Tuesday, March 21, 1995

Kevin Gilbert “Song for a Dead Friend” released

Song for a Dead Friend

Kevin Gilbert

Writer(s): Kevin Gilbert (see lyrics here)


Released: March 21, 1995 (album cut)


First Charted: --


Peak: 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): --


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, -- video, -- streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Kevin Gilbert was born in 1966 in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. He never became a household name, although he was associated with people who were. In 1995, he was among a collective of songwriters who wo the Grammy for Record of the Year for Sheryl Crow’s “All I Wanna Do.” He also did session work for notable stars such as Madonna and Michael Jackson.

As an artist in his own right, he was a singer and musician with NRG and Giraffe in the 1980s before teaming with noted producer Patrick Leonard (who paired Gilbert with Madonna and Jackson). They collaborated on the group Toy Matinee in 1990, which produced the minor album-rock hits “Last Plane Out” and “The Ballad of Jenny Ledge.”

In the early ‘90s he teamed with a collaborative known as the Tuesday Night Music Club. When he brought his then-girlfriend Sheryl Crow into the fold, the collective wrote the material for the album named after the group. There was bad blood from Gilbert and others who thought Crow used them and didn’t give them enough credit.

His next project was a solo album, 1995’s Thud. The album’s dramatic closer, the “touching” JRA Song for a Dead Friend, is “an acoustic-guitar-based composition with main characteristic on powerful vocal quality of Kevin Gilbert.” GW There is a “Peter Gabriel’s ‘Here Comes the Flood’ nuance” GW in the “melancholy piano [that opens the songs] and just grips your soul.” PJ The words are “so personal as to be almost too painful to hear.” BS KG said, “I wrote [it] about a really good friend of mine who killed himself a couple of years ago.” CH Via the song, “Kevin addresses his friend directly about the suicide and laments his failure to measure up to his friend in terms of friendship.” EB From a recording standpoint, KG says, “There’s not production on it;” CH indeed, “the only musical accompaniment is a simple piano sequence with some sparse guitar work in the chorus.” EB


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First posted 10/8/2022.

Kevin Gilbert released Thud, first solo album

Thud

Kevin Gilbert


Released: March 21, 1995


Peak: --


Sales (in millions): --


Genre: adult alternative/progressive rock


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time]

  1. When You Give Your Love to Me (Bottrell/ Gilbert) [3:20]
  2. Goodness Gracious [4:08]
  3. Joytown (Bottrell/ Gilbert/ MacLeod/ Schwartz) [4:53]
  4. Waiting [5:05]
  5. Tea for One [5:49]
  6. Shadow Self [6:06]
  7. The Tears of Audrey [4:47]
  8. Shrug (Because of Me and You) (Bottrell/ Gilbert/ MacLeod/ Schwartz) [3:54]
  9. All Fall Down [5:35]
  10. Song for a Dead Friend [5:56]

Songs written by Gilbert unless noted otherwise.


Total Running Time: 49:33


The Players:

  • Kevin Gilbert (vocals, drums)
  • Bill Bottrell (guitar, backing vocals)
  • Brian MacLeod (drums)
  • Dan Schwartz (bass)
  • Robert Ferris (backing vocals)
  • Steve Steinberg (sax)
  • Lyle Workman (guitar)
  • Salvation Army Brass Band: Skip Waring, Toby Holmes, Jay Mueller, & Bruce Friedman

Rating:

4.327 out of 5.00 (average of 19 ratings)


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“Kevin Gilbert played and wrote on numerous albums and was a veteran of the L.A. music scene by the time he released his solo debut, Thud.” TD Not only had he “written and produced songs for Madonna and Michael Jackson,” JRA he’d also recorded two albums with the band Giraffe, another with Toy Matinee, and, most famously, was part of the famous collective that spawned Sheryl Crow’s blockbuster debut.

Crow signed on as the touring keyboardist for Toy Matinee in ‘91 and she and Gilbert became romantically involved. He brought her to a laid back gathering of musicians known as the Tuesday Night Music Club and the casual sessions turned into material for Crow’s album of the same name. When she became a superstar, Gilbert and other TNMC’ers felt slighted as she took what they deemed was more than her fair share of the credit.

“As Crow’s relationship with Gilbert deteriorated…an increasingly bitter Gilbert threw himself deeper into his own album.” JS96 Producer Bill Bottrell, “who used to hear Gilbert thumping away through the common wall” JS96 at Toad Hall, said, “‘it was a long process…He sat over there endless nights.’” JS96

The result was an “absolutely stellar album” RU that really lives up to the title of being a “solo album” – Gilbert “takes a hand at virtually every instrument at some point on the record. He also engineered and produced the record at his own Pasadena studio.” RU “The music focuses on the use of acoustic guitar, powerful lyrics and accentuated vocal style.” GW

Upon its release, the “masterful but underpromoted effort” JS96 hit the music world with, well, a thud. “Perhaps Gilbert’s distinctive style is hard for the music industry to get a handle on – that is, sell easily to a mass audience.” JRA “But that shouldn’t bother anyone looking for a rock artist who ranges from folk to pop and (occasionally) goes out even farther on the musical ledge.” JRAThud showcases Gilbert’s satirical bite, his talents as a producer, multi-instrumentalist, and vocalist.” PX “This complex yet accessible collection of material demonstrates a remarkable range as well as some incredible musicianship.” RU

Of the album’s unfortunately ironic title, KG said Thud “is a lot of things. It’s what the record is, the sound of the other shoe dropping. Thud is the sound that my studio makes at the moment because of all the old weird gear I have in it. I like the word.” CH As KG says in the album’s liner notes, “Thud is the sound one’s head makes as it hits the table.”

