The Alphabetical CD Marathon continues!

In my mind The Raconteurs is a Nebraska-based rock super group comprised of three nobodies and Jack White from The White Stripes. My interest in the group begins and ends at Jack White and that’s enough for me. The other three jolly chaps certainly sound like they know what they’re doing and the drummer is better than Jack’s sister so it’s Saul Goodman.

I got into the band retrospectively after exhausting White’s other output. I found their first album Broken Boy Soldiers to be a vaguely Beatles sounding musical treat for the ears and a departure from the stuff the White Stripes were hammering out. I spent months, yes months, listening to it to and from work in my car earlier this year (or was it last year?) and if I had to nail down a favourite it would be the beautifully crafted and laid back ‘Together’ closely followed by ‘Intimate Secretary’. I love the line in ‘Together’ – “you want everything to be just like the stories you read but never write” and I like to sing along.

All the tracks have their merit mixing melancholic vocals with great guitars and keys, the album has a great old-fashioned ‘homemade’ feel to it and this live performance of the opening track ‘Steady, As She Goes’ recorded two years after the album’s release is cracking:

Consolers of the Lonely begins with a more modern White Stripes sounding title track – big riffs, tempo changes and distorted vocals and the same with super-fast tempo single ‘Salute Your Solution’. The piano parts on the third track ‘You Don’t Understand Me’ remind me a lot of ‘Cornflake Girl’ by Tori Amos and again The Beatles, and this feels like The Raconteurs from the first album along with the next track ‘Old Enough’.

My favourite track off this album is ‘Many Shades of Black’ – it reminds me of the sketch in The Fast Show of the depressive painter who is obsessed with the colour black – and (The Who inspired?) ‘Rich Kid Blues’ deserves a mention. Here’s someone else doing ‘Many Shades of Black’ justice:

Despite thinking of myself as a big fan, I only have a couple of Radiohead CDs, tending to listen to their other albums digitally. There should be three CDs in my collection but somewhere along the way their first album Pablo Honey, containing the soundtrack to my youth ‘Creep’, went astray. I remember when a DJ (Simon Mayo?) accidentally (on purpose?) cued up the non-‘radio edit’ of the single in the Top 40 show and went to the toilet. It felt decidedly anarchic to hear the f-word on a Sunday evening on BBC Radio 1.

Unlike Pablo Honey I tend to want to listen to later Radiohead albums as one piece of work rather than track by track so it’s actually tricky for me to pick out the highlights. I suppose I’ll be obvious and plump for the singles, anyway here we go.

The Bends came out in the mid-90s when I was getting toward the end of my long stint at university and my musical taste was even more all over the shop than it is now. In hindsight it seems like a natural bridge between Pablo Honey and OK Computer, with less clichéd indie rock and more crafted lyrics and vocals. The title track is pretty hard sounding and certainly of the time, but then you soon come across the brilliant chestnut that is ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ hinting at an alternative direction.

The stand out track for me is ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’ because to paraphrase Morrissey (again) ‘it said something to me about my life’.

OK Computer was described back in 1997 by the NME as ‘one of the greatest albums in living memory’ and I totally agree. When it came out it was like a nuclear warhead going off in the indie landscape flattening everything around it and scattering other bands like so much fallout. Listening to it now it still holds most of its power despite what Radiohead has managed to do since then (their album A Moon Shaped Pool in 2016 pretty much reduced me to tears on my first listen).

There’s nothing I can really say about the album, the indie kid equivalent of Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms (in that everyone has a copy), that hasn’t already been said. I guess that’s the problem in general with this Alphabetical CD Marathon. “Why are you bothering?” I hear you ask. Well, it gives me an excuse to revisit some cracking albums like this instead of drowning in new music on Spotify.

As I recall, it was ‘Paranoid Android’ that everyone was talking about more than other tracks on the album. The vocals and the unexpected progression of the music (and a Douglas Adams reference) combined to make it into a classic track. Who couldn’t associate with the sentiment in lyrics like ‘When I am king you will be first against the wall.’ I love it when it really kicks off about halfway through and then settles down into harmonies for a while before kicking off again. Reminded me a bit of Queen I guess. Interlude ‘Fitter Happier’ later on the album seems to call back to ‘Paranoid Android’ and helps join the album together despite ‘Electioneering’ having a much brasher sound than the tracks around it.

Although ‘Karma Police’ and ‘No Surprises’ (every Finance Directors favourite) are bloody amazing, my favourite song from this album by a country mile is the hauntingly beautiful ‘Lucky’ which partly inspired me to write my book ‘Lucky’, but that’s another story. I loved the version they did for the Help! Charity album alongside original tracks recorded just for the album by the likes of Portishead, Suede, Oasis and friends. Here’s another version from last year:

Image adapted from a photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash