Scotch Mist (Radiohead, 2007) June 30, 2009Posted by Richard Bolisay in Music.
By Nigel Godrich, Adam Buxton, Garth Jennings, Stanley Donwood, Hugo Nicolson, Dan Grech-Marguerat, and Radiohead
Three colours narrated by Ric Jerrom
December 31, 2007, New Year’s Eve. Two months after the release of the album for download, Radiohead broadcast a pre-recording of all the tracks from In Rainbows through their Web site. Aptly called Scotch_mist, in the usual Radiohead-mordant-naming-fashion, it showcases the band in uncontrollable and unsteady drizzle. While listening to the tracks is more than enough to gift the ears, watching the band perform them is a booze like no other. From calm to fiery, hypnotic to belligerent, buoyant to suicidal, Scotch_mist captures In Rainbows in its most exquisite. Aside from the recording, the video also includes short lyrical pieces, fillers like love poems, quirky anecdotes, and animation that serve as intermissions between the songs.
I can’t help but gush when it comes to these things, that for a band that has relentlessly defied musical boundaries for the last ten years, I can only be as truthful as how it feels having their music with me. I believe only a fan so serious can find it difficult to talk sensibly, or at least balance his words, when he is talking about his favorite band, that he is just happy to tell his thoughts, things he likes, things he doesn’t like that much, the little things he gets to notice, and with the pride of being able to share that feeling I think it is not his lack of writing talent to blame for, but his weak emotional control.
It has only been two years but it feels like I have listened to it all my life. In Rainbows is Radiohead’s answer to how far musical greatness can go. It is as infinite as the stars we can only see in a deep night, as borderless as the space where the rainbow meets its end, as immeasurable as time. And yes, that’s me exaggerating, but that’s how it is. Listening to this album now is like being transported to the days that are not yet spent, the months that will befall in unknown time, and the years that will only pass in millisecond. There are times when I wonder how it will feel after I listen to it decades from now. Will it still be the same? Will it still hold that feeling?
There is a lot of talking about the Radiohead model, the idea contested from Kim Gordon to Lily Allen, the main argument being the band belittling the music that the other bands are making, that they are assured to give the album away because they know they are huge, not caring about the artists that are not as successful as them. I know it’s an act of arrogance. It’s somewhat, on the surface – – selfish. But don’t artists of their caliber share an amount of courage to pull that act off? Which they did. Which the music world will always be grateful for because it widened the possibilities and challenged every artist to do much better.
There is still one more year left, but as other fans would also be pronouncing, as early as now In Rainbows has already reserved its place in the peak of this decade’s landmark pieces. It seizes the beauty of fear and anxiety that the turn of the millennium has brought to us, sublimating it into the glorious feeling of being alive.
Scotch_mist counts down that euphoria.
1. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi. Everybody’s warming up like an early morning jog. Thom’s hair still looks combed. Colin’s jumping already. Thom’s eyes are closed; he’s feeling it. Taciturn guy Jonny sidelines with the piano. Phil’s feeling the beat. Ed second voices. The walls are starting to feel the otherworldliness. They’re starting to crack. They get eaten by the worms.
>> Then we see four people (or is that five?) running towards us, wearing bonnets. The slowmo feels like they’ll be reaching us long enough when the set comes to a halt.
2. Bodysnatchers. The room heats up. Thom’s eyes are finally open. Ed looks bored. There’s a shot of the window, or is that to show a mic without anyone singing? The title of course reminds you of the pod people from Don Siegel’s film, which I become suddenly aware of since I’m watching the video through my iPod, and the awareness leaves a strange aftertaste. There goes Thom’s orgasmic noises that I love. Phil’s working it all out. I’ve seen it coming! I’ve seen it coming! In such twenty-first century pop bliss, I feel trapped in a Kraftwerk dream.
>> A short animation to lighten up, if we really need it, since the fire’s already started.
3. Jigsaw Falling Into Place. Jonny’s now playing with the synths. Thom’s voice shivers. Ed’s happy in his corner. Where’s Phil and Colin? Jonny’s the jack-of-all-trades; it earns him a million points. Thom looks tired but absolutely happy. I remember liking this song just like any other Radiohead song till I realize why it stands out for them to choose it as the first single. It’s the structure, the upbeatness, the accessibility of Thom’s words, if not how they sound, the dying relationship it describes. And Thom, in the middle of the madness, takes out the dagger and asks, What’s the point of instruments? Words are a sawed off shotgun. And then he thrusts more lethal words into your heart.
>> A man narrates about how one day he found out that his urine was acting like a powerful foaming agent, and he wants to take advantage of it by hosting piss-centered foam parties in pub toilets. The water image, as you guessed it, looks like urine but it isn’t. The idea’s funny though, not a bad idea after all. His landlord’s a spoilsport. Yellow guy.
