity and hopefulness of “Carry That Weight.”

Carry That Weight” isn’t just a song. It’s a mantra for how to survive this cruel thing called life. These four men had been through incredible moments, and as their time together winded down, they reconvened to make one last awesome record. In doing so though, they didn’t just create an album that was good, but they crafted a crushingly perfect album that is still held up on a pedestal as one of the most important moments in music, ever.

The last song included in this medley it’s the ass kicking and appropriately titled “The End.” The drums, and the “Oh Yeah! Oh Right” screams are spot on in every way they can be, and from there the song gets a little funky and bluesy in tone and nature. This song isn’t big on lyrics, but the lyrics that are contained are the perfect demonstration fo what life is, and why it’s important to keep going, and to always appreciate the little things. As the albums concludes, we’re treated to a very short, but cool track. “Her majesty” was never supposed to actually be part of “Abbey Road,” but was later included when producers insisted and assured that the song would come over twenty seconds after “The End” to ensure that people knew for sure it wasn’t meant to be part of the mega medley.

Shortly after this album was released, things fell apart for good. The best band ever broke up, and even decades later, people are still clamoring for a little trip down memory lane. There’s now in the world very few people who haven’t had the chance to be moved by the Beatles. Very soon, there will be a world where no one has lived without the chance of discovering this ridiculously iconic band. In closing, the band has made a difference, and for all the turmoil, bickering, and other bullshit that went along with it, they managed to change music forever. Just remember, life is worth fighting for, and for living, if only because “And in the End, the Love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Next time we’ll be talking about another incredibly important group of English musicians who were attempting to make a really great album about a Computer, but ended up making a decent one. Thanks for reading

Aside

My Favorite Albums of All Time #9(PINK FLOYD, THE WALL)

By this time in their career, Pink Floyd had become the unanimous kings of psychedelic rock. Like most of the other albums, the one we’re discussing today was as well received as it was groundbreaking. Just trying to determine which album would make this list was difficult for me. There are just so many incredible ones to choose from. In the end though, it was this album, “The Wall,” that made the cut.

From the first time I heard the concept, and the grandiose nature of it. my brain was changed. I remember a summer where this was one of only two records I listened to. At number 9 on my countdown of my favorite albums of all time is Pink Floyd’s masterpiece “The Wall.”

The whole idea behind this album started with Roger Waters wanting to make something that showcased not only the feelings he had regarding his life, but also his utter contempt for modern concert audiences. Since they have blown up in a gigantic way, he had begun to feel alienated and alone, especially when playing in front of 80,000 people who he felt largely had no idea what was going on when it came to the motivations of the band. The resulting album was dark, angry and full of sadness and frustration. The opening soaring nature of “In the Flesh?” is a very good early example of what we’re in for in terms of scope. The sounds of planes crashing, guitars wailing, and, finally, a baby crying put you in the appropriately frail position to understand where the band was at this point.

Now, this might be a creation of Roger Waters, but that’s not to say that the other members are simply sitting idly by. Nick Mason, Richard Wright, and David Gilmour all bring their best to this fierce record. The guitars are fucking incredible, to say the least. Still today, you’ve never heard a guitarist and rhythm section that good. The album also has a perfect narrative flowing through it that is absent from music today.

By the third track, the first part of the ambitious and very popular “Another Brick in the Wall” has ascended upon us. This track is a total slow burn and it adds tension in the same way a good film director knows how to. That’s what makes this band so remarkable. These songs, not only just on this album but all of them, have a very cinematic quality to it. This is probably why “The Wall” as a whole works just as well in film form as it did in album form. Repeatedly, the band is able to bridge the gaps between songs with not only similar themes, and lyrics, but also similar guitar parts and time signatures. “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” is an adequate example of this. The song evolves from “Brick in the Wall Part 1” and takes on its own shape, and before the listener knows it, we’re back in the groove for “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2.”

“Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” is easily one of the most well-known songs in the bands cannon, and you can tell why. There hasn’t been a generation of rock music fans since this was released, who haven’t at least been exposed to this song. “Teacher leave those kids alone” is a staple of rock n’ roll music. There’s no two ways around it.

“Mother,” followed by “ Goodbye Blue Sky” and “Empty Spaces” are the heart and soul of this first half of the record. “Mother” is a pretty but bittersweet letter to the parents who told us we could succeed at anything, while “Blue Sky” is the reality of waking up to realize all those promises weren’t meant to be. It’s this brilliant use of metaphors that sets this band apart. The gorgeous opening of “Goodbye Blue Sky” gives way to slightly darker vocals and the presence of ever-growing fear and fright. From there, we dive into the ominously, quite visual presentation of “Empty Spaces.” This album was in some ways inspired by World War 2, and the marching of the feet,and the thumping time beats perfectly reflect that.

