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The best 2016 had to offer…

RICK’S PICKS:

Artist of the Year: David Bowie

Album of the Year: David Bowie – Blackstar

Song of the Year: Nails – You Will Never Be One of Us

Music Video of the Year: Anti-Flag – Without End

Rock Act of the Year: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Alternative Act of the Year: Radiohead

Rap/Hip-Hop Act of the Year: Danny Brown

Punk Act of the Year: Descendants

Metal Act of the Year: Nails

Best Collaboration: The Body/Full of Hell

Best Live Act: Swans

Best Local/Regional Live Act: Mississippi Gun Club

Best Album: (Local/Regional Act): Mississippi Gun Club – Shovelhead

Comeback of the Year: Metallica

Best New Artist: S U R V I V E

Lifetime Achievement: David Bowie

 

SARAH’S PICKS:

By Sarah Sepanek

TOP 10 SHOWS OF 2016 (no order but yeah Boris/SunnO)))/Sleep wins)

Cobalt/Mantar @ Mohawk: This show was just volcanic. Everyone looked like melting plastic. It was like we were in musical lava. Charlie Fell was just in glorious agony, sealed himself as frontman.

Dragged Into Sunlight/Primitive Man/Make @ Paper Tiger, SA: Possibly the hottest show ever, in some loading dock windowless garage. Very cerebral. Make and Primitive Man both gave good doomface; Dragged, however, faced the wall so if they were making metal faces, I didn’t see. Some jags pulled down the giant candelabra in front of the stage and nailed me in the chest so hard I wondered if I cracked a rib. But I stayed in that dark hot hell room till the end. They easily outdrew Big Business in the room next door.

Reverend Horton Heat w. Jello Biafra @ Continental Club: I’ve loved the Rev for going on 20 years; still a solid showman. Still damn charming too. Sometimes it’s just fun to dance and goof around. Jello Biafra had his crotch three inches from my face for half an hour and stage dived on me several times, but it was neat seeing them do Dead Kennedys songs together. Also I duked it out with some drunk girl up front and won. Any excuse to spray up my hair is a good night.

Gatecreeper/Oathbreaker/Skeletonwitch @ Barracuda: Definitely a show where the openers outshone the main act. Gatekeeper and Oathbreaker had both just released amazing records, and they didn’t disappoint live.

Crawl/BLK OPS/The Body/Full of Hell @ Sidewinder: Broken strings aside, this was a sonic strobe flash of otherworldly noise. Only caveat was that since they were playing just their one album together, it was kind of short.

Annihilation Time/Fuck You Pay Me @ Barracuda: Confetti, Jimmy Rose, Ohio, Erba – a farewell of Cleveland proportions came to Texas for two nights and Night Two was wild as fuck. Austin for all its weird-bragging is lacking in pure crazy at punk/hardcore shows. Tony Erba bashing his face into a pole was met with more concern than enthusiasm, but there was confetti and toilet paper and it was amazing for the “last” AT show.

Grim Reaper @ Dirty Dog: I didn’t expect this to be as much fun as it was. I usually balk at nostalgia tours because I mostly feel guilty at bands having to slough through Spinal Tap-esque sets past their prime, but Grim Reaper was a shitload of fun. Steve Grimmett was still in excellent voice, and he poked fun at himself, made dirty jokes between songs, and had fun posing with fans holding a giant sword. He even used a goddamn selfie stick. Thumbs up from me.

Torche @ Barracuda: The first of 2 times seeing Steve Brooks and the boys this year, and the first time I had seen one of his bands in at least 10 years. Definitely reminded of why he’s one of my favorite people on the planet, as he rolled on the floor wailing solos Marty McFly-style.

Insane Clown Posse @ Empire Control Room: Shows in ATX are a lot less … unhinged than I’m used to, so this messy trash circus was a pleasant reprieve. ICP played all of Riddle Box, which I had on orange cassette. Jugglo fam was friendly and festive. Not used to that level of camaraderie here either. Everyone was happy. And wet. I sprayed gallons of diet root beer Faygo, sang all the words. It was Shaggy 2 Dope’s birthday. I’ve been to the Gathering when it was at the Ledges so I knew to warn an ICP virgin not to wear his good shoes. Walked to the car soaked, down with the clown.