4. Faust Arp. A change of scenery. No more walls. Thom and Jonny run to an open field. Jonny carries his guitar. Thom carries himself. Someone’s talking behind the camera. They talk. They argue about the place to record the song. Thom agrees. Jonny starts strumming. And the moment Thom opens his mouth his words get in and stop our blood flow. After telling us that the elephant in the room is tumbling, tumbling, tumbling, he looks at the camera and sings to us, his eyes expressing something indiscernible, his face unshaved. Is that happiness after sharing his misery? Or sadness after getting rid of it? It is sunset – – and he tells, I love you but enough is enough, enough, and now stop, there’s no real reason – – how miserly romantic. You can also hear the wind whistling through the microphone, like humming birds singing along. How lovely.
>> Here comes the four people running again, in slowmo, and then one is revealed. That’s Jonny in red!
5. 15 Step. Ready? Ready, Freddie. Thom must really love this song. He is high every time he sings it. The album version pales in comparison, but that’s just me easily wowed even by a twitch of Thom’s eye. I feel happy when Thom is happy. Ed is seated, clapping. Jonny’s back with the guitar. Phil’s back in action. Thom is guitarless so he can move. Now he is making some boxing moves. God, he’s moving a lot. And he’s flirting with the camera a lot too. The worms have finally eaten up everything. Elvis has left the building. Scotch_mist title appears.
>> Branches moving (or are those treefingers?) in red hues. Loops and loops until the poem ends. A midsummer’s day in a graveyard. What is there but love? Every time I hear bunches of words that sound like a love poem, my mind automatically turns off. I don’t know; that’s just how I was programmed. Then I see rainbow colors spiraling downward. . . and upward. . . Is my head being cut open?
6. Videotape. The piano begins the silent murder. Thom, like Jack White in the closing song of Get Behind Me Satan, only much more woeful and somber, is determined to kill; he is even calling for Mephisto’s help. Jonny’s fixing some dials. Ed’s in his usual corner. Colin is. . . actually there. <My mind just went off.> I can’t note anything except that the song is taking my mind off somewhere. It is spooking me out, haunting me till god knows when.
>> The running people again. Wait, that’s Phil! And that’s Thom!! Their bonnets fall off. So who’s left?
>> A random pixel animation, like volume equalizers moving up and down, comes in with some bedroom sounds.
7. Reckoner. Everyone’s back. Ed’s the tambourine man. Colin and Jonny the shakers. Thom and Phil love closing their eyes, as if telling, don’t connect with us, connect with our music. Reckoner was known before as Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses, and it is so fitting that after listening to the song you feel numb because the horses pulled so strong they ripped you apart. Jonny’s Super Dry Gasoline shirt catches my eye, and he is all that I remember.
>> Closer running. I am sure that’s Ed on the farmost left ’cause he’s taaalllll. Thom’s neaaaarrr. Hollly smoookkeeesss. Fireworkksss.
8. House of Cards. Thom’s jacket says it all: BLUE. Like Joni-Mitchell-Blue. Like A-Case-Of-You-Blue. Like The-Last-Time-I-Saw-Richard-Blue. Like I-Wish-I-Had-A-River-I-Could-Skate-Away-On-Blue. This is blue. Again, I am suddenly in free fall, I can’t concentrate. Why is Jonny tapping his guitar?
>> Oh, that’s Colin at the back! Thom runs with his hands wide open, like an embrace he only gives in his songs.
>> The head and shoulders anecdote, in monochromatic blue. The narrator moves to his new flat and finds out that he hears whispering voices when he puts his head under the water when he takes a bath. Sounds like the same guy who wants to host piss-centered foam parties in pubs a while ago. Admiration had the better of me, I want to be his neighbor!
>> The cute animation’s back, longeeerr.
9. All I Need. Thom stretches. I am losing all my will to write a decent entry in this journal. Need to stand up to reverse the hypnosis. Wait, Jonny is piano-ing AND xylophoning! The jack-of-all-trades! This is a song about being clingy and all, the type that most people dislike, but if someone tells you, I only stick with you because there are no others, would you still push him away? This song is unbearably tolerant, like a best friend supporting you to commit suicide. I adore it.
10. Nude. Out of the basement. The band is out in the dark, their bodies in slow motion. I gather that the concept is intimacy; we can almost touch each one of them with our fingertips. Thom says that Nobody Does It Better is the sexiest song ever written; I say he wrote a sexier version of that with Nude. The song feels like stripping you bare, naked to the bone, all the blemishes of your soul revealed. It’s a sexy, sexy song, despite its seeming nastiness. And it’s indeed a very uplifting song, Don’t get any big ideas, They’re not gonna happen. Thom wants everyone miserable. I’ll have an upsize. Damn, the splash of feathers.
>> GOOD NIGHT >>
>> The cute animation moves closer, farther, closer, upside down, very, very much closer, then away and away until it’s gone.