The comment makes more sense in the context of the cover art, which is also explained in the liner notes: “That’s the Baron George Hoyningen-Huene having ‘A Vision at Glyphada.’ Photographer Herbert List captured his head hitting the table on the plains of Glyphada, Greece in 1937.” EB

The photo undoubtedly captured Gilbert’s frustration with his inability to reach the audience he deserved. His “intelligent, well-crafted pop [offers] an occasional nod to the experimental, reminiscent of his Music Club cohort David Baerwald.” BS His “introspective songs” TD share “the same pop sensibility of Sheryl Crow” TD and “his thoughtful lyrics and clever word-play,” BS along with “the way his pained vocals delivered his clever lyrics” PX “spicen pessimistic songs about the state of the world that would be mundane in the hands of lesser intellects.” BS

“Much like…Toy Matinee…there’s not a weak track on the album, all songs showing evidence of his troubled musical genius.” PX “Each song is expertly written, arranged, played, and produced.” JRI To emphasize the words and vocals, “the production is generally very low-key;” EB Kevin “deliberately chose to stick to simple sounds on Thud.” EB “There’s not a lyric anywhere…that you can’t get from just listening,” CH says KG, because “the voice is really dry and right up front in the mix.” CH “Giraffe and Toy Matinee…both utilized synthesizers and significant production efforts,” EB but these “songs are mostly acoustic rock, with electric guitars thrown in for effect in places.” EB Gilbert says, this is “a lot more true to what I am because it was just me doing it.” CH

“When You Give Your Love to Me”

The “heartfelt” PJ When You Give Your Love to Me is “one of Kevin’s best efforts.” EB It “is a catchy little ditty” JRA that “starts with acoustic guitar rhythm followed with Kevin’s powerful vocal with strong accents. The music flows seamlessly with acoustic guitar plays important role as rhythm plus drum as beat keeper. But still, vocal is the key driver of song structure and composition.” GW Lyrically, this “finds our man pleading his case for love in a way that’s both winning and funny.” JRA “‘There’ll be global peace and religious tolerance/There’ll be a perfect harmonic convergence, when you give your love to me.’” JRA These “are among the many fringe benefits promised by the singer in exchange for his lover’s affection.” BS The “tongue in cheek” EB lyrics allow “for a somewhat more fulfilling experience than the usual fluff that exists in love songs.” EB

“Goodness Gracious”

Goodness Gracious exudes the essence of Gilbert.” JRA The song “is more uptempo but still seems angry” PJ “with its creepy, irrestible melody” JRA and “Kevin’s indignation with a society that has stuck him with the bill for its past excesses:” EB “Goodness gracious, we came in at the end/No sex that isn’t dangerous, no money left to spend/We’re the cleanup crew for parties we were too young to attend.” JRA It is also “spooky in its clairvoyance – its lyrics even more true today than they were at the time of the album’s release. ‘Goodness Gracious/ I’m not listening anymore/ Cause the spooks are in the White House/ and they’ve justified a war/ So wake me when they notify we’re gonna fight some more.’” PX Musically, the song “starts interestingly with a blues-based acoustic guitar” GW but “the incorporation of electric guitar sound at the back is good.” GW “In line with its aggressive tone, this…[is] the most rocking tune of the album, with the possible exception of ‘Shadow Self.’” EB

“Joytown”

Joytown is a “whimsical song” EB “composed with music loop as basic song structure.” GW “The song moves excellently with Kevin’s singing style…Kevin’s vocal moves ups and downs with the flow of the song…Sax work is incorporated at the end of the track.” GW Lyrically, this offers “musings on contemporary life littered with pop culture icons over a bluesy shuffle.” TD Gilbert adds: “it’s very alternative. It doesn’t have much at all to do with things progressive.” CH In singing of “an idyllic place where all of our fallen heroes live the lives they deserve to lead;” EB “not only do ‘people tear down parking lots so they can build more parks,’ but ‘Lennon never has to sing a Paul McCartney song.’” BS

KG described the song as “a product of the Tuesday Music Club.” CH Drummer Brian MacLeod continues, explaining that it was a “thing we did in Bill’s studio…it was just me, Kevin and Dan. In New York I saw these guys playing on trash cans. So I went to a hardware store and bought a bunch of plastic trash cans. I brought them in and said, ‘Kevin check this out!’ So Kevin put a microphone up inside and goes ‘Oh, that sounds amazing!’ …Kevin put up a mic and hit record, and he just recited those lyrics out of his head.” BM Gilbert notes that “the song gestated in my head as a concept for three or four months,” PS1 but it really fell together “one night at TNMC [when] we were sort of jamming and I started rapping on these lyrics spontaneously – all those things spilled out and over an hour I assembled them into couplets that rhymed.” PS1

“Waiting”

