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Radiohead's House of Cards video
July 14, 2008 10:49 AM   Subscribe

Radiohead's promo for their single House of Cards was "shot" using light and laser-based scanning systems rather than cameras, with data being generated in real-time. Includes video and making of, and you can even play around with a 3D visualization of Thom Yorke's head.
posted by hnnrs (109 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
"360 degree radius"

Ah, marketers, we still love you. Wait, not love....mock.
posted by DU at 11:02 AM on July 14, 2008


They should totally do this with a cat.
posted by Artw at 11:04 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Something's wrong; I can't seem to make Thom Yorke's head any bigger than it already is.
posted by yhbc at 11:07 AM on July 14, 2008 [6 favorites]


There's an awful lot of technology going into this video. Kinda makes you wonder how much it would rule if they spent a buck or two on writing some new music. They could call it Radiohead's Other Song. Then they'd have two.
posted by DU at 11:10 AM on July 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


what the heck is "structured light"?
posted by edgeways at 11:16 AM on July 14, 2008


They could call it Radiohead's Other Song. Then they'd have two.

The dangerous part about your-favourite-band-sucks comments is that if you're just slightly off the mark it can make it seem that you've never really listened to their music.
posted by Adam_S at 11:19 AM on July 14, 2008 [20 favorites]


The really dangerous part of that comment is it's impossible for me to know how many "different" Radiohead songs I've actually heard.
posted by DU at 11:20 AM on July 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


Sometimes I wonder if DU is me. Although I'd have said "three."
posted by uncleozzy at 11:21 AM on July 14, 2008


DU: do you have to shit in every single thread?
posted by Burhanistan at 11:22 AM on July 14, 2008


Structured light is the name of a group of techniques to use encoded light with a digital camera to get depth information from the illuminated scene. Using the camera image and what you know about what pattern you projected onto the scene, you can guess at the 3D coordinates of all the pixels. The encoding is usually something like black and white bands or checkerboard type images.
You can find lots of technical papers about it on Google.
posted by demiurge at 11:23 AM on July 14, 2008


what the heck is "structured light"?

Good explanation at Wikipedia.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:27 AM on July 14, 2008


Click here to watch the video this post is about. Seems to me like it should have been included.
posted by internal at 11:28 AM on July 14, 2008


Maybe if the laser was a bit stronger they could rename themselves Eraserhead.
posted by gmm at 11:28 AM on July 14, 2008


Interesting... the imagery reminded me of those small Lucite blocks that have 1000s of pins in them that you push you hand (or other things) into creating a monochromatic pointillism representation on the other side. If it advances towards color and a more seamless visual it'd be a pretty cool advancement in filming.

Artisticly I liked the imaging of the telephone wires the most
posted by edgeways at 11:38 AM on July 14, 2008


internal: It was. Tripped me up too. You had to scroll up on the page.
posted by edgeways at 11:38 AM on July 14, 2008


Ah, happy memories of Max Headroom the movie…
posted by Artw at 11:40 AM on July 14, 2008


Erasereyes, if you’re not careful.
posted by Artw at 11:41 AM on July 14, 2008


I thought it was interesting that the one of the directors said that he thought that Radiohead was the only band visionary enough to take the risk of shooting a video in these different forms of radar.
posted by Dave Faris at 11:41 AM on July 14, 2008


that video made me want to hit the side of my monitor or adjust the antenna to get better reception.
posted by fuzzypantalones at 11:45 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


...Radiohead was the only band visionary enough to take the risk of shooting a video in these different forms of radar.

I caught that too, except I think he said the visionary part was "shooting a music video without any cameras". But surely there have been animated, particularly CGI, music videos before.
posted by DU at 11:45 AM on July 14, 2008


My goodness. Shooting beams of light at an object and collecting the reflected light with a sensor! Utterly ground-breaking.
posted by rusty at 11:49 AM on July 14, 2008


Incidentally, that visualization toy is a great demo of the hollow mask illusion.
posted by rusty at 11:54 AM on July 14, 2008


you can even play around with a 3D visualization of Thom Yorke's head.

This sounds like something that ought to be combined with stress positions and sleep deprivation for full effect.
posted by fleetmouse at 11:55 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


You can also download the data and make your own movies with it. If you have any 4D point cloud visualization software, that is.
posted by demiurge at 12:03 PM on July 14, 2008


But surely there have been animated, particularly CGI, music videos before.

See Kraftwerk, over 20 years ago.
posted by hydrophonic at 12:08 PM on July 14, 2008


I don't think the Kraftwerk video was made from data scanned at 30 fps while the subject was singing. Even if you don't like Radiohead, this is a novel technology to make a music video with.
posted by demiurge at 12:14 PM on July 14, 2008


Or Dire Straits, a year earlier.
posted by gleuschk at 12:17 PM on July 14, 2008


Paranoid Android, for example.

To say nothing of this one.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 12:17 PM on July 14, 2008


And I agree with demiurge. And DU - anyone who's musical comprehension can't stylistically distinguish "Pyramid Song", "Everything in it's Right Place", "2+2=5", "The Bends", "Packt Like Sardines...", "Let Down", etc. isn't really worth discussing music with. If you're gonna make trite blanket statements, educate yerself first.

/sychophancy
posted by fingers_of_fire at 12:21 PM on July 14, 2008


Having watched the video first, I was shocked at the poor quality of the imaging of Yorke's head. But the "making of" video explained that they intentionally interfered with the data-collection process for artistic effect. Neat. I would not have thought of gluing tiny mirrors to perspex and waving it in front of the sensor.
posted by sdodd at 12:35 PM on July 14, 2008


Pfft. It looks cool. The houses disintegrate. So do faces. And it's like... echolocation. With *lasers*. How is this not a cool application of the technology? You don't have to like Radiohead to appreciate that.
posted by jokeefe at 12:35 PM on July 14, 2008


Some nice tech, a provided codebase to reconstruct it, there's a lot to commend here.

I can't really be arsed with Radiohead though. Don't they have enough money/pants/mindshare already? When they charge for their songs, it's not like they even really care, is it? Plus they were all RIAA before they'd pocketed enough to give it away.

Structured light was very interesting though, thanks for saving me the trouble of typing that into Wikipedia, mr_roboto.
posted by davemee at 12:46 PM on July 14, 2008


Great-looking video. It sort of does my head in that I like everything Radiohead do except their music.
posted by jack_mo at 12:49 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Technology aside, it's just a very cool video and a gorgeous song.
posted by ghastlyfop at 12:52 PM on July 14, 2008


I don't think the Kraftwerk video was made from data scanned at 30 fps while the subject was singing. Even if you don't like Radiohead, this is a novel technology to make a music video with.

Never said it wasn't, demiurge. I was just answering DU's implied question.

Here at work we have a Microscribe 3DX boxed away somewhere, slipping further and further into obsolescence. Oddly enough, just this morning I was thinking about digging it out and making a CAD model of my head.
posted by hydrophonic at 1:04 PM on July 14, 2008


My goodness. Shooting beams of light at an object and collecting the reflected light with a sensor!

So it's kind of like a prism? I guess they got sick of just their music being derivative of Pink Floyd.

Also, Thom Yorke looks like a fetus.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:07 PM on July 14, 2008


or "foetus"
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:08 PM on July 14, 2008


I saw a presentation from Columbia where they are also working with these laser scanners. It's more technically impressive as they have some with textures and one with lighting (second to last link in the table.)
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:19 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, hey, look, Radiohead did something else.
posted by Eideteker at 1:25 PM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


It's fun if you think that they have technology to bring George Washington's image from the past, singing, but it's kind of fuzzy because he died such a long time ago.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 2:05 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]



This is an interesting use of LIDAR, and it's been making the rounds here at work.

the company I work for uses it to generate 3D maps of roadways with millimeter precision.

The amount of data generated is truly staggering. A vehicle so equipped will generated about 300 GB of data per day. This season we are expecting to collect 40 TB of data.

Also, don't look into the laser with your remaining eye.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:07 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


And DU - anyone who's musical comprehension can't stylistically distinguish "Pyramid Song", "Everything in it's Right Place", "2+2=5", "The Bends", "Packt Like Sardines...", "Let Down", etc. isn't really worth discussing music with.

Radiohead hasn't made much of an impression on me, and I wasn't familiar with their work.

I just listened to the first two songs on your list, and they seem surprisingly similar to each other: similar tempos, similar sonorities, similar mostly minor-key melodies, similar overcompressed production, similar slight flavour of Indian influence, similar singing style, even a similar length.

The third one is a little faster and shorter, but basically the same stuff.

I'm curious as to why you feel these are significantly stylistically different from each other? (Note: I've studied music for over 40 years and play two instruments well and four more with some flashes of competence...)

I don't require bands to have songs that are stylistically different from each other - I love reggae music, for example, which occupies a fairly narrow stylistic spectrum. I think it's the fact that the singer has pitching issues that makes this material hard for me to listen to.

However, I am actually really curious as to what people see in the band, and I'm honestly interested in your answer.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:05 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I like this fan-made video of Weird Fishes/Arpeggi a lot.
posted by muckster at 3:22 PM on July 14, 2008


As I've established elsewhere, I have three penises (two of which are fully functional), which makes me more qualified than anyone else to judge music. When somebody appears saying "look how big my music dick is," I simply respond, "but do you have two fully functional penises and also a third one?" and I win the argument every single time.

I think it is telling that my two functioning penises both like Radiohead, while my one non-functioning penis doesn't like them all that much at all. My non-functioning penis (which, I need to stress, has never functioned) believes that since Radiohead's music does not make it function, there must not be anything to their music.

It also feels this way about every other band on the face of the planet, except a few really obscure punk bands that, while they don't make it function, help it to pretend that it is functioning by making the other two penises stop functioning.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:13 PM on July 14, 2008 [7 favorites]


About 2/3rds of the people in this thread need to get over themselves. The songs is decent, the technology is cool, this is a good post.
posted by empath at 4:26 PM on July 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


However, I am actually really curious as to what people see in the band, and I'm honestly interested in your answer.

You seriously can't be arsed to read one of the many fawning critiques of the band that are readily available on the interwebs? It's not difficult to figure out, but it largely has to do with them experimenting at the edges of what it means to be a rock song (through weird time signatures, electronic instruments, jazz influences, etc) while still remaining pure pop music, for the most part. I think Thom Yorke's dark lyrics about technology, alienation and depersonalization are part of the appeal, too.
posted by empath at 4:30 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


You can even play around with a 3D visualization of [Radiohead's] Thom Yorke's head.

Wow. Eponysterical.
posted by rokusan at 5:01 PM on July 14, 2008


If you really are curious about Radiohead and think their music sounds the same, listen to Pablo Honey/The Bends and then Kid A/Amnesiac.
posted by Diskeater at 6:09 PM on July 14, 2008


I just listened to the first two songs on your list, and they seem surprisingly similar to each other: similar tempos, similar sonorities, similar mostly minor-key melodies, similar overcompressed production, similar slight flavour of Indian influence, similar singing style, even a similar length.
You've really studied music for 40 years???
posted by ghastlyfop at 6:48 PM on July 14, 2008


As I've established elsewhere, I have three penises... [etc content-free]

blah blah blah. In other words, you have no idea what distinguishes the songs. The reason I give credentials is because of a previous poster saying that one could not be versed in music and not distinguish the songs.

You seriously can't be arsed to read one of the many fawning critiques of the band that are readily available on the interwebs?

I read three or four. I understand full well what the idea is supposed to be: I don't see why the songs are strongly differentiated from each other.

I don't actually hear Radiohead as "experimenting at the edges of rock music" at all: these sound like regular rock songs to me.

A friend of mine put his finger on the idea years ago, I don't remember what band he was critiquing (REM?) when he said that they were a regular band with normal pop songs and just a little weirdness thrown in on top to make them seem clever.

