Tuesday, May 6, 2008

After Monday's show in West Palm Beach, I decided that I prefer Fast Radiohead to Pretty Radiohead – that if given the choice I'd rather hear "15 Step" to "Nude," or "The National Anthem" instead of "Street Spirit (Fade Out)." Thom Yorke can make creamy vaporousness signify in an amphitheater, of course, but what we get is the aural equivalent of a foot rub. Nobody knows what the hell the lead singer's mewling about (something vaguely political/paranoid), so you put your head back, close your eyes, hug your girlfriend, and drift.  "So awesome," my friend said. "Listen to all that crazy shit," said the guy next to me. For a lot of fans the key to Radiohead's aesthetic success is movement – there isn't a single number for which the band members follow the conventions of a five-piece rock act. When Jonny Greenwood's sprawled on the floor coaxing whistles from the ondes martenot or Ed O'Brien's beating tom-toms for "There There" instead of strapping on a guitar, it adds to Radiohead's aura of unconventionality; the flurry of movement dovetails with the audience's sense of the band's evolution (looking for new sounds, "stretching the boundaries of rock," etc). I did hear a predictable but in this context surprising evolution: Radiohead's getting tighter and tighter. The dub features in Colin Greenwood's bass work were more apparent, Phil Selway's become as adept as Stephen Morris in playing around programmed percussion, and Yorke himself played nice ugly rhythm work on "Where I End And You Begin." In short, not dead yet.  

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