Re-visitation and re-evaluation

I’ve not posted anything much on The ‘Spill for ages, apart from a few comments here and there, work has been taking up lots of time and I am conscious that although I am listening to lots of music, I am not really writing about it. So, I thought that I’d better do something about that state of affairs.

Anyway, this piece is all about how sometimes a band can surprise you and make you go back and re-evaluate their back catalogue.

I made a comment on The ‘Spill ages ago about changing my mind about being someone who liked Radiohead to realising that I was someone who actually just liked The Bends and OK Computer.

That was based on the fact that I didn’t like Kid A, an album I’d bought, listened to once or twice and then just dismissed as electronic doodling.

I’d basically not bothered to keep up with what the band were doing, yes, I heard stuff on the radio but most of it I didn’t really get involved with and then King of Limbs came out. I heard “Lotus Flower” on the radio and thought it sublime and “Little By Little” also sounded like a good song to me, one that crept up and grew on me, in a way that Radiohead hadn’t moved me for a long time. So I bought the album and yes, I really liked it a lot. I liked the shifting, elusive quality of the music, the skittering electronic drum patterns, the layered sound and the enigmatic vocals. The music had a maturity that demanded attention. It reminded me of something else.

It engaged me in a way that I thought Radiohead weren’t able to do any more. Even more interestingly, the blend of sounds; electronica, guitars, brass, treated vocals and other instruments sent me back to Kid A. I thought that it finally deserved a re-evaluation. There were things that I thought needed placing in a context.

However, I didn’t go straight at it. I had a whole afternoon of Radiohead. I played King of Limbs, then went back and played The Bends and OK Computer. I had a bit of a think, realising that what I’d previously loved about the two earlier albums didn’t necessarily move me in the same way. I still liked the anthemic rock tracks and the dislocated ballads but the two albums sounded, how can I put it, a bit too straightforward and lacking in subtlety, compared with the slippery, jittery, layered music on the newest album.

So, then I approached Kid A again. Right from the off, the opener “Everything in Its Right Place” clicked. The dissonances, the samples, the avant garde string arrangements, the punchy, discordant brass (that sort of reminded me of some of the brass used on some of King Crimson’s albums) and the electronic treatments finally made sense. I listened to the album and then I listened to it a second time. It still sounded right and, weirdly, because everyone always says how much of a departure it is from what came before, I could hear elements of continuity with OK Computer. Not large elements, but subtle ones, things to search out. Now, listening to Kid A, I don’t hear wilfully difficult experimentation, I hear musical maturity, I hear musicians stretching themselves, re-inventing their band into something beyond the anthems, something mysterious, something deep.

The band has always shunned, rightly I think, the tag of being a “prog” band. I can see that, because they haven’t done anything that I’d call prog. There was always that hype about OK Computer being a Dark Side Of The Moon for the nineties, which was really just hot air. I am not sure that the nineties needed a DSOTM, any more than any other decade ever did, the original doing a perfectly good job by itself. However, there is something in the experimentation, the use of the avant garde and the way the music on Kid A is structured that is really progressive in a real sense. It is progressive because it marked genuine musical progress for Radiohead. It took them away from the stadium rock that would have been a straight-jacket. Plenty of bands would have probably been happy to carry on cashing in on “Creep”, “The Bends” and “Paranoid Android” for a couple of decades, but Kid A gave Radiohead a whole new language and landscape to explore. In a way, I am kind of glad that it took me this long to make the connection. It is nice to be surprised occasionally and it is always good to have a prejudice overturned.

So, can I call myself a Radiohead fan again? Well, I think the answer has to be “Yes” to that one.

The only problem now, is what do I think of the guitar-based albums now, as opposed to the electronic ones? I am currently thinking that the electronica is what I want to hear most.

So, back to the basic premise again. Can recent music by bands and artists make you reassess their back catalogue and see their output in a different way? We are used to seeing music come out in a linear way. Is there real worth in approaching a body of work in reverse? What can it tell us about the artists to look at their past music through the filter of their present work?

I don’t have an answer necessarily, but maybe there are other views here?

Earworms – October 31

'This may be one musical journey that's a step TOO incredible', thought kitty...

“There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats”
Albert Schweitzer (via glasshalfempty!)

Juan y Junior – Anduriña
This duo came about from the demise of the sixties four-piece Los Brincos and went on to have a number of hits. This one is about a teenage girl who has run away from home and is a plea for her to come back. Inspired by too many real life cases, many of which were never solved.
Mrs Maki

Gene Vincent – The Day the World Turned Blue
Written by Gene himself, the world turned blue for all of his friends, family and fans on Oct 12, 1971.