I've posted these links before, but here are experiments at the edge of rock music: The Boredoms, Lightning Bolt.

Here's a self-produced video for Sleepytime Gorilla Museum that probably cost less to make than cost of the rolling papers for the Radiohead project (and if you don't think that SGM's rock music, listen to the rest of that song, done live. I looked through various live Radiohead numbers here (I'm nothing if not thorough) and didn't find one that matched the level of musicianship of this rather obscure Oakland band who also makes their own costumes and many of their instruments.

(Or read my poorly-formatted review of Melted Men (what happened there, Google groups?! it still looks good in my gmail client!) about an even more "edgy" band.)

Is Radiohead even as on the edge as people from a generation before like Can? Of course, I can't imagine Radiohead ever showing up on German TV and then playing the Can Can, because they're just so serious - you're much more edgy when you're serious, you don't need energy or clever song structure.

Bringing up Pink Floyd at the end seems like a little unfair but too bad. If you can believe it, this live TV segment from 1967 starts with a rebuttal of the music you're about to hear from a music critic (and check the interview at the end). It makes me deeply sad that we're in stupid world now and such sophistication from a television network would instantly tip such a segment as parody.

This was 40 years ago (but I'm hardly stuck in that world, nearly all the music I listen to was made in the last 10 years). Is Radiohead any improvement on this?

There's so much good music out there today: why does a bland, regular band like Radiohead rule the "intelligentsia"? Do you really believe that anyone would have found anything unusual about that band 20 years ago?

And what the heck is wrong with music today that so much music either has non-singers (like rap music) or musicians who seem incapable of singing on pitch like Thom Yorke? (It's not melisma that someone like Björk uses sometimes well and sometimes not, because she's perfectly capable of hitting the exact pitch she wants, as that live segment demonstrates very adequately - it seems as if it's out of his control. Very unaesthetic.)


When I was young, really good music was spread amongst teenagers like, and sometimes with, drugs. We thought music was the most important thing in the world. People really sat down and listened to it, my parents sat down and listened to the Beatles with me when they came out and I was one of hundreds of millions of such kids. We'd save up our money to buy records, I cried once when I found a scratch on a Jimi Hendrix record of mine. For a long time I could have named every record I had.

Now music is just one of a dozen or so elements in people's entertainment lives - they have a thousand times as much music and video, DVDs, the internet - and people seem to quickly get into a specific subculture and only listen to one sort of music. Music performed on instruments is even more of a niche subcategory: the popular music of the day, hip-hop, doesn't contain even one actual famous player.

Consider that your average kid probably today spends more time watching DVDs, playing video games, or net.surfing. In fact, I'd guess your average kid today almost never sits down and listens to a piece of music - he almost always plays music while he does a couple of other things - that isn't listening to music, that's cologne.

A generation or so (off my lawn!) ago, we sat and listened carefully to the music because there simply wasn't that much else to do. Now people multitask and therefore you can get away with formulaic stuff like Radiohead or Tool passing as "edgy" because they include a few elements that have been used by really edgy bands, and "the consumers", whilst reading their email and watching cable, subconsciously get the "edgy" brand association without any actual "edgy" content being delivered.


I'm sure I come off as superior and critical on this. Sorry - I really hope for great things from my music and it sometimes delivers.

Actually, I'm not sorry. This was very educational for me, I had a vague disinterest in Radiohead, I learned a lot, and now it's an active dislike, good to not be luke-warm.

If I piss a lot of you people off, perhaps you'll learn to appreciate better things and even spread it to others - that has to be good for my (self-links) own music.


NOTE: NO GENERALIZATIONS ARE UNIVERSALLY VALID - POINTING OUT GENERAL LAME TRENDS DOES NOT MEAN THAT MANY INDIVIDUALS AREN'T MAKING THE BEST MUSIC EVER MADE YET RIGHT NOW TODAY.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:49 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Dude, what's wrong with you? So grouchy!
posted by ghastlyfop at 7:03 PM on July 14, 2008


You've really studied music for 40 years???

Yes.

I picked up the recorder when I was 6, that would be 40 years in September, and haven't looked back. Actually, my parents told me to pick it up - I didn't bring the school paper home because (I still remember this) I just assumed my parents would never want me to do this, why, I have no idea, my father played guitar and sang to me almost every night (he had a little variety show on BBC World Service in Bulgarian though he had to leave Britain because of his health...)

In fact, I still play the recorder my mother gave me about 20 years ago all the time - I played it at a show three weeks ago, the 20th anniversary of my band Verge (during which show I also snuck out and shaved off the beard I'd had for five years and reappeared in a disguise - what was funny was that a lot of people who had never seen me without a beard didn't notice it was missing.)

There were a couple of years in university where I didn't play much (but I was studying electronic and computer music) and I didn't play much the first few years I was in New York (but I always had a clarinet with me just in case) but I'd have to stand by that number 40.

(Not that my music career has gotten anywhere, I compare it to dragging around a dead horse for transportation. :-D But I love it so.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:04 PM on July 14, 2008


Dude, what's wrong with you? So grouchy!

Deeply critical != grouchy. In fact, by the time I finished that post (after playing through all those great videos) I was positively giggling.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:06 PM on July 14, 2008


I dunno, lupus. I haven't studied music but how can it be the same singing style when "pyramid song" is sung pretty - and "everything in it's right place" is sung through a bitchin' computer - and on "2+2 is 5" he rocks the fuck out...? Anyway, I'm not going to listen to your music, but I shall forward it to Sacha Frere Jones immediately!
posted by moxiedoll at 7:08 PM on July 14, 2008


okay, lupus_yonderboy, I'll bite, despite the cocktails:

First, I too have studied and practiced musical for multiple decades (although not 40 years, just a mere 25). I joyously accept the fact that these conversations are subjective, and I celebrate (and, indeed, depend on) the fact that no two sets of ears will hear things the same way. I'm not out to convince anyone of anything - in fact, my somewhat ad-hominem statement to DU earlier slighty shames me.