Sleep/SunnO)))/Boris @ Mohawk: This show happened by accident, due to a festival rainout, and I got tickets by the grace of god. Hundreds of angry fest pass-holders were left SOL as they reorganized the fest acts into new smaller venues and did a whole new ticket sale. The stage itself was gear porn, loaded with amps and gongs and drums and stacks and backlined within an inch of its life. I got fog machine cancer and couldn’t hear for a week but it was so good. So good. Surreally good. Once in a lifetime.

HONORABLE MENTIONS
X_X/Obnox @ Barracuda
Fister/Aseethe/Clrvoyant @ The Lost Well
Sleep brunch @ Mohawk
Vermin Womb/Pornohelmut @ The Lost Well
Destroyer 666 @ Satellite Bar, Houston
ITCHY-O @ Scoot Inn
Goatwhore @ Grizzly Hall
High On Fire @ Grizzly Hall
Daikaiju @ The Grand
Wreck & Reference @ Sidewinder
Karma to Burn/The Obsessed @ Dirty Dog
Antwon/Fat Tony/Xetas @ Barracuda
SURVIVE record release @ Barracuda
Absu/Expander @ Sidewinder
Bongzilla/Lo-Pan/Author & Punisher/Black Cobra @ Swan Dive & The Lost Well
The Body @ The Lost Well

Most ridiculous/embarrassing: Tie between Taake and Millions of Dead Cops
Biggest letdown: St. Vitus @ Grizzly Hall
Best onstage coat wearing: Tie between Absu (Proscriptor!) and Taake (leather jacket w sleeves pushed up w no shirt)
Best show that never happened: Levitation Fest – Runner up: l.o.t.i.o.n @ Electric Church (waited til 5 am only to have amps blow out or something; in retrospect that place was a death trap)

David Gilmour performing with Pink Floyd during their Space Rock era circa 1971.

David Gilmour performing with Pink Floyd during their Space Rock era circa 1971.

By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

Experimental rock evolved into Psychedelic rock with artists like Syd Barrett in the 1960’s. After his departure from Pink Floyd, new lead guitarist, David Gilmore, helped solidify another subgenre offshoot and the 70’s brought progressive and psychedelic rock outfits such as Pink Floyd and Hawkwind to the foreground as they evolved into Space Rock. Space Rock which was characterized by increased instrumental passages (especially on keyboard/synthesizers) inspired by the science fiction themes and soundtrack music of the day and/or astronomy.

Delia Derbyshire, famous for her composition of the Doctor Who theme song was also a premier influential composer of other music within experimental genres in addition to being a great captivator and sonic painter of the beyond for incidental music in TV and film. Brian Eno, known as both a composer and a rock songwriter, was a major player as well. As for pop/rock songwriters they began to follow suit and added elements, but it is perhaps the lyrical themes that became the most influential, which became evident in other subgenres of rock such as folk rock (Donovan, Cat Stevens) and glam rock (T. Rex and David Bowie, whom worked with Eno.) In fact, the enchantment of space travel and the science fiction that British kids were being raised on became paramount in David Bowie’s most successful records, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and Space Oddity. And as Pink Floyd declared themselves Space rock in the70’s, Derbyshire’s Doctor Who theme could be often heard in some variation on the synth parts in performances of  “One of These Days,” from 1971’s Meddle.

More and more pop and mainstream radio rock was also being affected. Even before Gilmour made the decidedly Space rock turn with Pink Floyd after Barrett’s Psychedelic/early Space rock departure, the Beatles, the Stones, and the Steve Miller Band wrote songs with similar themes. Indeed, it became a cultural phenomenon more than a musical one. Perhaps the race for space during this period in history influenced this tendency.

Just like with any political movement in history, cultural and artistic history is often the victim of bandwagon mentalities and the genre suffered a marked decline in popularity until the 90’s with the exception of being cleverly evolved and disguised within Progressive rock (Rush, Yes) and Art rock.