While the “eerie” JRA Waiting “is a pretty catchy song, its tone is still heavy on the darker side of things.” PJ It “excellently dispels the myth of the promise of better days to come.” PX “The fantastic line, ‘I’m waiting for the Mafia to make this song a hit’” EB showcases his clever wordplay and sarcastic humor. “In Gilbert’s vocal delivery you hear his skepticism that the better times he’s waiting for will ever actually arrive.” PX Instead, there seems to be “a certainty of future disappointments that the longer he waits for things the less apt they are to happen.” PX

“Tea for One”

The “stirring” JRATea for One is “a memorable late night track for discerning listeners.” PJ It “is a good melodic song” GW “with some killer hooks,” PJ “simple structure and Kevin’s low register notes vocal” GW that really suggests KG “could have filled-up Genesis’ music when Peter Gabriel left the band.” GW This “is one of the sadder songs on the album” EB as it “captures the pain of loneliness and unrequited love with a stark emotional poignance.” PX “Gilbert writes some fantastic lyrics and this song is full of them.” PJ The song tells “the story of a man named Duncan whose infatuation with a woman goes unfulfilled due to his hesitance to make an advance.” EB The song is delivered in a manner “that allows the listener to feel the pain of Duncan…and make an emotional connection with the music that is lacking in more conventional pop songs.” PX The vocals…ring very true, with the perfect aspect of forlorn wailing while still singing words to music.” EB KG also “adds a toy piano to the mix to good effect.” TD

“Shadow Self”

Shadow Self, the album’s “ambitious centerpiece,” PS1 is “a mini-prog epic about the devil inside us all.” JRI KG says it “was actually supposed to be called ‘Late for Dinner,’ but it got the less subtle title of ‘Shadow Self’ due to a mixup with the publisher.” EB Under any title, it is “an elaborate, almost progressive rock-styled piece” EB with “some symphonic nuance,” GW “a different style compared to the other” GW songs on the album, that features “lots of distortion, filters and different vocal tracks.” EB There’s also “great drumming and inventive bass lines.” GW As KG said: “I went nuts production-wise. I just wanted train wrecks of styles, so like every eight bars it changes styles dramatically…There’s acoustic guitar and then this hip-hoppy bass part and a male choir of vikings singing at the same time. Then there’s out of context things where a really sweet sounding flute is against these very punk drums because I like the clash of style. That’s my favorite track in an adventurous sort of way.” CH

From a lyrical standpoint, the song is a warning to prevent the Shadow Self from taking over. The song says that “all of us have…a darker evil version of ourselves, a Shadow Self, [that] we keep at bay, that feeds off of our negativity and grows…the more we give into that negativity.” PX KG described the song as “an essay on the dark side of human nature.” CH “It’s not unlike ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ by The Rolling Stones, except that instead of being spoken by a specific being, the words are those of the evil within each person, trying to gain influence over the person’s actions.” EB

“The Tears of Audrey”

“The lovely lament The Tears of AudreyJRA is “haunting and beautiful,” PJ laying “its heart firmly on its sleeve.” PJ It “is a mellow track with low register notes voice line. The melody is good, the arrangement is simple. It’s like a pop song.” GW It is about “putting up walls to keep love out.” PX Audrey is “a woman who, following the death of her husband, bottles up her feelings and isolates herself from the world.” EB “The listener wants the tears of Audrey to fall, to break down the emotional walls many of us are guilty of putting up.” PX “The tone of the song is actually unusual when contrasted against ‘Tea for One’ and ‘Song for a Dead Friend,’ which both deal with loss, because ‘The Tears of Audrey’ is written from the perspective of a gentle third party.” EB

“Shrug (Because of Me and You)”

“There is absolutely nothing that better demonstrates Kevin’s personal growth over the years than the difference in title between [Shrug (Because of Me and You)] and ‘Because of You’, from Giraffe’s album The Power of Suggestion. The lyrics are almost exactly the same, with a few minor changes in the order of the lyrics and a few turns of phrase that work better in ‘Shrug.’ As far as music goes, ‘Shrug’” EB is “another pop-rock song in slow tempo with firm drum beats and cool guitar fills. Kevin’s vocals combine a balanced high and low points.” GW It “has a much more casual and organic tone to it, as befits its title and Kevin’s change in musical style, whereas ‘Because of You’ has Giraffe’s signature thick synth sound and heavy engineering making it a more driving, aggressive song.” EB

“All Fall Down”

All Fall Down is another reworked Giraffe tune; the original is from The View from Here. It “is a melodic song with good arrangement.” GW “The order of the lyrics here…really highlight Kevin’s increased confidence in his writing. The Giraffe version relied much more strongly on repetition, particularly…of the chorus, which ends up diminishing the power of the lyrics in the verses; inversely, the Thud version allows the lyrics to tell a story and paint a picture with a better (and less frequent) chorus. As far as the music goes, the Thud version goes out on a limb slightly from the rest of the album, incorporating muted brass and more elaborate orchestration, as well as backup singers, which are less evident on the rest of the album. However, it works very effectively in creating a musical tone that represents a wake for the world.” EB

“Song for a Dead Friend”

The album’s dramatic closer, the “touching” JRA Song for a Dead Friend, is “an acoustic-guitar-based composition with main characteristic on powerful vocal quality of Kevin Gilbert.” GW There is a “Peter Gabriel’s ‘Here Comes the Flood’ nuance” GW in the “melancholy piano [that opens the songs] and just grips your soul.” PJ The words are “so personal as to be almost too painful to hear.” BS KG said, “I wrote [it] about a really good friend of mine who killed himself a couple of years ago.” CH Via the song, “Kevin addresses his friend directly about the suicide and laments his failure to measure up to his friend in terms of friendship.” EB From a recording standpoint, KG says, “There’s not production on it;” CH indeed, “the only musical accompaniment is a simple piano sequence with some sparse guitar work in the chorus.” EB

“Gilbert’s vision sometimes gets too dark for its own good…but the artist (and he is an artist) is so startlingly fresh and worthwhile, you’re willing to indulge the musical detours.” JRAThud is an overlooked album that is worthy of not just a first glance, but also of several subsequent glances.” PX This is “prog-pop heaven” JRI – “literate, adult rock that unfortunately serves as a solitary testament to Gilbert’s talent” TD since “Gilbert would die in an accidental suicide” TD a little more than a year later.