Shara Nelson – One Goodbye In Ten
The ‘Escape’ topic made me think of (and nom) Shara’s “Down That Road”, which reminded me how crammed full of classics her debut album was. This one is a particular favourite. Co-written by Saint Etienne, dontcha know. With their retro-pop smarts and her soul, how could it not be brilliant?

Joe Bonamassa – Black Lung Heartache
I’ve just “discovered” Joe Bonamassa. He’s American, only 34 but a fabulous blues / rock musician who cites his influences as largely British and Irish including Rory Gallagher, Paul Kossoff and Jimmy Page. Apparently he opened for B.B. King at the age of 12, and is a fourth-generation musician having been given a guitar at the age of 4. I love his strong voice, which is unusually melodic for a blues singer.
Ali Munday

The Twilight Sad – Made to Disappear
One of those brilliant Scottish indie bands who make lots of lovely noise and sing in their own accents, usually tangentially enough that it takes a bit of effort to figure out what they’re on about. I heard a different song on Radio 6, which prompted me to get the albums… this is the one that sticks in my head, mainly because of the repetition of the lines “honest one” and “honest fun”. I haven’t quite figured out what it’s all about, but I think it’s about someone cheating on someone else.

The Legendary Shack Shakers – Ichabod!
After dissing the Too-Smooth-For DsD Earworms t’other week, I jiggled my mp3player round to play me some raga-metal as an antidote to the cloying suffocation I’d felt listening to that list. But, bless it, the very next song my Walkman threw at me after Bullyrag was this old favourite; even better.

Please send submissions to – thanks! It’s that time again when I point out that stocks are running low…

100 Greatest Goth Songs?

For Halloween, I suppose, the local alternative rag has listed the 100 greatest Goth songs of all time. The other 90 are here. What say you, my Gothic friends? Over to you. And a very Happy Halloween to you all as well.

10.The Birthday Party -Release the Bats
9. The Cure – Disintigration
8. The Chameleons – Swamp Thing
7. Ministry – (Every Day Is) Halloween
6. Alien Sex Fiend – Now I’m Feeling Zombified

5. Joy Division – Atmosphere
4. Christian Death – Romeo’s Distress
3. Siouxie & the Banshees- Spellbound
2. Sisters of Mercy – This Corrosion
1. Bauhaus – Bela Lugosi’s Dead

Transatlantic Sessions season 5

Jerry Douglas and Aly Bain - they're in charge

Looking through my iTunes to find songs about Sara reminded me that Sara Jarosz is my discovery-of-the-season from Transatlantic Sessions. Season 5 that is.

As usual I’m enjoying TS very much. This season has Danny Thompson in the house band, though he’s the odd one out being neither Scottish, Irish nor American. Maybe he’s an honorary member of all those nationalities. All the music is terrific – this week’s one which I’ve just watched on iPlayer ends with Eric Bibb and Don’t Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down, a sentiment with which I heartly concur, featuring a blues mandolin solo by Sam Bush. It’s wonderful.

I know not of all of you are able to watch TR. Currently it’s on BBC2 Scotland on Fridays at 7.30 and then on the iPlayer; I expect it’ll be shown on ordinary BBC2 later on. There are videos from earlier seasons on YouTube – again, these may not be available to everyone. Please, if you can, do give it a watch even if you think you don’t like folk/country music. You never know…

Here’s Sara Jarosz not on TS singing her song Come Around.

Solid Gold Classics

It’s been a fair while since I last found time to produce an episode of Radio Abahachi, but this week’s theme has made it an irresistible prospect; I’ve taken the trouble not only to comment on the historical plausibility of a number of this week’s suggestions but also to grade their contributions….


I realised recently that Sara (or Sarah) may be the most represented name in my music collection. WHy? I don’t think I personally know a Sarah myself. Are there any other names that often come up in your collection?

Sara – Fleetwood Mac
Sararevé – Bumcello
Sara – Chad VanGaalen
What Sarah Said – Death Cab for Cutie
Sara Perche Ti Amo – Ricchi E Poveri
Sarah from Sahara – Eubie Blake Trio
Sarah – Frankie Paul
Sara – The Good Ones
Sarah – Bob Dylan

Ancient Shoehorns

1. Rolling Stones – Sympathy for the Devil
2. Trent Reznor / Karen O – Immigrant Song
3. Outkast – Babylon
4. Smashing Pumpkins – Siva
5. Iggy Pop – Caesar
6. Rage Against the Machine – People of the Sun

1. Bob Dylan – I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine
2. Pogues – Wake of the Medusa
3. Miles Davis – Pharaoh’s Dance
4. Roxy Music – Avalon
5. Renaissance – Song of Scheherazade