Thursday, February 23, 2012

Radiohead Videos

From the terrifyingly theatrical to the utterly bizarre, the promo videos by British alt-rock standard bearers Radiohead are truly brilliant works of art that can stand very well on their own, even when divorced from their accompanying audio tracks. Here are some jaw-droppingly excellent examples of the short films that have made a forceful impact in the overall Radiohead scheme of things.


This restrained indictment of unbridled consumerism is visually realised in one of Radiohead's most subdued, understated clips. The most conspicuous thing about the video, however, is the almost Warholian play of colours that dominates throughout, providing a subtle counterpoint to the song's underlying message.

JUST (1995)

A man kneels and lies down on the street. Concerned passers-by stop to ask him if anything is the matter. The man refuses to tell, insisting that it's too terrible to disclose. The crowd persist in knowing anyway. "Yes I'll tell you, I'll tell you why I'm lying here...but God forgive me...and God help us all...because you don't know what you ask of me," the man finally blurts out (via the accompanying subtitles). The next thing you know, everyone is lying down on the street, just like him. One of the most subtly dystopian promos ever made.


One of Radiohead's most striking, evocative Goth-rock ballads gets a wholly appropriate nocturnal-themed video. This creepy clip was shot entirely in atmospheric black and white, and comprises a mélange of unnerving images and situations, all set in an eerie trailer park late at night. Perfect viewing to accompany those long, dark nights of the soul.


A genuinely disturbing animated clip that features imagery of casual sadomasochism, dying junkies, severed limbs and deranged angels and mermaids. Definitely not one for the Nickelodeon crowd.


An understated promo that has a subtle anti-establishment message, 'Karma Police' is set entirely within the confines of an empty moving car and on the road ahead. The man being chased could very well represent the oppressed everyman who, in the video's denouement, finally settles his scores with a shadowy, unnamed authority figure. Karmic irony has never looked better than on here.


This semi-animated promo is a purely CGI construct, featuring a stellar combination of computer-generated 3D imagery and traditional hand-drawn cell animation. The nautically themed clip follows the travails of a survivor of some unspecified global holocaust, as he dives into the depths of a radiation-wracked sea searching for his dead family. Strangely poignant and utterly moving.


Arguably the most disquieting clip in the Radiohead video oeuvre, this remarkable one-take promo features decidedly surreal imagery, partly based on Salvador Dali's paintings. Almost indescribable and highly unsettling, this one has to be seen to be believed.


Taking direct inspiration from Bjork's "Human Behaviour" promo from 1993, this environmental-themed clip displays, with a knowing, secret smile, what happens when you get lost in the woods and intrude upon the secret kingdom of the wild. Mother Nature finally gets her own back at mankind here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Kronos Quartet

The Kronos Quartet is certainly not your typical string quartet. For one thing, the four-person collective has chosen to eschew performing the works of traditional baroque and Romantic-era classical composers like Mozart, Vivaldi and Haydn, in favour of a more adventurous repertoire. Combining an extraordinary artistic vision with a ceaseless dedication to experimentation, the Kronos Quartet has performed works by artists as disparate as Philip Glass, Jimi Hendrix, Astor Piazolla and Howlin' Wolf, as well as commissioning new works by the more intrepid composers in the modern-classical scene. This has resulted in not just a dedicated worldwide following, but also in a slew of industry awards and nominations, including a handful of coveted Grammies. Check out one of their most aurally compelling works, a stylistically challenging rendition of the Hendrix standard 'Purple Haze'.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

New Order: The Factory Years

Certified rock legends New Order’s first five studio albums, also their five sole records for the long-defunct Factory Records, were bona fide masterworks that have never been bettered by the band since they were originally released. While their latter-day albums for London Records were stately, polished-to-a-fault affairs, they certainly didn’t possess the same sort of artistic resonance as their predecessors. The Factory era also engendered some of the band’s most enduring singles, like ‘Blue Monday’, ‘True Faith’, ‘The Perfect Kiss’ and ‘Temptation’. These Factory works were remastered and reissued a couple of years ago (each augmented by a supplementary disc of classic non-album singles and vintage B-sides and remixes), and it is immensely worthwhile to have a brief gander at each of these masterworks and assess their indisputable merits.

A rather hesitant debut, coming after the dissolution of Joy Division, New Order’s previous incarnation, this still contains some promising tracks, and displayed a restrained authority that would fully blossom later. ‘Senses’, ‘Doubts Even Here’ and ‘Dreams Never End’ are all prototypical exercises in the burgeoning synth-pop genre, but the songwriting still needs some necessary structural improvements. The bonus disc contains two early New Order classics: the competent guitar-rocker ‘Ceremony’, and the deathless fan-favourite dancefloor filler ‘Temptation’.

A real tour de force of a sophomore album, comprising some real crackers: the band also wisely infused a much-needed sense of humour into the proceedings. The propulsive, forceful ‘Age of Consent’, the blissful electronic ballad ‘Your Silent Face’ and the intentionally ramshackle, jangle-pop-influenced ‘Leave Me Alone’ are all confirmed New Order standards that benefited from more dynamic production values. The almighty technological wonder ‘Blue Monday’ and the synth-string-driven ‘Thieves Like Us’ are the bonus-disc highlights.

LOW LIFE (1985)
Riding high on the career-breakthrough high of the previous effort, ‘Low Life’ features more usage of electronics, and the bass lines also became more inventive and animated. The sweetly poppish ‘Love Vigilantes’ opens accounts, with the epic synth-pop masterpiece ‘The Perfect Kiss’ following. There are also moodier tracks like ‘This Time of Night’ and ‘Sunrise’ to leaven the upbeat mood, and ‘Elegia’ is a superior slice of instrumental electro-pop. The intensely cinematic extended version of ‘The Perfect Kiss’ and the rudely danceable ‘Shellshock’ are the standouts on the bonus disc.

A rougher-sounding proposition than ‘Low Life’, this still ranks as a proficient work that sets new hights for the band. Of course, the synth-pop classic ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ is the indisputable highlight, but other things like ‘Paradise’ and ‘All Day Long’ are also potent in their own ways. In terms of bonus-disc standouts, ‘Brotherhood’ contains arguably the most realised, archetypal New Order single, the powerful, highly assured chart-bound single ‘True Faith’, alongside other stonkers like ‘1963’ and ‘Touched by the Hand of God’.

The final album for Factory thankfully has the band firing on all cylinders, making for one hell of an exit. Merging their basic, unique dance-rock template with a healthy dose of the then-burgeoning Balaeric house music craze, the band produced a remarkable endeavour that successfully captures the cultural zeitgeist of the late 80s. The collective authority of standouts like the high-energy acid-house stomper ‘Fine Time’, the percolating dance-pop number ‘Round and Round’ and the melodic riff-rocker ‘Run’ cannot be denied, while ‘Love Less’ and ‘All the Way’ show that the band can still rock out whenever they want to. The goofy but loveable 1990 World Cup anthem ‘World in Motion’ is the sole noteworthy track on the bonus disc.