Notes: “Some versions of Thud shipped with a cardboard sleeve attached to the front of the jewel case, containing a 4 song EP that has Kevin’s cover of [Led Zeppelin’s] Kashmir,” EB a song “he recorded for the Led Zeppelin tribute album [Encomium, but was], dropped from the disc at the last minute.” JS

A 20th anniversary, 3-CD edition was released by PopPlusOne.com which includes “3 new studio tracks and 18 previously unreleased demos, instrumentals, and alternate mixes.” PP

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Monday, March 13, 1995

Radiohead released The Bends

The Bends

Radiohead


Released: March 13, 1995


Peak: 88 US, 4 UK, 14 CN, 23 AU


Sales (in millions): 1.54 US, 1.25 UK, 3.79 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: experimental alternative rock


Tracks:

Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Planet Telex [4:19]
  2. The Bends [4:06]
  3. High and Dry [4:17] (3/11/95, 73a US, 18 MR, 17 UK, 62 AU)
  4. Fake Plastic Trees [4:50] (5/9/95, 65a US, 11 MR, 20 UK)
  5. Bones [3:09]
  6. (Nice Dream) [3:53]
  7. Just [3:54] (9/2/95, 37 MR, 19 UK)
  8. My Iron Lung [4:36] (10/8/94, 24 UK, 100 AU)
  9. Bullet Proof…I Wish I Was [3:28]
  10. Black Star [4:07]
  11. Sulk [3:42]
  12. Street Spirit (Fade Out) [4:12] (1/22/96, 5 UK)

All songs written by Radiohead.


Total Running Time: 48:37


The Players:

  • Thom Yorke (vocals)
  • Jonny Greenwood (guitar, keyboards)
  • Ed O’Brien (guitar, effects)
  • Colin Greenwood (bass)
  • Phil Selway (drums)

Rating:

4.100 out of 5.00 (average of 29 ratings)


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“The first half of Nineties rock was shaped by Nirvana, and the second half was dominated by Radiohead.” RS500 Thanks to the success of the anti-hero song “Creep” and parent album Pablo Honey, Radiohead burst onto the scene as a sort of Brit version of grunge for alt-rock losers. That album, however, “in no way was adequate preparation for its epic, sprawling follow-up, The BendsAMG which “married a majestic and somber guitar sound to Thom Yorke's anguished-choirboy vocals, drawing on the epic grandeur of U2 and the melancholy of the Smiths.” RS500

“On only their second attempt at a proper album, it became clear that the slightly generic grunge rock of their debut LP, Pablo Honey, would not be the definitive sound for Radiohead going forward.” PS The Bends is what really led to Radiohead becoming “a blue chip band.” AZ “Building from the sweeping, three-guitar attack that punctuated the best moments of Pablo Honey,” AMG “The quintet honed its talent for bombastic Brit Rock, yet still preserved an edge of unpredictability.” AZ They “create a grand and forceful sound that nevertheless resonates with anguish and despair – it’s cerebral anthemic rock.” AMG

“If the CD proved anything, it was that Radiohead could find solid ground between pop experimentation and the tradition of born-in-the-bone, balls-out rock.” AZ “Occasionally, the album displays its influences, whether it’s U2, Pink Floyd, R.E.M., or the Pixies, but Radiohead turn clich├ęs inside out, making each song sound bracingly fresh.” AMGThe Bends is full of instantly catchy numbers, but a the same time, none seem fit for radio.” DV This “is essentially Radiohead’s way of creating a bridge between that initial wave of ‘90s angstery…what we’ve come to call indie rock.” EK

“It makes the record compelling upon first listen, but it reveals new details with each listen.” AMG The Bends “marries…ambitious, and often challenging, instrumental soundscapes to songs that are at their cores hauntingly melodic and accessible.” AMG “Thom Yorke’s tortured lyrics give the album a melancholy undercurrent, as does the surging, textured music.” AMG

Even as the group became experimental, they still maintained an ability to make inroads at radio. “Creep” could well have been a one-hit wonder for the band in the States, but songs like High and Dry and Fake Plastic Trees suggested Radiohead could find a home at alternative radio.

