A Thom For Peace (Godfather Records GR 502 / 503)
CD 1 : Corn Exchange, Cambridge, UK. February 25th 2010 : The Clock; The Eraser; Weird Fishes / Arpeggi; The Daily Mail; Pyramid Song; Harrowdown Hill; Lotus Flower; Give Up The Ghost; These Are My Twisted Words; I Froze Up; Like Spinning Plates; Black Swan; Cymbal Rush; Videotape.
CD 2 : Mouse, Dog, Bird; Reckoner; Airbag; Atoms For Peace; True Love Waits : The Orpheum Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, October 4th 2009 : Lotus Flower; Open The Floodgates; Super Collider; Paperbag Writer; Judge, Jury & Executioner; The Hollow Earth; Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses : The Orpheum Theatre, Los Angles, CA. October 5th 2009 : Skirting On The Surface : Latitude Festival, Southwold, Suffolk, UK. July 19th 2009 : Follow Me Around; The Present Tense
Released in June 2006 “The Eraser” was Thom’s first solo album away from Radiohead who were on hiatus following personal complications within the band. While still riding the sound that had made his band Thom had made this album at home using his Mac to personally amuse himself & also with the reasoning that he might release some of the solo efforts independently at a later date. Thom has taken on to stepping out a few select appearances including an appearance at Glastonbury appearing with Johnny Greenwood & playing slapbass.
This release from the Godfather is only one of a small few releases capturing a rare solo show from the Radiohead frontman. The CD is firstly solo & then adds additional material featuring Thom within his ‘supergroup’ “Atoms for Peace”. Thom seems to be shrugging off his serious demeanor built through out the years by joking about with the audience & responding to heckles. Indeed in other cities it’s reported that he stode on to the stage shouting the ‘Wassssaap!’ catchphrase from the Budweiser beer comercials. Obviously away from the recording restraints of touring & the band his writing has been prodigious with this release alone realising 10 unreleased tracks alone.
For The first set of the CDs Thom is playing at the 1849 seater Cambridge Corn Exchange for the Green Party Benefit on the 25th of February 2010.
The opening track “The Clock” is a sparse, acoustic pulse without the beatboxing & harmonies that are found on the CV. After which Thom utters a simple ‘hello’ before preparing the chords to “The Eraser” he then makes a joke about Johnny Greenwood ( “This ones for Johnny who’s a little unwell at the moment .. ” ) – who would inspire the chords to the next track – & carries on in to the song. Once again as the track isn’t aided & abetted by Thom’s computer but is rather a simple & hypnotic piano & voice track. It lends itself an epic doom that even though it’s present on the album is personified as Thom works harder to reach out & use chords that he seems to vamp at to bring a little more interest to the track.
Thom asks for the audience to turn off the noises on their cameras as they’re distracting him & flows then in to a story about going out in to his home town when he was younger & checking out all the keyboards in the local music shop to which he demonstrates by starting up a simple beat box rhythm & then starts to play the opening chords to “Weird Fishes / Arpeggi” a track from Radiohead’s 2007 album “In Rainbows”. Thom’s in a jovial mood tonight & calls for the audience to sing along to his harmonies from the album, chats as the song is playing & plays a few bum notes to amuse the crowd. As the track finishes he notes that he forgets somethings nowadays to which someone asks if he’s pregnant. He quips back with a retort about just having hot flushes.
The Following “The Daily Mail” is a vitriol about a tabloid news paper in the UK with a penchant for exacerbating & whipping up frenzies in regards to race, immigration & government polices. It seems to have a feel that would have fitted very well on “The Bends” Radiohead’s second album which may suggest Thom, while moving solo still won’t leave his past behind. “Pyramid Song” from “Amnesiac” was premiered by Thom in 1999 also solo on piano but was built up for the album. Tonight Thom takes it right back to it’s roots again.
A mournful, slow track that Thom has referred to as “The best thing we’ve committed to tape, ever” it’s a fan favorite too & the audience are respectfully silent for it’s duration. Once the song finishes the crowd have found their nerve & start bantering with Thom who is happy to defect any comments made with a quipped reply. Unfortunately due to the quietness of the tape then we can’t hear all the audience comments that are made. “Harrowdown Hill” Thom’s unsettlingly bleak song about weapons expert Dr. David Kelly is again, rather oddly, a hit with the masses. Despite, or maybe because of, the lyrical content in which Thom makes clear references towards the ministry of defense & those inside that allegedly caused his apparent suicide then this mainly University crowd are right behind him & his political stance.
“Lotus Flower” is the second unreleased track tonight. A gentle guitar based track with menacing undertones & making use of the upper register of Thom’s voice. Someone in the crowd seems to think that the track is a ballsy thumper to which Thom witheringly replies “It’s not really ‘Rock On Tommy'”. “Give Up the Ghost”, another unreleased track follows, Thom puts his voice through an effects peddle for something that gives the track a haunting backbone to wind through a thump that reverberates throughout. It’ll certainly be interesting to hear how the track sounds as a finished article.
