Mobiles Chirping, Plates Spinning, Sirens Singing

Radiohead's 21st Century Digital Noise

by Thomas Britt

24 August 2009


The Extras

The expanded reissues of these three albums by Capitol/EMI will have some listeners railing against a perceived corporate greed. While the label and company will indeed benefit from reissuing the CDs in Collectors Editions and Special Collectors Editions, there is no disputing that Capitol/EMI took their own considerable risks in getting behind these works in the first place. The label and company deserve some credit for their efforts in pushing albums like Kid A and Amnesiac into the mainstream and to the top of the charts. If the reissues do not carry the band members’ blessing, then that is a quandary that is difficult to resolve without a substantial discussion about business ethics. Nevertheless, the band has moved on to its own profitable form of marketing and semi-self distribution and Capitol/EMI do justice to the original works with these newly repackaged versions. In short, folks should vote with their dollar (and subjective code of conduct) on this kind of product.

Much of the additional audio material on these reissues will be familiar to fans that have collected and attempted to “complete” the bands discography over time. Since Kid A was not supported by singles in its original release, there are no B-sides. Instead, its Collectors Edition bonus content includes selections from performances in 2000-2001. The first set of songs is from a BBC Radio One Evening Session. This version of “Everything in its Right Place” is noteworthy for its looped keyboards and vocals. “How to Disappear Completely” also translates inventively to the live setting. There is an interpretation of “Idioteque” from this session, but the song lacks the punch it normally has when performed live. The highlights from Kid A‘s bonus audio disc are from a Canal+ Studios performance, during which the band blazes through almost the entire studio album (minus “Optimistic”, “Treefingers” and the title track). A rough-around-the-edges “Motion Picture Soundtrack” especially shines. The bonus disc closes with the performance of “True Love Waits” that was previously released on I Might Be Wrong - Live Recordings. A Special Collectors Edition of Kid A includes both audio discs, plus a DVD of “The National Anthem”, “Morning Bell”, and “Idioteque” from Later…With Jools Holland.

Unlike Kid A, tracks from Amnesiac were released as singles with B-sides and rarities. The “Pyramid Song” and “Knives Out” singles are represented on the Amnesiac Collectors Edition bonus disc with eight songs that rival the excellence of the OK Computer-era singles and EPs. From “Pyramid Song”, “Trans-atlantic Drawl” plays like a lyrical precursor to “A Wolf at the Door” and contains a sharp transition just after the midpoint that is similar to the stylistic clash at the end of Sparklehorse’s matchless “Pig”. “Fast-track” loops clipped portions of words in a way that (consistent with the albums) foregrounds sound rather than meaning. “Kinetic” possibly reveals the influence of Yorke’s collaborations with DJ Shadow and James Lavelle. The “Knives Out” B-sides “Worrywort” and “Fog” are calmer, with “Fog” (formerly “Alligators in New York Sewers”) making an impression as a song that could have definitely been released on either Kid A or Amnesiac. Additionally, the full-length version of “Life in a Glasshouse” is a thrill.

This bonus disc contains six selections from the same Canal+ Studios concert that yielded the Kid A bonus live tracks, and the Amnesiac versions are also uniformly great. The guitar-enhanced “Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box” surpasses the studio track in some ways. Finally, this disc includes one selection from I Might Be Wrong - Live Recordings—an ineffably moving piano alteration of “Like Spinning Plates”. Listen for the enthusiastic audience member who recognizes the song and shouts its name out in ecstasy before Yorke starts singing. Those who purchase the Special Collectors Edition of Amnesiac also receive a DVD with promotional videos for “Pyramid Song”, “Knives Out”, “I Might Be Wrong”, and “Push Pulk/Spinning Plates” as well as live performances from Top of the Pops and Later…With Jools Holland.

Finally, the Collectors Edition of Hail to the Thief gathers B-sides from singles “There There”, “Go to Sleep”, and “2+2=5”. The electronic experimentation of “Where Bluebirds Fly” and “I Am Citizen Insane” hold up nicely, but the most worthwhile material here consists of remixed or alternate variations of previously released album tracks. Hence, “Fog (Again) - Live” and “I Will (Los Angeles Version)” reinforce how fundamentally good those songs are and Cristian Vogel’s “Remyxomatosis” and Four Tet’s “Skttrbrain” breathe new life into “Myxomatosis” and “Scatterbrain”, respectively. Live versions of “Sail to the Moon”, “2+2=5”, and “Go to Sleep” round out the content of the bonus audio CD. The Special Collectors Edition of Hail to the Thief contains a four-song Later…With Jools Holland appearance and music videos for “There There”, “Go to Sleep”, “2+2=5”, “Sit Down. Stand Up.” and “2+2=5 (Live at Belfort Festival)”.

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