Radiohead Listening Party, Plush, Thursday 15

Live Shots

Radiohead Listening Party

Plush, Thursday 15

Damn that Radiohead. Of course they've got to be thousands of miles away, probably not even on the same continent as our li'l ol' music fest, but the Oxford ones have reached that point in their career where physical presence is no longer necessary to create a stir. Here, it was a chance to hear their forthcoming album Amnesiac (or part of it anyway), songs recorded at the same time as the Kid A material but not released because, as someone from the label explained, "the band didn't want to put out a double album." Once they got the MTV2 banner secured above the former Blue Flamingo -- lashing one cord to the pay phone was a nice touch -- a few dozen flacks filed into the tiny lounge (or the even tinier one behind it, which had couches) and made themselves at home while someone tweaked the sound system. After a few minutes of chilled soul you might hear at a high-end hair salon, and congratulations from Capitol Records on being nearly the first people to hear this music on U.S. soil, everything was a go. And if the following 25 minutes weren't exactly a revelation, neither were they a big yawn. At the very least, they revealed what Thom Yorke and Phil Selway were doing when not appearing on healthy chunks of Kid A. On these six mood pieces (calling them "songs" seems a stretch), the vocals and drums are much more prominent, while many other antipop indicators, e.g. abstract keyboard noise, are intact; the main lyrical thrust of the first number was Yorke droning "get off my case," as a matter of fact. Elsewhere, there was a saturnine Steinway vying with whale-like noises and loose drums, a lurching bit of hornplay that sounded like a twisted New Orleans funeral parade, and a kaleidoscopic in-and-out effects whirl that went very well with the slide projections in the rear room. (Like Pollock meets Goya … I don't know.) The wickedest cut was the fourth, where a pugnacious electric-guitar snarl ducked and dodged the insistent, one-handed drumbeat. A kinetic jazz undercurrent took hold in other spots. Amnesiac may not catapult Radiohead into 20-million territory -- the last thing they're looking for anyhow -- but it seems destined to ensure people's interest in them grows even keener than it already is. Is that even possible?

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