As my last pre-condition for this response, let me say that I think the success (musical and otherwise) of any rock band in particular (and maybe any contemporary musician at all, although that's a larger discussion) depends to a large degree on personality. More simply put, you have to buy Thom Yorke in order to buy Radiohead (although I personally believe that they all make pretty profound contributions to the music - Colin Greenwood, the bassist, for example, is perfect, imho). Similarly, if you think Paul McCartney is treacle, than you'll hate the Beatles. Ditto Bono, Mick Jagger, Kurt Cobain, etc. Note that this has nothing to do with music - such is the nature of pop music.

That said, I chose those specific songs for a reason, to wit:

"Pyramid Song" is recorded beautifully - the piano sound is gorgeous, and contrasts wonderfully with the strings and the dryness of the drums. Compositionally, it's in 4/4, but its over-the-bar-line rhythms are, to me, endlessly fascinating. When the drums enter and clearly establish the meter, it's like regaining your footing after a particularly intense episode of vertigo. And speaking of those strings - amazing! Present, yet not overbearing. So much to listen for in there. Completely original. Finally, I think the lyrics are great - referencing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot", but couched in such a different context as to avoid being derivative. The delivery is incredibly powerful to me - it's a very hopeful song.

"Everything" - while it's also keyboard based, the keyboard in question here is a Rhodes, and it's quite heavily processed throughout the course of the song. The time signature is not something you encounter everyday in pop music. I also think the manipulation of the vocals is very creative.

"2+2" is a guitar-based song that clearly draws a lot of its influence from punk rock. The composition is key here - the song consists of three distinct sections, and to my ear it works very well. It may not, to you, but it's definitely not your garden variety pop music. To say nothing of the nod to Orwell - not many pop songs have such literary origins, lyrically speaking.

"The Bends", to me, is just kick-ass rock and roll. Sure, there are quirky production things going on, but to me this is just a great song to play extremely loud. It rocks.

"Packt" is a trip to bizarre-o land - I can't even begin to understand how they got there, but the finished product is unique sounding, to my ear. Again, it depends on the listener being willing to buy into the personality of the band and Thom Yorke in particular, but I am. I dig the interaction between the synthetic sounds and the guitars. I like the quirky rhythms of the "snare" drum at the beginning of the tune.

And, finally from my list, "Let Down" is all jangly, strummy guitars. I've heard different theories about this being a Steven Reich-influenced piece, and I don't know enough about Reich to be able to judge that, but there are certainly lots of repeating patterns here that go in and out of phase with one another. And yet it still comes across fine as a jangly, strummy guitar song. If you choose to dig deeper, there's something there to look at, but it's not necessary. The lyrics are certainly dark, but many people mention that dismissively. I definitely have a limit to the amount of dark music that I can listen to, but I also am of the opinion that art is meant to portray a variety of emotions, including dark ones. That this song (and many others in their oeuvre) is dark is not a deal breaker.

So, in one haphazardly cobbled together list, we've got a jangly, guitar song; blazing, distorted guitars; electronica; and a contemporary classical-influenced piece. Are there similarities between the pieces? Of course! They were all made by the same guys in the span of less than 10 years. Given the typical palette we are fed in pop music, I'd say that this sampling of music is pretty amazing. I neither expect nor want everyone to agree, but since you asked, lupus_yonderboy, there's my two cents.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 7:19 PM on July 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


On preview, as I feared, most of my comments about these songs boil down to nothing more than "'cuz I like it". You criticize based on, among other things, that the songs are all similar in length. Hardly a worthy observation, in my opinion - I mean, the vast majority of pop songs fit into a certain length. It's what happens in that length of time that matters. I've tried to show how, given about 3 minutes of music, Radiohead draw on an abnormally wide palette. YMMV.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 7:21 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


About 2/3rds of the people in this thread need to get over themselves. The songs is decent, the technology is cool, this is a good post.

Being "pretentious" is better than not formulating your own opinion. If people were willing to pretend to better things we'd have a better world.

The technology might be interesting but the video is dull. It could be any old video effect, if you didn't read the long technical discussion. The effect isn't used to dramatize the song, it appears in no way to be correlated to the song. Twice they bring in a cityscape or landscape, and then do nothing with it. The "development of the theme" is displaying multiple people in the same effect and turning it up a bit.

It's an opportunity wasted.

Here's
an example of a video based around a single technological idea that develops an idea and uses it to dramatize the music - I defy you not to laugh.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:21 PM on July 14, 2008


Thanks, fingers_of_fire, that's really what I was looking for.

This makes me want to check at least three of the pieces out again - in a higher-fidelity format with a lyric sheet (since I'm clearly missing a lot of the lyrics...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:24 PM on July 14, 2008


lupus: head here for an alarmingly complete collection of lyrics. It's got a-sides, b-sides, unreleased stuff, multiple versions, live adlibs, covers, and who knows what else.
posted by heeeraldo at 7:58 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


lawns, prunes, etc.
posted by billypilgrim at 8:22 PM on July 14, 2008


I admit, lupus, your music penis is bigger than any one of mine - but do you have three?
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:58 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Fantastic video, BTW, very good match for that track.

I'm a big fan of No Surprises.
posted by Artw at 10:08 PM on July 14, 2008


Hmm. I was reflecting the other day that I've become infected with this media-laden impatience. I typically no longer sit still for the end of a song. I get what I want from it -- the opening? the chorus? the bridge? whatever bit of flavour I was looking for -- and then skip on. And this is with stuff I like. Fact is, formula music is heavily repetitive, and not in a good way (much electronic music that gets the label of "repetitive" isn't though some is -- the changes are merely subtle). But then the average artist does very little to hold interest across a track. Late track key changes is the artist saying to me: I have nothing left to do here.

I also used to be a pretty big Radiohead fan. That is to say, I am still a very big fan of more than half of their stuff, but they've gone a little cold for me. Then, I don't know, a couple of months back, I finally got around to putting In Rainbows on my mp3 player. And then promptly forgot I'd done so.