When the follow-up album, OK Computer became one of the decade’s game changers, “The Bends received its due for being that bridge, the changing space, between a young band with a fluke hit to a mature working group pushing the boundaries of rock music.” JM By comparison to OK Computer, “The Bends is pretty gosh-darn conventional…There are places all through it that betray a distinct whiff of…classic rock.” EK

“Planet Telex”
“The opener for The Bends is a rebirth.” CS “Planet Telex” “sounded like an overt warning to anyone who loved ‘Creep’ that the new Radiohead album was going to be much weirder and more sinister.” UP “It’s daring and rebellious and finds the band entering into the forms that would shape them into what they are today.” CS It “explodes from the speakers with a depth to the sound that just wasn’t there on Pablo Honey.” AD “A sound like wind coming in through a crack in your window, the song bleeds into a trippy feedback squall.” DV

“Much is made of Radiohead’s cerebral experimentation, but ‘Planet Telex’ is further proof of their off-hand, spontaneous magic – a band as much about the body as it is about the brain.” EX The song “doesn’t exactly scream ‘party vibes,’ but it was recorded during a heavy drinking session: Thom Yorke nailed the vocal in one take while crouching on the floor, too pissed on wine to stand. It was the last time Radiohead would record anything as straightforwardly anthemic.” BZ

“Sonically, the jittering intro waxes and wanes like a throbbing headache which refuses to let up. The lilting, widescreen guitar drifts in and out and promises some soothing respite before Yorke’s half-manipulated vocal cry of ‘you can force it but it will not come’ stirs up some unease (and constipation-based jokes).’ FT

“Apparently this track was originally titled ‘Planet Xerox’ but had to be changed for copyright reasons.” FT

“The Bends”
“’Where do we go from here?’ asks Thom at the beginning of the title track of Radiohead’s second album. The complete shift away from the grunge influence of Pablo Honey wouldn’t happen until OK Computer, but the opening lines of ‘The Bends’ imply that the band was at least doing a lot of soul-searching about where to go after the success of ‘Creep,’ a track they distanced themselves from in the years that followed.” FT

“Long before millennials realized that boomers were the worst, Radiohead were taking the piss out of the sixties generation for Gen-X kids. ‘I wish it was the sixties / I wish I could be happy / I wish something would happen’ is one of Yorke’s most quotable lines, and it captures an extremely ’90s sentiment of both resenting nostalgia and feeling like you’ve missed out.” UP Radiohead never belonged to any particular scene, but with the release of The Bends…the difference between them and their fellow UK guitar bands was palpable: Oasis sang about wanting to ‘Live Forever’ and being a ‘Rock & Roll Star,’ while Thom’s line…felt like a sarcastic dig at his peers’ obsession with another era.” FT

“Radiohead rocks as hard here as they ever have – while the ballads from The Bends era helped to inform the sound of Britpop in the latter half of the decade, the teetering-on-the-brink-of-chaos rockers are what give the album its still potent serrated edge.” UP “Jonny’s soaring guitar is as anthemic as on ‘High and Dry,’ ‘Just’ and ‘Street Spirit,’ but it’s here that Radiohead started to look at the wider world, invoking images of the CIA and the military gone rogue. The band wouldn’t master weaving political themes into their lyrics until a few years later, but they were already light years beyond their Britpop cousins.” FT

“High and Dry”
This “catchy little mellow, acoustic tune,” SP which Thom Yorke first performed with the pre-Radiohead band Headless Chickens, is “one of the band's poppiest, most mainstream hits,” BZ proving “Radiohead was not going to be contributing to the '90s one-hit wonder music pile.” SP The song “became a model for bands like Coldplay, Travis, and the other Radiohead imitators of the late ’90s.” UP

Of course, his aversion to all things popular means he has now distanced himself from “High and Dry.” He says it was “a ‘very bad’ song that he was pressured into releasing.” UP He has dismissed it “for its softness, apparent lack of lyrical meaning, and mass popularity.” CS That, of course, also means “some die-hards…[think] it’s no longer worth considering.” SA “But there’s something to be said for a Radiohead song that appeals to an older crowd…For it’s the poppier, more accessible side of the group that makes the experimentation all that more powerful, and vice versa.” CS

“Radiohead rarely makes anything this straightforwardly and swooningly romantic anymore.” SA “With its jangly guitars and recognizable verse-bridge-chorus structure,” SA this was “an essential ‘wallowing over heartbreak’ song.” UP “When Yorke hits those soaring notes of the chorus…it does what all great songs do: transports us, if not to a better place then at least one we weren’t before.” SA

“Fake Plastic Trees”
“They’ll never admit it now, but many people first heard ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ in the movie Clueless…Cher comes home and finds her step-brother (and future boyfriend) Josh in her house. It’s playing on the radio. ‘Yuk! Uh, the maudlin music of the university station,’ she says. ‘What is it about college and cry-baby music?’ It’s definitely a cry-baby song;” RS Thom Yorke “did all the vocals in two takes and then broke down into tears.” BZ Ed O’Brien said early versions sounded like Guns N’ Roses’ “November Rain,” and that Yorke only felt “adequately equipped to record the song” FT after the band saw Jeff Buckley perform live.

