Music

Philip Selway: Running Blind EP

Radiohead drummer Phil Selway's four new songs don't sound good enough to be on his debut solo album and sound too like-minded to be together on the same release.


Philip Selway

Running Blind EP

Label: Nonesuch
US Release Date: 2011-08-29
UK Release Date: 2011-07-22
Label website
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

Radiohead fans know that drummer Philip Selway is not the first member of the band to go solo. But he does seem to be the first member of the band to write and record songs that sound so very little like his day job. When singer Thom Yorke and multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood each made recent solo projects, their respective sounds did not catch anyone off guard. Yorke's album, The Eraser, recorded with producer Nigel Godrich, did not fall far from the Radiohead tree at all. There were differences, yes, but they were outnumbered by the similarities. Greenwood's soundtrack work and avant-garde classical pieces were pretty out there, but he was also responsible for many of the alien sounds on OK Computer and Kid A.

Selway's slow, hushed British folk, on the other hand, didn't sound like it came from neither a Radiohead member nor a drummer. This makes it sound like he was courting disaster, but Selway's debut album Familial was just good enough to reward the curious while leaving room for him to grow as a singer and a songwriter. Four reheated outtakes from the album now comprise Running Blind EP. As his label puts it, "he kept back a handful that he felt worked best as a separate piece of work." But realistically speaking, they just sound like they weren't good enough.

One thing that works against the EP is how homogenized it is. Despite the fact that Selway is the drummer for Radiohead, his songs are not rhythmically driven. Sticking to nylon or steel string guitar, his songs revolve around his vocal melodies. Selway has a certain way of spinning melody that can be frustratingly subtle. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it was as if no one working on this recording noticed that all four songs had the same tempo and dynamics. They are all medium-slow and quiet. One of the things that made Familial better than this EP is that it had a little more variety. And not variety in the sense of loud and fast pitted against ballads, but variety in the details. It was the little things that counted. The brightening of a high-end tone, the addition of one small instrument to the mix, and the small shifts in pace helped differentiate the songs. All four songs on Running Blind EP are entirely too like-minded, exposing more weaknesses than necessary.

I also believe that Selway is a better singer than he leads on. He can carry a tune just fine and was good enough to sing on the same CD with Neil Finn and Jeff Tweedy, so that's certainly not the problem. It's just that his harsh afraid-of-waking-the-baby whisper begs for a change-up. Standing back and looking at his lyrics, this approach may not be altogether unwise. He seems preoccupied with troubled people. Shortly after the release of Radiohead's Hail to the Thief, I read an article about Selway's volunteer work with psychiatric hot lines. It all started by trying to get a girl's attention, but he found that sacrificing his time to talk people down from their ledges gave him special meaning. "I've been going 'round in circles / trying to figure you out", goes the opening line on "What Goes Around". The title track admits to feelings of fear while "All In All" acknowledges how good fortune often comes in smaller packages than we"d like. If anything sounds like a breakdown, it's the moderately pounding "Spit and Cough": "I believe you, now please go away".

Phil Selway's talents as a singer and songwriter warrant attention. Running Blind EP, however, does not. As the drummer moves on to bigger things, this 15 minute collection will hardly be a footnote in his history.

5

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image