Space rock began as an English phenomenon, and as such it saw its eventual revival in the late 80’s in British alternative rock bands which others could not describe the general sound as spacey or ambient. British bands such as Radiohead, Amplifier, Oceansize, Porcupine Tree, Kasabian, and Mugstar held these elements dearly into the 90’s and American bands went onto as well.  Autolux, Hopesfall, Lumerians,The Secret Machines, The Mars Volta, The Boxing Lesson, Cloudland Canyon, Angels & Airwaves, Tool and Zombi are prime examples, though they all fall into some varying sub-subgenres which begin to split hairs, they are all “spacey” bands.

In the 90’s the term resurfaced to describe the many bands that were labeled as

alternative rock bands but that (specifically) British and American audiences craved a bit more specifics in explanations to others. Shoegazing, stoner rock/metal (sludge) and dream/noise pop acts often saw greater success when sometimes using the words “space” and/or “spacey” to describe their sounds so fans could know what other bands they might enjoy. Kyuss, Slowdive, The Verve, My Bloody Valentine, Flying Saucer Attack, Loop, Ride, Shiner (band),The Flaming Lips, Failure,Year of the Rabbit, Cave In, Sun Dial, Hum, Orange Goblin, Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, and Mercury Rev employed the hallmark layers of sonic walls, textures and of course experimentation and many classified themselves as space rock or offshoot, dream pop before the term shoegaze and its sub-subgenres were even a thought.

Nowadays, although it is a more reputable descriptive term for many acts, the term only seems to be used by bands that decidedly use it. Other common descriptions indeed make it obvious that there is a blur in the experimental subgenres. The Flowers of Hell, Comets on Fire,and Flotation Toy Warningall of which who employ the old elements of 60’s/70’s Space rock in their own original ways. Seattle band, Lazer Kitty has a wonderful sound and a performance video of theirs can be seen below as well as a few other tracks that chronicle pivotal points in space rock.

Pink Floyd – One of These Days

Pink Floyd – Careful with that Ax, Eugene

Gong – Flying Teapot

Gong – I Never Glid Before

Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space

The Verve – Slide Away

Porcupine Tree – Fear of a Blank Planet

Lazer Kitty – Hyperion

In addition to this list other Picks of the Week that were played on air for this subgenre can be found on the Raw Alternative’s Facebook Page.

Experimental artist and Pink Floyd founder, Syd Barrett.

Experimental artist and Pink Floyd founder, Syd Barrett.

By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

For decades Experimental Rock has developed, undeveloped and done 360 degree turns. We can say that Experimental Music started with Classical and Jazz but in Rock the first pioneers lied seemingly quiet and dormant under their more traditional rock and roll peers since the early 60’s until listeners were ready for the next “thing.”

Luckily, the social and cultural climate was becoming more interested in outside or even foreign idea(ls), modes of thinking, fashion and art. This would of course inevitably happen in music as well. The most popular music of course was rock and roll. And one of the grandfathers, Frank Zappa, composer, producer, album art designer and director, while known for his dozens of records with The Mothers of Invention and solo actually had a rough start getting into music… Business wise. Though in his youth he studied advanced composers while still partaking in his generation’s R&B and Roll and Roll he was at first (like most innovators) overlooked as the standout artist he would grow to become.

He began writing contemporary classical in his youth and attempted to front projects before his first well known one, Captain Beefheart. He recorded some tracks with the name The Soots but they were turned down due to having no selling point. In the early 60’s, (at the height of Beatlemania) he began recording and experimenting with multiple overdubs, tape manipulation and less likely instrumentation. As a film composer he paid the bills and managed to take over what became his own studio, Studio Z. In addition, he started as guitarist with The Mothers, which managed to get paying gigs.

While Zappa made ends meet he still did it creatively though he was producing and writing songs for other groups throughout the early and mid 60’s. Actually, though none of them achieved much commercial success, he managed to get his music heard on a late night syndicated show, hosted by Steve Allen wherein he did what well he pleased with experimentation and sonic architectures.

The Velvet Underground was also experimenting, though eventually more known as a Psychedelic band (subgenre) their use of instrumentation was outside of the framework though they did still compose “hooky” melody lines.