Of course, “this ain’t some sort of run-of-the-mill ballad.” RB This “fabulous, mellow acoustic single” SP “was exactly the type of bombastic, overly dramatic, highly marketable” RB “emotive and deep-searching rock ballads” PM that “Radiohead copycats exploited for over a decade. But nothing even comes close to the unique qualities of ‘Fake Plastic Trees.’” RB It “takes that narrow quiet-loud framework [of ‘Creep’] and improves upon it immensely.” AS It’s the “moment where Yorke and Radiohead found their voice” DF and “the best, saddest reminder of what was lost when the world’s best arena-rock outfit decided they were meant for something weirder.” SA

Built on this is “more emotionally direct than anything Thom Yorke has written or composed since.” SA Lyrically, the song is “a meditation on artificiality in the real world” DF that “puts the band’s previous output and, in truth, everything in rock at the time to shame.” AS His vocal performance “approached Freddie Mercury-levels of virtuosity.” UP He take “the prettiest acoustic melody in the band’s playbook” SA and “imbues it with little twists and turns that bring out heretofore unreachable layers of sadness…He lives inside this character, feeling his frustration, his weariness, his hurt.” AS “Yorke’s syllables are stretched to their breaking points throughout the song makes it clear he’s reaching for some sort of peace that’s just out of his grasp.” BB This “is why we listen to music, why we expose ourselves to any kind of art for that matter, in the hopes that its infinite power can make us feel something inside of ourselves that we didn’t even know existed, even if it is a feeling of sadness.” AS

This is “also one of Radiohead’s most anthemic songs.” RS “Radiohead is for the exhausted, the heartbroken, and the world-weary” CS and this “skyscraper of heartbreak” SA is their song most capable of generationg “a whole stadium of lighter-raisers.” SA “Never has there been a more perfect song about heartbreak.” CS “It still holds as a favorite for Radiohead fanatics nationwide.” SP

“Bones”
This is “a perfect and discordant wake-up from The Bends’ sentimental first half.” CS “The extremely U2-like ‘Bones’” DBW “is visceral and riff-heavy and as lively as the band’s ever been.” CS

“(Nice Dream)”
“Bones” and “Nice Dream” “are mood pieces, attempts at moving forwards ably supported by the excellent production of John Leckie, without whom neither song would amount to anything more than the prettier moments from the very un-acclaimed Pablo Honey.” AD He said the whale sounds in the background were “my stupid idea.” BZ

Colin Greenwood described this song as the “dreamy antithesis of ‘Bones’” BZ while his brother Jonny “takes credit for the foreboding, arpeggiated opening and the screeching guitars in the chorus.” BZ These “were initially points of contention between him and Yorke, who felt the song should be simpler. The result, however, is a truly rich and lovely song.” BZ

The song was based on a dream Yorke had. BZ The song’s narrator “knows that the idyllic fantasy in his head is just that: a fantasy. But we can’t blame him for wishing. The light-handed strumming and enchanting wind effects make us want to believe, too.” CS

“Just”
“Post-‘Creep,’ Radiohead were poised between grunge and Britpop. Just is a time capsule at the crossroads: hailstorm distortion meets perky hooks, wily vocals, and Yorke’s mischievous challenge to Greenwood.” GN “Just” was “a preview of what was to come on OK Computer. Instead of the straightforward rock that dominates The Bends, ‘Just’ doubles down on the band’s experimental edge and their knack for building worlds with guitars.” FT

“The world that exists within ‘Just’ is presumably one of addiction and insurmountable guilt – and the lofty riffs mimic the unsinkable feeling of self-loathing. It’s another example of Radiohead’s ability.” FT The song exemplifies how “to not only tell a story through lyrics, but to create a vision within the music.” FT It “is a vicious tell-off with music that matches the mood. Their rhythm section brings an honest-to-god groove for once“ SA along with “unexpected harmonic shifts, wild dynamics, [and] riffs coming out its ears.” RB

“Jonny Greenwood’s guitar solos…somehow out-weirded them all.” RB Is it any wonder that Radiohead have spent 20 years distancing themselves from straightforward guitar rock when they utterly mastered the form with this song?” BZ He is “an absolute beast of a guitarist” RG and “’Just’ is a premier showcase for some of his finest shredding.” UP His “guitar screams and wails in a place where it feels right at home. It’s probably the hardest they ever have or ever will rock out.” SA “’Just’ starts with Greenwood showing off his speed, hitting higher and higher notes until none are left on his guitar neck.” RG Then “he holds onto this feedback that sounds like a boiling teapot before ripping into an entirely different, nasty solo full of bending strings and stuttering notes.” RG It makes for “one of the most unique and peculiar rock songs of the 1990s. And it has an extraordinary video to match.” RB

“My Iron Lung”
“Rarely has a band rejected their humble beginnings as quickly as Radiohead.” CS “My Iron Lung” “was supposedly written as an angry response to the overwhelming success of ‘Creep:’” BZ “This / This is our new song / Just like the last one / A total waste of time.” “While there’s a good bit of bitterness in the lyrics, it seems to take on broader themes than just the downside of fame (also, like, cry me a river Thom Yorke).” BZ “This is clearly a move to go ‘beyond’ pop music and toward something less accessible, thornier, and altogether artier.” UP This is Radiohead fashioning “a new identity: stadium-rock agitators declaring war on hypocrisy and greed – particularly their own.” GN

This was first released as the title track of an EP between Pablo Honey and The Bends. It was recorded live in 1994 at a London club gig at the Astoria. Although the crowd noise was leveled out, the live performance “gives it an added dose of energy.” UP “Capitol Records A&R Perry-Watts Russell told Billboard in 1995 that it ‘wasn’t a proper first single. We really didn’t even pursue radio airplay for it.’ Fans and college radio knew ‘My Iron Lung’ was a glimpse of an evolving band.” RG