So sitting on the bus on the way to work, with less than great headphones, I flip my player on and freeze. I don't recognize what I'm hearing but that happens every now and again (my partner sometimes throws stuff on there for me to check out). But it's got me. It's too early to say whether it's great but it's far more interesting than I was expecting. And I followed it through to the final notes because it held my interest the whole way through. Course I realized what it was partway through but that wasn't what kept me listening.

Anyway, on the issue or range, I agree with FoF that Radiohead does pretty diverse work across tracks and especially across albums. I would say that their sound is distinct enough that those who aren't used to it tend to find it sounds alike. And, well, I do find they've flattened out a bit in recent years, so an earlier album might demonstrate that range more readily.

Cool idea for the video, though they're well known for interesting vids. Yes, Thom warbles.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:20 PM on July 14, 2008


I like this track and video, but I really wouldn't call In Rainbows their strongest material.
posted by Artw at 10:23 PM on July 14, 2008


moxiedoll: I dunno, lupus. I haven't studied music but how can it be the same singing style when "pyramid song" is sung pretty - and "everything in it's right place" is sung through a bitchin' computer - and on "2+2 is 5" he rocks the fuck out...?

Good question, excellent question. It all has to do with the shape of the head. :-D

But I'm sort of serious. Generally, you start with a given voice that's your natural voice; a voice teacher will first start by getting rid of all the annoying rock star mannerisms that you've picked up from the radio and cutting everything away until your real voice is revealed. This is the voice you generate with your head "held naturally" and all your various resonators (your throat, chest, mouth of course, forehead, back of the head, cheeks, and back of the chest) doing what they do when you talk "normally" (or even, what was normal before you learned your regional accent which changes the way you hold your resonant cavities).

That's the first stage. The second stage is to build it all back up again, but in different ways - you learn to hold all your resonators in different ways to get different "character voices". A fine example is Kate Bush - she can be pretty annoying, I admit - but it's clear that for each song she spends some time deciding what sort of person is singing the song, how they carry themselves and arrange their voice.

Now, you don't necessarily have to have a distinct character for each song - many decent singers only have a few voices that they can use well - but IMHO to be an adult singer you need to at least have gone through that point and be aware that any voice you assume is a mannerism of some type.

Now, even within one voice you can do various things - you can do louder songs and softer songs - so this is how you can rock out in one song and not in another and I can still say you're using the same voice all the time.

It doesn't even have to be different personalities: Iggy Pop doesn't really vary in who he is but he has distinctly different voices for different songs. Watch in this very impromptu version of Social Life how his voice completely changes between just talking and singing - and it's a completely different voice from this version of the ultra-classic Search and Destroy (not that this is a good version but that it's the same vintage as the previous clip).
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:23 PM on July 14, 2008


I admit, lupus, your music penis is bigger than any one of mine - but do you have three?

Luckily, no - I have trouble keeping the one I have adequately fed, though it does appear to be sated for the moment.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:27 PM on July 14, 2008


Eh, In Rainbows ranks maybe 5th. When I say an "earlier album" I'm talking The Bends through Kid A.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:30 PM on July 14, 2008


(@ Artw)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:31 PM on July 14, 2008


I'd go as far as Amnesiac, but, er, that's pretty much their entire career, so not bad for "the good bits". And yes, a lot of range in there.
posted by Artw at 10:34 PM on July 14, 2008


The Bends *definately* deserves a lot more love than it gets.
posted by Artw at 10:35 PM on July 14, 2008


lupus_yonderboy - er, your favorite band appears at first glance to be really, really boring.
posted by Artw at 10:38 PM on July 14, 2008


er, your favorite band appears at first glance to be really, really boring.

I didn't post anything by my favorite band here! :-D Which one didn't you like? I suspect Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, their videos don't do them justice.

I was posting examples of "pushing the edge of rock music", though, not my favorite bands per se - not that I posted anything I didn't like.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:07 PM on July 14, 2008


There There (Hail to the Thief) has a pretty cool video... and it's a fantastic song.
posted by Poolio at 11:25 PM on July 14, 2008


the popular music of the day, hip-hop, doesn't contain even one actual famous player.

Please, please tell us what you think about hip hop. I'm having such a good time reading your comments while imagining you with a monocle, a top hat and an evil sneer. Hopefully you will post some more hilariously horrible music too.
posted by afu at 1:51 AM on July 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


while I'm not l_y, I will take an opportunity to post this photo of me in a monocle, sort of sneering.
posted by heeeraldo at 2:00 AM on July 15, 2008


I'm having such a good time reading your comments while imagining you with a monocle, a top hat and an evil sneer.

I'm deeply flattered!

Hopefully you will post some more hilariously horrible music too.

So what is about the music you find horrible?

When I was young, I encountered an LP by Ornette Coleman called Dancing in the Head. I was morally offended. The song was too long, the theme was stupid, they never developed it but just played it in different keys, they didn't even seem to be playing with each other but against each other!

I played it quite a few times to try prove to myself why it was wrong, but after a while I realized that I'd ended up very much liking it.

Now, look back at that Lightning Bolt track above. That's not just horrible, that's amazingly horrible. The mix obscures the fact that the bassist simultaneously plays in an upper register but it's sure as heck one of the most god-awful noises you ever heard - but it cracks me up every time, I can't help but feel good watching it. That drummer, he's like a circus act. Please note the man speaking at the start is John Peel whom you can safely say knew more about music than you and I put together.

The first time I saw Lightning Bolt, I was chatting with a group of friends waiting for a show to start and then this amazing racket started up - we all stopped talking and looked at each other, "What the fuck is that?" and then fairly raced down to the floor where they were playing on the ground, not on the stage, with a large convex mirror overhead - it took me some time to realize that there were just two of them, and then I couldn't believe it.

I have just one of their CDs, if I had too many it'd be intolerable, but when one of their tracks comes up, it's a moment of surrealism, as if a clown suddenly ran into my room and started tickling me with a feather. This is the edge of rock music, this is rock music stripped to its lowest essentials, it's like the rhythm section of The Who run amok - would you have thought that you'd ever see a drummer more aggressive than Keith Moon?