These two artists were pinnacle in the many that were to follow experimentation, even the Beach Boys (a pop group) were on board, as composer Brian Wilson always admired advanced composition and the famous Pet Sounds resulted.

Onto England, Syd Barrett and his project, The Pink Floyd formed and their first record The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, was recorded in 1967 (the same year of the aforementioned musical developments were made alongside in the US.) The Infamous Summer of Love was the name of this music explosion in American but also in England. Pink Floyd was on board this movement whether Syd knew it or not, as were the Beatles. In fact, the first Pink Floyd record was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, by former Beatles engineer Norman Smith.The Beatles were recording, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which also put experimental rock into the limelight in their own psychedelic pop/rock way. In August, Pink Floyd’s “Arnold Layne” reached honorable status on the English charts in part due to their other single, “See Emily Play.” The full length, Piper at the Gates of Dawn was unexpectedly successful in England, hitting the top of the album charts and subsequently their third single the very baroque pop, “Apples and Oranges,” perhaps because it was about a common theme, love.

During their British tour with Jimi Hendrix in November 1967, around the time of his third hit single, several guitarists began to replace Barrett though he was a the brainchild of the band because of his legendary erratic behavior, which was due to a chemical imbalance made worse by LSD use. Speculation suggests that though he achieved commercial success it aggravated him and his schizophrenia. He was soon to be seemingly forgotten. Nonetheless, he remains an innovator in sonic exploration and (often bizarre) rhythmic experimentation and overall, a master architect of guitar.

In later years, he reemerged as a “bedroom” songwriter of odd little ditties that were melodic but still arrhythmic. Lyrics might have not been as relatable as many songwriters are known for but they allowed for more abstract understanding such as achieved by daydreaming or meditation. One feels like fly on the wall of a man trying to distinguish between lucid dreams or his waking on a Sunday morning as he tries to make as mundane  a decision about whether to have coffee or tea.

Hendrix, on tour with Barrett and early Pink Floyd rose to his success in 1967 as well but in terms of what he wanted this music to be called he once was very defensive. He was quoted as saying:

“We don’t want to be classed in any category… If it must have a tag, I’d like it to be called, ‘Free Feeling’. It’s a mixture of rock, freak-out, rave and blues.”

Though not known as a pop artist, he appeared on British television shows, Ready Steady Go! and the Top of the Pops, though his single, “Hey Joe,” made a small splash in 1966.

In Spring 1967, The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s singles, “Purple Haze” and “The Wind Cries Mary” and the album Are You Experienced? joined the queue with the Beatles and Pink Floyd. And through Zappa, Barrett and Hendrix experimental rock had a large impact and subsequently Psychedelic and Space Rock which was born in the sixties and of course even more sub and sub-genres flourished throughout the seventies until today.

Throughout the seventies, Pink Floyd kept going with the Psychedelic elements into Space Rock and finally to Concept(ual) Rock. Alongside the ever changing climate of the seventies Zappa continued his career and in Europe, Kraftwerk introduced us to electronic instrumentation which was then considered extremely progressive with their first LP, “Autobahn.” Though many electronic elements were used it was still classified as rock and led to yet another subgenre, Krautrock.

Sonic Youth began experimenting back in America and of course became the example for many new bands and defied subgenres into the 00’s. In both rock and electronic, composer, Brian Eno and Thom Yorke of the very successful Radiohead, began to become household names to many musicians to the present day when it comes to experimental and sonic architecture, much like Zappa. Modern Baroque Pop artists such as the Animal Collective and Arcade Fire also have owe much to these innovators who influenced even the previously mentioned former “bubble gum” writers like Lennon/McCartney, Brian Wilson who continue to impact every songwriter in ANY genre.

Many artists and subgenres developed merely from musicians wanting to think outside the perimeters of rock and roll song structure and instrumentation. Very obvious references to Jazz, notably Acid or Progressive Jazz have been made especially early one all but at the core Experimental Rock is about using other elements and bringing them back to rock whilst being inventive yet not “being weird for the sake of being weird…” as Hendrix once remarked.