The next section of the album gets slightly lighter, but only in tempo and instrumentals. The lyrics are still adequately dark for the subject material. But the chipper sounds of “Young Lust” and “One of my Turns” doesn’t last long. Before we get to comfortable, we’re back with the saddest sections of the album, which just so happens to be the conclusion of the first half of the album. “Don’t Leave me Now.” is very depressing and you get the feeling that the story-teller isn’t really trying to make things better at all. From there, we receive the final “Another Brick in the Wall.” Part three might actually be my favorite, if only because of how in your face it is. “I don’t need those arms around me” is a violent reaction from a man who not only doesn’t want help, but he’s finding bliss in the lack of light in his life. The guitars and drums are nothing. if not deliberate, and it gives way to the perfectly dark conclusion that is “Goodbye Cruel World.”

“Cruel World” is the admission that the character of Pink is finally letting go of this world. He’s not killing himself, but there are worse things than death. He’s purposely turning his back on the things he once loved because he doesn’t know how to relate to them anymore. It’s a short song, but it gets its message across.

We open the second half of this album with the slow and dreamy guitar playing of “Hey You.” Personally, I’ve always preferred the second record above the first. The songs, for my money, are just better, and for whatever reason I’ve always related to this collection of songs more. “Hey You” is an excellent starter for the tail end of “The Wall.” It doesn’t jump in, but rather moves at a gradual pace until the wave of sound envelops us near the end of the song. This one is another to add to the list of songs that features incredible guitar parts from Gilmour. Even Waters’ voice here is crying out for someone to bring him relief. Unfortunately though, the character has thrown away everything in his life, and he’s left inside his “Wall” to try to figure out where things went wrong.

This whole record is a pretty bleak one though. At least the first half has a bit of light, but by this point, there isn’t anything left to be said, and it’s all just depressing bullshit. I’ve always felt that this album was as much of a therapy session as a warning. A therapy session for the person (Roger Waters) who always had these feelings in him, but a warning for people listening to realize life isn’t meant to live if you’re shut off from the rest of the world. “Nobody Home,” the third song on the second disc, is perhaps the saddest, yet most poignant song heard in this section of the double album. The visuals used in the show are also amazing. By this time in the live performance of the album, a wall has been constructed in front of the band. Except for the end, this is one of the few times you see a member of the band outside of the wall. A room opens up in the wall, and you get to see Waters sitting destroyed in a hotel room wondering what the fuck caused this kind of destruction in his life. I imagine the state of the band, at this point, also didn’t hurt. Let’s just say they weren’t on good terms with each other.

The song is short, but it’s easily in my top songs from the whole double album. Something about “Vera” makes it hard for me to get past. It’s the story of wrecked love, but also of fondness in remembering a sweet time in someone’s life. The choral arrangement is sheer magic for my ears, and after all these years I’m still left wondering “Vera, what did become of you?”

The most notable and remembered song on “ The Wall” is without question number six on the second disc, “Comfortably Numb.” For anyone who has ever experimented with substances, you’ve likely had this song playing at one point or another. Beyond that though, it’s a pretty important song. From my point of view, this is the full surrendering of the character. He’s finally got to the peak of full openness inside himself and he doesn’t care who is there to watch it with him. He’s “Comfortably Numb” with the way his life has spiraled.

As far as the music goes, though, this is a triumph for the band. It might be their best known song, to be honest. The lyrics back and forth between Waters and Gilmour are executed in an exacting manner, and the overall tone of the music is mesmerizing. This is also the moment in the live show where Gilmour shows up at the top of the wall and sings his parts. As a person who has never gotten to see it, and likely never will, I can’t imagine what it would be like.

The next notable track comes in the way of “Run Like Hell.” The most jamming song of the album by far, it’s matched in intensity in the vocals only by the furious, relentless pace of the music. The thumping, driving sounds are what makes the song so cool, and it picks up the pace at a critical point in the record. Again, the guitars kick ass. I hate to just keep saying that, but it’s true. David Gilmour is an immortal god among mere guitar players.

The last two songs though, shit gets real. “The Trial” is a really innovative song, and probably the most out-of-place song musically on the album. That’s not to say it’s bad at all though. It’s excellent in fact. One of my favorite on the album, it’s the story of a man being punished for feeling human needs and wants. The orchestral elements also had a very judgemental feeling to the song. It’s extremely negative in terms of events that are happening, but it also signifies the end of the characters struggle to get to the once positive state of mind he occupied. The sinister voice at the end is completely terrifying, and it brings not only the song but the album to a satisfying conclusion. “Tear down the Wall!” is chanted by thousands of people, and at last, this character has the chance to get back to where he previously was. In “tearing down the wall” he’s able to move away from the pain and loneliness he’s felt, and it’s made his travels are little easier.

The finale, “Outside the Wall,” is a pretty, and finally light-hearted song that wraps up this tour de force of musical imagination. It’s slow, gorgeous nature is happily taken in place of the darkness the band has leveled on us for the last hour, at least. It’s the perfect end to an album that proves that you can’t live your live shut off . You have to deal with whatever comes your way, and if you chose to stand up and fight for your own sanity, you’ll be better off for having done so.

Next, we’ll be discussing the album that brought the worlds greatest band to the next level, and the record where we were all trying to find the clues to Paul’s death. Thanks for reading.