That Boredoms video is a different matter. I should have pointed out to you that the song apparently doesn't go anywhere for the first minute and a half - they build up a specific melodic shimmering ("with a 7th feel") so there's a lot of energy but no structure.... and then just when you think nothing is going to happen, the whole complex mess is rolled up into a tiny ball with a resonant filter sweeping up and when it sweeps down it's all metrical, they've rolled out the fantastic Boredoms interlocked drummers (at the time it was two small Japanese women but now it's two guys and one of the original girls) and a guitar line that moves against the resonant filter sweep with the guitar's string harmonics.

There's a moment towards the end at 3:38 where everything drops out except the drummers and some whooshing and then a very simple major key scale appears on the guitar: 3 1 2 3 4 2 3 4 5 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 and on 10 they throw the whole world into a massive flange (which is like having several resonant filters at once) and the harmonics just drip out all over - the first time I got to hear that on my own the tears literally rolled down my cheeks (again, the crappy YouTube video doesn't really do it justice). (And when I heard the ending, I laughed out loud - I was starting to wonder how they were going to get out of it and was even willing to forgive them if they just stopped because I loved the song so...)

Things like harmonics mean a huge amount to me, in the same way that many of you feel about religion (and I think it's no coincidence that most religious music makes heavy use of high and low harmonics that aren't used in the secular music, whether we're talking about monks singing overtones or the deep fundamentals and high partials of a great organ). Getting it in this joyous form that's both highly disciplined and completely abandoned is almost more than I can bear.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:29 AM on July 15, 2008


3 1 2 3 4 2 3 4 5 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10: the "3" and the "10" are an octave apart - it's the neatest way to fit an octave into 13 steps and it gives you a sense of inevitability when you realize at around 8 or 9 that they're going right to the fundamental without turning back.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:50 AM on July 15, 2008


Which one didn't you like?

the one with the sub-Gondry video.
posted by Artw at 9:02 AM on July 15, 2008


lupus, I admire your commitment music, I really do. But I have to say that your filters couldn't be more different than mine (and again, as I said up thread, this is to be celebrated, not berated) - all the things that you describe about music in your last post are SO analytical. I mean, I have absolutely used musical analysis to explain why the palette of Radiohead is so interesting to me, but really, their music just resonates with me in a gut, emotional way. And as was the case with you and Ornette, it definitely took me a few listens - I find that to be the case with most substantial, challenging music - I often don't get it at first. I don't mind having to work a little bit (in fact, that makes your quick judgment about Radiohead all the more confusing to me - you are willing to listen to Ornette again and again, despite not liking the music, whereas Radiohead is worthy of only a few scant tracks streamed online. I understand that Ornette is a GREAT musician and Radiohead is "just" a pop band, but if ever a medium was deserving of democracy, it's music, no?). But I could never imagine liking a band simply because what they were doing is so weird. I could acknowledge there weirdness and respect them for it - come to think of it, the Flaming Lips fit this description for me, not entirely, but mostly - but without some kind of emotional resonance, I couldn't say that I LIKE the music. As I reiterated again and again in my thread, Radiohead's music resonates with me, and that's more important than any analysis that anyone can give. I depended on analysis to illustrate Radiohead's breadth, not to argue that they are good. Some people might not like breadth - I don't think Hank Williams, or Jazz, is necessarily that broad, although some of that music is fantastic.

Anyway, to each his own. I guess my point is just that it seems like music fulfills different functions in different people's lives. Shocking!
posted by fingers_of_fire at 9:32 AM on July 15, 2008


PS - at the risk of piling on (which really isn't my intention, sorry if it comes across that way) - I don't much buy in to this whole notion of "the edge of rock music", or however you put it. That sounds like just so much pr-speak. Try listening to Radiohead (or anyone else's) music without all the baggage and see if you like it. As I said, the piano sound on "Pyramid Song" is beautiful, it's beautifully recorded. Is it on the edge of rock music? Who the fuck cares? It's just pleasing to me. Do bands set out to be innovative, or do they speak from the heart? I'm not so naive as to suggest that there isn't at least SOME commercial strategizing going on, but as a listener I find it very cold to pay too much attention to that. I aspire for a more visceral experience. Again, YMMV.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 9:37 AM on July 15, 2008


lupus_yonderboy has succeeded in being such an absurd caricature of a music snob that it has just absolutely cracked me up. Thank you for that. It was very enjoyable watching you defend some absolutely ridiculous art-goth satan-drone band.

To wrap up:

* Radiohead is indeed good, but you will not think so with one listen, or five. It typically takes me ten or twelve plays of a new Radiohead album before I like it. Why bother, you ask? I don't know. I know that when I do eventually like it, I like it a lot. So previous experience I guess is what makes me suffer through the initial rejection.

* "In Rainbows" is their best album so far. I'm dead serious. It makes their older stuff sound kind of drony and tedious -- it's just much better put together.

* lupus_yonderboy: Calling Tool formulaic was a stroke of genius. If I wasn't so sure you're serious that would have been the best troll of all time.

* Also, thanks for pointing me at Boredoms. I like. Lightning Bolt, on the other hand, is trying way too hard. Ironically the band the Boredoms most remind me of? Radiohead.
posted by rusty at 11:14 AM on July 15, 2008


Hint: If you really want to troll it up just start praising Coldplay.
posted by Artw at 11:17 AM on July 15, 2008


lupus_yonderboy has succeeded in being such an absurd caricature of a music snob that it has just absolutely cracked me up.

He reminds me of every instrumentalist I've ever met, actually, right down to referencing obscure music theory with a lot of passion in a way that makes most people ???

It makes their older stuff sound kind of drony and tedious -- it's just much better put together.