Picks of the Week leading to this article:

  • “Room Full of Mirrors,” Jimi Hendrix
  • “Joe’s Garage,” Frank Zappa
  • “Interstellar Overdrive,” Syd Barrett/Pink Floyd
  • “Octopus,” Syd Barrett

Frank Zappa

Syd Barrett (live with Pink Floyd)

Syd Barrett (Solo)

Sonic Youth

Brian Eno

Shoegaze act Catherine Wheel circa 1993. Photo courtesy of MTV.com.

Shoegaze act Catherine Wheel circa 1993. Photo courtesy of MTV.com.

By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

The early development of the Shoegaze genre lies somewhere in the post-punk haze of the 80’s. Gothic/Ethereal artists such as Cocteau Twins and The Jesus and Mary Chain began to fuse elements from uncategorized and/or “art” rock acts like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur, Jr. The name itself evolved because artists, namely guitarists, where using a lot of effects on their guitars through the use of various pedals and stomp boxes and they seemed to be “gazing at their shoes” during performances.

Though many of the genre’s predecessors often used a lot of layering or effects in their music via multi-tracking, in live situations they were more sparse. Live performances from Shoegaze artists differed in many instances because they rarely changed the arrangement or the effects, although the layering was done in a more ethereal or blurred out way to begin with on the records, it was a bit easier to cope with live. Moreover, live versions were even more exaggerated because of this. Shoegaze greats Ride and Catherine Wheel are prime examples of this practice.

By the 90’s, a sister sub-genre called Dreampop surfaced with artists such as Slowdive and Lush. Their music featured the noise of Shoegaze, however was a bit more poppy and melodic. Even Brit Rock/Pop bands like The Stone Roses also experimented with many of the budding trademark sounds with their single, “I Wanna Be Adored” in 1991.

However, 1991 was the year that the first significant stride was made in Shoegaze. One of the first acts to be described as both Dreampop and Shoegaze, the influential My Bloody Valentine, combined airy female vocals and guitarist Kevin Shields’ distinctive sonic wall of guitar noise. In fact, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless had a great impact on many guitarists in the 90’s, not just in Shoegaze, but Alternative in its broadest sense. Billy Corgan and James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins are notable followers.

The torch was in a way, carried most authentically to British band, Catherine Wheel. Shoegaze became full circle and the trademark sound was “nailed” by them in 1993 with their second record, Chrome. This is arguably the cornerstone record in this genre with its dreamy and catchy melodies sung with Gilmour-esque soothing ethereal vocals and sonically lush (but often still aggressive) guitars and concepts which vary throughout. This record is also one of the most unsung and overlooked recordings of the 90’s in general due to the quick shift in focus to the rise (and fall) of Grunge.

However, not all was forgotten. Catherine Wheel went on throughout the 00’s, inspiring new fans of other genres to not only go back and listen to their old records, but discover My Bloody Valentine’s, Loveless too, and draw from a perhaps small collection of Shoegaze records. Even more so, the quality that spanned Smashing Pumpkins’ range of influences, as well as successful English Alternative/Rock acts such as Radiohead and Pulp, had therefore inspired yet another Brit Rock Revival.

In the Shoegaze lineage, little known but amazing American artists such as Starflyer 59 (often referred to as a Space Rock band) and Hum plugged away through the 90’s. In more recent years, the independent two-piece act, Have a Nice Life, emerged with one of the greatest Shoegaze mixtures ever, especially on their debut album, Deathconsciousness. The presence of Dreampop-y melodic hooks, spacey textures and even darker undertones, hark back to the beginning of this genre’s early Post-Punk/Goth influences. (Refer to some of the artists mentioned in last month’s Gothic Rock article).

In addition to the previous Picks of the Week, which I used introduce this origins of this genre I now include for your enjoyment:

Catherine Wheel – Black Metallic. From recommended album, Ferment. 1993

Starflyer 59 – Hazel Would. from recommended album, Silver. 1994

Hum – Stars. From recommended album, You’d Prefer an Astronaut. 1995

Have a Nice Life – Bloodhail. From recommended album, Deathconsciousness. 2008