“The truly demented ‘My Iron Lung’” AD “effortlessly switches from control to chaos from verse to chorus.” CS It has “a catchy hook that makes you bob your head...then they get all avant garde on you.” DV “Jonny Greenwood's wonky Whammy tones give way to explosions of distorted fury, making this a pinnacle of their alt-rock phase.” EX “It’s the song on The Bends that seems most clearly a nod to Nirvana, though halfway through (and again at the end) a kind of sonic madness descends from Jonny Greenwood’s guitar that feels fully original.” BZ

“Bullet Proof…I Wish I Was”
An “emphasis on melodic hooks keeps things from getting as mushy as most mope-rock.” DBW “Bullet Proof…I Wish I Was” is “arguably the most reassuring song on The Bends it begins to rise with warmth and soul the farther along it goes.” CS It “has a grandeur about it, a wonderful ballad with a sad, lost atmosphere and great production and mixing.” AD “Each instrument calls out like a lone animal searching for company, and by the time they overlap, that very loneliness begins to feel more welcome, more familiar, more bearable. The patience of those trickling guitar lines and Yorke’s determination to stuff as many o’s into ‘proof’ pay off. By the time it wraps, it leaves you with a nest to curl up in – comforted or distraught, you decide — even though it starts with noisy scrapes and field sounds that suggest you’re wandered somewhere unbearably frigid.” CS

“Black Star”
Songs like “’Sulk’ and ‘Black Star’ are coming from a band that was still trying to find their sound.” DV The latter “is like the little brother who doesn’t get as much attention as he deserves.” SP It has been called “a sensational rock ballad and one of the best tracks off The BendsSP as well as “the most genuinely gorgeous song in Radiohead’s entire catalogue.” BZ

“No band has ever done a better job at depicting the pressures an individual faces in the modern world than Radiohead. What gets overlooked, and underrated, is how well they nail relationship issues as well.” AS “’Black Star’ is proof that they could have done just fine singing sad love songs for their whole career.” AS “Slow Radiohead often becomes synonymous with ‘Fake Plastic Trees’…In ‘Black Star,’ Thom Yorke’s voice sounds just as beautifully broken, the lyrics are just as heart-tugging.” SA They “prove that you don’t need to be wordy to tell a complete story.” AS

“’Black Star’ is a small-scale drama rendered with poignancy and eloquent sadness. It also features a gorgeous melody that builds into an unforgettable chorus, the kind of song that would sound great boiled down to just acoustic guitar and vocal, yet it gains heft and power when married to the band’s guitars. Those guitars never get overbearing, allowing room for the tune to spread its wings while adding numerous hooks to an already catchy mix.” AS “When it gets to the refrain of ‘this is killing me,’ that’s about as vulnerable as Radiohead can get.” SA

“Sulk”
“The penultimate track on The Bends works because it accepts the melancholia that comes with life instead of trying to fight it.” CS

“Street Spirit (Fade Out)”
“Radiohead fans can wage a battle royale over the best Radiohead album openers, but there should be no debate over which song is the greatest Radiohead album closer.” UP The “oppresively somber yet downright gorgeous” RB “Street Spirit” is and “one of the darkest tunes in their catalog.” RS The lyrics “alternate between desperate hope and resigned despair, despair getting the better of it.” AS Yorke said, “Our saddest songs have somewhere in them at least a glimmer of resolve…‘Street Spirit’ has no resolve…It is the dark tunnel without the light at the end.” RS He says it “is about staring the fucking devil right in the eyes... and knowing, no matter what the hell you do, he'll get the last laugh.” BZ The song is “a grand, doomed surrender.” GN “If Dante’s Inferno had an accompanied soundtrack, this song would surely be in the crux of it all.” CR

This “was a clear sign that Radiohead were maturing at a very dramatic pace,” RS “signaling a move towards an era where they would challenge listeners with each and every new release.” FT “’Street Spirit’ demonstrated that Radiohead could toss out a more nuanced type of anthem, along with sing-alongs like ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ and ‘High and Dry.’” BB

“As the second guitarist in a band in which Jonny Greenwood usually plays lead guitar, it’s understandable how Ed O’Brien often falls off the radar..,The steadiness of his playing is integral to the band’s success, because it allows Jonny to go off on his daredevil flights and sonic experiments knowing that the core of the song will remain strong. On ‘Street Spirit,’ O’Brien’s steadiness becomes brilliance right before our ears, playing arpeggios that tug at the heartstrings with every clarion note.” AS

The “song that even Thom describes as one of Radiohead’s saddest…is informed by Nigerian author Ben Okri’s Booker Prize-winning The Famished Road, which Yorke read on tour in America while the band narrowly avoided disintegrating; the book concerns an abiku, or spirit child, which gives the track its name. Yorke himself calls the track a ‘straight rip-off’ of R.E.M. (who famously influenced the band in the early days).” FT


Notes: In 2009, a collector’s edition added a second disc with the cuts from the My Iron Lung EP as well as the B-sides from the singles “High and Dry” / “Planet Telex,” “Fake Plastic Trees,” and “Street Spirit (Fade Out).” There were also four songs from a 4/14/1994 BBC Radio One Session.

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First posted 3/23/2008; last updated 5/29/2022.