“These Are My Twisted Words”, a track that was released in mysterious terms on the internet in August 2009 to various different & feverent guesses as to whether this might be a taster for Radiohead’s 8th album, a new Thom solo track or for various other film projects. It’s a scatter shot, bass lead track, interspersed with jumbled lyrics. “I Froze Up” is yet another unreleased Thom track. An agonising track – the sort that Radiohead do best alternating between optimistic chord patterns & a deathless middle section that suggests sheer doom & unrest. It must be destined for that next Radiohead album.
Thom then pontificates his views on Politicians & green issues before flowing in to a glistening “Like Spinning Plates” another track from ‘Amnesiac’ & a track that Radiohead have preformed live both forwards & backwards. “Black Swan” & “Cymbal Rush” from “Eraser” follow – the former inducing handclaps throughout the crowd for around 10 seconds before they all stop in unison to observe a reverent silence. The latter featuring a thundering bass drum pattern throughout that digs deep in to the heart of your speakers & pulses relentlessly until the track slams to a full stop. Wordlessly “Videotape” from ‘In Rainbows’ is next up. Thom’s favorite track from that album & the track that was veto’d from being first on the album for being a little too quiet & stripped down.
Disk 2 begins with Thoms first encore & another unreleased track “Mouse, Dog, Bird”. a lighter, acoustic, Buckleyesque strum that follows in the style of one of Thom’s heroes Neil Young. the chords here are almost like a mandolin & once again Thom uses the effects peddle to add ghost harmonies to the track. “Reckoner” is the next track from ‘In Rainbows’ – a track with a checkered past having started life as a thrash punk song, then twisted in to an acoustic track before being declared “Dead & Buried” before being reinstated on the bands 7th Album.
“Airbag” one of Radioheads earlier compositions from The ‘OK Computer’ album, the darker more avant garde brother to the earlier “The Bends” album. It’s intro brings out a loud cheer after only 4 seconds by the part of the crowd that recognise it, followed another few seconds by a mass sing along by the rest of the crowd. Some close to the taper starts to quietly sing along but this is around the only time it’s discernible throughout the set. Back to piano for “Atoms For Peace” another version unadorned with the skittering beats & distortion on the album & sounding closer to the earlier track “Like Spinning Plates”. Thom comes back for a second encore playing the live classic “True Love Waits” asking people to sing along as “I always seem to forget the words”.
The bonus tracks from the Orpheum Theatre as a lot clearer ( Possibly from the soundboard? ) but as it’s a shorter set it seems wise to add them on to the end. Thom begins acoustically pulling “Lotus Flower” out first & it sounds so much better in this incarnation, the words are much, much more powerful than the audience tape.
The next track is another completely new composition “Open The Floodgates”. Played on piano it sounds like it’s unfinished as it seems to go nowhere & may just be a sketch for a longer piece. Staying on piano Thom launches straight in to his third unreleased track of this set “Super Collider” a little more accomplished & rounded than the previous track. More optimistic & brighter Thom is either singing about the Hadron Collider – the worlds largest particle accelerator or the system used and further developed by both scientists and artists working with sound. It’s unclear either way but it’s a stunning song.
for the next 4 tracks he is joined by his group “The Atoms For Peace” consisting of Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s bassist Flea, erstwhile producer Nigel Godrich, Drummer Joey Waronker & quiet percussionist Mauro Refosco. First track to be pulled out is the ‘tribal with strings’ Radiohead B-side “Paperbag Writer” obviousley not as poppy as the Beatles track to which it obviously refrences the super group really give a backbone &, in Flea’s case, a defining pulse to Thom’s set. “Judge, Jury & Executioner” is next & is yet another unreleased track – Sounding very close to the urgent, militant throb of “Bangers & Mash” one of the extra Radiohead tracks released in tandem with “In Rainbows” it’s again a sound rounded out but sounds cloer to Radiohead than it does Thom’s own solo work so far.
“The Hollow Earth”, a track that was released as a limited 10″ single only is another song that is increased in speed, a rattling drum & bass track featuring Thom nattering stattaco words & phrases, almost in tongues as the music skitters away. This one sounds a lot closer to the work that appeared on ‘The Eraser’. “Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses” was also released on the 10″ single & follows “Paperbag Writer’s” ethnic beats while also adding a queasy, twisted guitar effect & echoing vocals accelerating towards the end to a brusque full stop.
“Skirting On The Surface” from the following evening is another stark piano track with Thom again playing solo. It’s again recorded from the soundboard so the lower notes of the piano roll through the speakers.
Back to the UK for the final two tracks & from another audience recording but this time a lot clearer than the first tape. The Latitude Festival was the first solo appearence from Thom since the release of “The Eraser” The final two tracks were premiered her at this festival & are both presented on acoustic guitar. “Follow Me Around” is a warm, close song with an eminently hummable riff & chorus. “The Present Tense” was announced as “Another new song so, y’know, go for a piss .. ” & is slightly cooler than the previous track & not as immediate but will almost certainly appear on the next solo release unless Thom, as is his want, decided otherwise ..
As with all Godfather releases the packaging is exceptional – the trifold featuring an amalgamation of stage shots of Thom solo ( “The Atoms For Peace” aren’t pictured. ) and Stanley Donwoods wave designs scattered within the corners. The colours used replicate the ones used for “The Eraser” album & a short essay is included.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)