So you can see why some people might find them drony and tedious...right?
posted by sondrialiac at 11:43 AM on July 15, 2008


A generation or so (off my lawn!) ago, we sat and listened carefully to the music because there simply wasn't that much else to do. Now people multitask and therefore you can get away with formulaic stuff like Radiohead or Tool passing as "edgy" because they include a few elements that have been used by really edgy bands, and "the consumers", whilst reading their email and watching cable, subconsciously get the "edgy" brand association without any actual "edgy" content being delivered.

Dude, I am guessing that I am of the same generation as you, the same sitting around smoking dope and REALLY listening to music generation, the one without mobile music, the one without music on demand, the one where music really made a statement goddamn it unlike that generic crap that gets thrown around today, yeah, Pink Floyd, that was a real band, not like this inescapable pap served up 24/7.

I am of that generation and yet, astonishingly, I bear a great and deep affection for Radiohead. Among many other things.
posted by jokeefe at 11:44 AM on July 15, 2008


Heh, I do really find Tool formulaic though I only have their Aenima album (spelling?)

All the songs sound much the same to me, odd meters and a heavy rhythm section. And always very serious. The same with the vocalist - he has a specific characterization and he sticks to it.

I'm sure I'm over-simplifying - but generally most newer bands try to come up with a very specific "sound" that can be identified immediately as them and then don't stray far from that.

It's true that I have really different criteria from most people. I want music to be really fucking exciting - even if that's a very stark excitement like Music on a Long Thin Wire (which actually deliciously terrified me for a few minutes once because of its sheer inhumanity, though the acid was certainly a factor).

Yes, I'm entirely in it for the musical aspect. The words have great importance for me sometimes - the Clash being a great example - but I'd never listen to anything for just the lyrics.

The Clash is a very interesting example, in fact, because Joe Strummer had a pretty limited instrument in his voice, but he made the best possible use of it, again using those character voices all over to make each song distinct and have the maximum impact. Listen to three songs in a row from any disk in their later work like, randomly, Lost in the Supermarket, Clampdown, The Guns of Brixton and find three dramatically different characterizations with different sounds and even different class statuses.

In the Tool restaurant and the Radiohead restaurant, all the dishes taste the same to me. Some of them have tofu and some vegetables, some are more or less hot, but within each restaurant they use more or less the same spices everywhere. So after a few visits I stopped coming and spend much more time at restaurants like The Clash and Mr Bungle's.

Again, I might well be missing something. Perhaps I just bought the wrong album at the wrong time. Your mileage may vary.

But I am very sure that I'm tired of the formula music I hear today, and that most of the music I'm rejecting in general wouldn't exhibit anything new if I spent more time studying it. If I were trapped on a desert island, I'd rather have one Orb song than all of Tool and Radiohead put together.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:12 PM on July 15, 2008


(re the Lightning Bolt track): Please note the man speaking at the start is John Peel whom you can safely say knew more about music than you and I put together.

John Peel did know a lot about music. He also liked Radiohead enough to include them in three different Festive Fifty lists-- Creep in 1993, Kid A and Idiotique in 2000, and There, There in 2003.
posted by idest at 12:14 PM on July 15, 2008


...and I forgot to link to the Festive Fifties.
posted by idest at 12:17 PM on July 15, 2008


the same sitting around smoking dope and REALLY listening to music generation

Furthermore, I've been told that the kids these days sit around and smoke dope while listening to Radiohead.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:18 PM on July 15, 2008


The Clash is a very interesting example, in fact, because Joe Strummer had a pretty limited instrument in his voice, but he made the best possible use of it, again using those character voices all over to make each song distinct and have the maximum impact. Listen to three songs in a row from any disk in their later work like, randomly, Lost in the Supermarket, Clampdown, The Guns of Brixton and find three dramatically different characterizations with different sounds and even different class statuses.

Dude. Your "dramatically different characterizations" are at least in part because "Guns of Brixton" was sung by Paul Simonon, not Strummer.
posted by idest at 12:33 PM on July 15, 2008


And "Lost in the Supermarket" was sung by Mick Jones, so there you go.
posted by yhbc at 12:41 PM on July 15, 2008


instrumentalists

In many cultures almost everyone's an instrumentalist of some sort.

There was a point where most American families of a certain economic level had a piano in the house, would entertain themselves and their families by playing sheet music they purchased by the millions.

But the tradition of strong musicianship has petered out in America, I think. It used to be that everyone (except the poor as always) got piano lessons whether they liked it or not - there were school bands in high schools. Kids and parents in middle-class areas I know around here complain that this has gone in favour of heavy emphasis on team sports.


I would agree 100% with what you say, if you were a little more polte.

Phrased more positively, I think that studying music deeply, whether as an instrumentalist or a composer, gives you access to this nebulous concept of "musical content" that people in the music world bandy around all the time ("very energetic but not much musical content").

There are many parts of your brain which, once scratched, cannot be unscratched and want to be stimulated ever after.

You should try picking up an instrument. If you start now and just keep playing a little every few days, it'll give you a new way to perceive time and a new way to hear, and it won't be long before you too will be an instrumentalist and have access to these hidden worlds.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:42 PM on July 15, 2008


About Tool:

All the songs sound much the same to me, odd meters and a heavy rhythm section.

Having a recognizable style is not in any way the same as being formulaic.

Backstreet Boys: formulaic.

Tool: Instantly recognizable stylistically, but not formulaic.

And always very serious.

You're a fountain of unintended hilarity today. :-) "Undertow" was fairly serious overall*, I grant you. But Aenima is practically one long joke from start to finish. I mean, first off, the name of the album is toilet humor -- a misspelling of the highfalutin Latin word for "soul" to make it come out as "enema" when pronounced.

Then you've got "Stinkfist," which is a heartbreaking exploration of modern alienation and anomie via a little story about the charming sexual practice of fisting. Including such priceless lyrics as:

Finger deep within the borderline.
Show me that you love me and that we belong together.
Relax, turn around and take my hand.


If that last line isn't funny, nothing is.

That album also features "Hooker with a Penis," which is a delightful satire of the whole concept of music snobbery.

All you know about me is what I've sold you,
Dumb fuck.
I sold out long before you ever heard my name.

I sold my soul to make a record,
Dip shit,
And you bought one.


There's also the little semi-musical interlude "Die Eier Von Satan," which is a cookie recipe delivered as if by Adolf Hitler. "Und Kein Eier!" repeated as though it meant "We Will Die for the Motherland!"

And of course, the title track, based on a comedy album by Bill Hicks, about how great it would be if LA fell into the ocean. Which also basically breaks the fourth wall and says outright:

Don't just call me pessimist.
Try and read between the lines.


Anyway. I can't think of any other things I specifically like about Tool besides the non-formulaic nature of their songs and their sly humor, so I will be impressed if you come up with something else to lament which is not a lack but precisely a strength of theirs.

-------

* Except for the hidden track which is a revivalist-preacher-style vision-journey tale about the narrator's coming to realize that harvest day down on the farm is in fact the holocaust, if you're a carrot, and includes the line "Let the rabbits wear glasses, damn it!"
posted by rusty at 1:25 PM on July 15, 2008


sondrialiac: So you can see why some people might find them drony and tedious...right?

Oh sure. That's just a matter of taste. De gustibus and all. I just get annoyed when someone makes a judgment of taste but couches it in a bunch of pseudo-critical blather along with the precise measurements of their music-penis in order to cow those who would disagree.
posted by rusty at 1:29 PM on July 15, 2008


Despite my love of Radiohead I'm very much enjoying this post's discussion, even if it is a bit heated. Thanks (sincerely) to lupus_yonderboy and his interlocutors.

The video is novel; I like it, though House of Cards was one of the weaker tracks on In Rainbows in my opinion.
posted by kryptondog at 2:01 PM on July 15, 2008


Dude. Your "dramatically different characterizations" are at least in part because "Guns of Brixton" was sung by Paul Simonon, not Strummer.

And "Lost in the Supermarket" was sung by Mick Jones, so there you go.


Hah, I totally admit my ignorance here (I was looking at the tracklists and filling them in in my head).

So I was completely wrong on the specifics - but the overall point that the band benefits by having specific character voices for each song is just as true as ever.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:01 PM on July 15, 2008


I just skipped this entire thread because ignorance is definitely bliss on metafilter music threads.

hnnrs Please allow me to thank you for a wonderful post.
posted by chuckdarwin at 2:27 PM on July 15, 2008


I couldn't help think of Metafilter, and particularly this thread, while watching this.
posted by Dave Faris at 3:53 PM on July 15, 2008


Metafilter: I'm sure I come off as superior and critical on this
posted by finite at 4:42 PM on July 15, 2008


I just skipped this entire thread because ignorance is definitely bliss on metafilter music threads.

Your loss - you might actually learn something, you know.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:38 PM on July 15, 2008


Great-looking video. It sort of does my head in that I like everything Radiohead do except their music.

This is my problem with Radiohead exactly. Every time I read/see/hear an interview with somebody from the band, they seem engaging and funny and I love everything they have to say about their influences and what gets them excited about music in general. Yet their actual music bores me cross-eyed. I've given all of their albums a fair hearing in the hopes that yes, THIS would be the one that won me over, and it hasn't happened so far. But they all sound like guys who I'd like to have a beer and talk about music with, FWIW.

If Radiohead-the-band (as opposed to Radiohead-the-guys) were really as interesting as everyone likes to say, they would've just released the data plot sans video and let us figure it out for ourselves.
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:09 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Putting the mentalist into instrumentalists
posted by Artw at 10:27 PM on July 15, 2008


Your loss - you might actually learn something, you know.

Bollocks. I have nothing to learn about radiohead from people who have never listened to them.
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:18 AM on July 16, 2008


Bollocks. I have nothing to learn about radiohead from people who have never listened to them.

If you didn't read the thread, how do you know whether I've listened to them or not? But I meant you might have learned something about music in general.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:11 AM on July 16, 2008


You have to admit, for someone who never read the thread it's a pretty accurate summary.
posted by Artw at 8:23 AM on July 16, 2008


I read enough to realise that it was just another chance for people to trot out their ignorance and hope for some sort of blue ribbon.

Anyone who thinks this band only has two songs is only going to piss me off and draw me into a waste-of-time debate.
posted by chuckdarwin at 10:35 AM on July 16, 2008


chuckdarwin: But you missed all the funny wrong stuff l_y had to say about other bands too!
posted by rusty at 2:01 PM on July 16, 2008


Just out of curiousity, how many people in the thread have seen them live and did that have an impact on your opinion about them? Their later stuff, from KID A on, is absolutely mindblowing in a concert setting, especially with their light show. You can see that in a lot of cases, they were composing with an arena in mind. When they went back and played stuff from The Bends and Pablo Honey, it sounded like it was quaint, antique music in comparison (even though I prefer the tracks on the Bends as pure songs, for the most part).

For example:

Idioteque (Live)

A wry take-down of brainless rave hedonism becomes a dancefloor monster after adding live drums.

I think the difference here, is that music snobs like stuff that's virtuosic and show off technique and normal people just like music that makes you dance and tells a story. Radiohead never crawls so far up their own asses that they forget why people enjoy music.
posted by empath at 8:56 PM on July 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've seen them live twice and will be seeing them again in August at Liberty State Park. Impact? I was astounded that their live music was just as good as, and in some cases better than, their recordings. Their 2001 show in South Park was brilliant... and they did Creep for the first time in years, which was a lot of fun to hear. I unashamedly heart Radiohead.
posted by idest at 5:58 AM on July 17, 2008


empath: "Just out of curiousity, how many people in the thread have seen them live and did that have an impact on your opinion about them?"

I haven't, but I know a few of people who were either indifferent to or actively disliked Radiohead on record but rate them incredibly highly after seeing them play live. So I plan to see them next time they play near me to see if I take to them. (Assuming I can blag a free ticket, mind you - I'm not going to spend money testing the live conversion theory!)
posted by jack_mo at 2:30 PM on July 21, 2008


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