Saturday, March 11, 1995

Del Amtri Twisted released

Twisted

Del Amitri


Released: March 11, 1995


Peak: 170 US, 3 UK, -- CN, -- AU


Sales (in millions): 0.26 US, 0.1 UK


Genre: adult alternative


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Food for Songs
  2. Start with Me
  3. Here and Now (2/28/95, 21 UK)
  4. One Thing Left to Do
  5. Tell Her This (10/31/95, 32 UK)
  6. Being Somebody Else
  7. Roll to Me (6/13/95, 10 US, 7 CB, 6 RR, 4 AC, 1 A40, 22 UK, 5 CN)
  8. Crashing Down
  9. It Might As Well Be You
  10. Never Enough
  11. It’s Never Too Late to Be Alone
  12. Driving with the Brakes On (4/30/95, 18 UK)


Total Running Time: 54:12


The Players:

  • Justin Currie (vocals, bass, acoustic guitar)
  • Iain Harvie (guitar)
  • David Cummings (guitar)
  • Andy Alston (keyboards)
  • Chris Sharrock (drums, percussion)

Rating:

3.740 out of 5.00 (average of 17 ratings)


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

Del Amitri’s newest album represents “a moderate change of direction” WK from 1992’s Change Everything. “Whilst retaining their trademark melodic sensibilities,” WK “the Scottish quartet [are] revvin’ up the guitars for their rawest album yet.” GM Guitarist Iain Harvie considers it “the most ideal representation thus far of Del Amitri’s true character.” GM He says, “‘We made Waking Hours…on a really tight budget, and we were a bit uptight when it came time to making the follow-up record, Change Everything.’” GM He continues saying, “‘The up-tightness of the last record, I think, came from too much time being ‘songwriterly’ – trying to do things the way they should be done.’” GM

In contrast, Harvie says, “‘Twisted was done in a very spontaneous manner without any real concern for a particular sound and I think it helped the record a lot.’” GM “‘We wrote the album very organically – all living together for weeks in the country – and a lot was just bashed onto 4-track and that was very cool.’” GM “‘It was a real joy to get out of the grim rehearsal rooms, and get out into the fresh air.’” GM

“‘For those sort of reasons I’d choose Loneliness Comes Crashing Down the best riff I’ve ever written; it was certainly great fun to record. It was done completely live with only one guitar solo and the vocals overdubbed later. It was the first time we’ve successfully managed to write something in the rehearsal room around a live track, around the guitar playing, so it’s a favourite for me.’” GM

Frontman Justin Currie echoes the desire to put out music without dissecting it too much. He says “he longs for the days when bands would record songs in a couple of weeks, and the album would be released shortly thereafter.” JK “‘We actually finished writing all the material for this album in 1993…Every time [the guys in the band] got together, we wrote a new song. When we had about 30 songs ready to record, we demoed them in the fall of 1993. For whatever reason, our record company asked us to wait till 1995 to release the album because that’s when they wanted it out. So we had all our work done by the end of ’93.’” JK

The long layoff between albums wasn’t the only challenge to overcome. “On its current CD Twisted, Del Amitri serves up more of the group's trademark pop melodies, searing guitar work and Currie’s slightly off-kilter voice. An alto baritone/tenor who downplays his voice, the singer is adept at conveying feelings of pain and longing and jubilation without resorting to vocal histrionics.” JK The band maintains “Currie’s downbeat romantic meditations and Iain Harvie’s soaring Rickenbacker tones,” DS but “the label does have to overcome Del Amitri's relatively low profile.” DS As A&M product manager Brad Pollak says, “‘There’s this lingering problem of identifying them with the band.’” DS “‘People know some of their songs’” DS but still wonder “‘is Del Amitri a band, a guy, an Italian dish?’” DS

Currie says, “‘We’ve always put songs before gestures, which may have limited our audience for a time…If you’re a melodic band, as we are, it’s very easy to sound twee, which we’ve tried to avoid at all costs. This is the first time we’ve been able to make a record as raucous as we wanted to, no trumpets, no strings.’” DS

Pollack continues, saying “‘People need two or three singles before they decide they're going to buy this kind of record, so we're prepared for a long commitment.’” DS “That trek begin with the release of Here and Now, a melancholy first single that will be launched at album alternative radio.” DS

Next up was Roll to Me, on which Currie says the band were “purposefully aping Paul McCartney in its use of melody and intervals.” VM The result was Del Amitri’s most successful single, a top ten in the U.S. “The band are known not to consider the song one of their best, however, and have often seemed irked by the fact that what they see as a throwaway pop song gave them their biggest hit.” WK

“There’s enough diversity on Twisted – from the sardonically biting Being Somebody Else to the teary, romantic balladeering of Tell Her This – to propel the album into the hearts of a wide range of folks. But, as Currie admits, most of the songs are marked by a melancholy that makes Del Amitri seem best suited for a solitary mope, rather than a party.” DS

“‘I’ve tried to write happier songs, ‘cause I’m genuinely not an unhappy person,’ he says. ‘I’ve had terrible times in my life, and people around me will sometimes say, ‘Well, at least you’ll get a song out of it.’ That’s deeply offensive: It would be immoral of me to go around ambulance chasing to get songs. I think it’s just a matter of me listening to too much country music!’” DS

Twisted “was the last album to feature guitarist David Cummings, who left to begin a successful career in TV scriptwriting, and the only to feature drummer Chris Sharrock, who agreed to play on Twisted but declined to join the band as a permanent member.” WK

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First posted 2/5/2009; last updated 8/24/2021.