“15 Step” – Radiohead (Words/music: Radiohead, available on In Rainbows, ATO 2008)
If you downloaded In Rainbows that morning in October 2007, unzipped the files, and hit play on the new Radiohead that seemingly dropped out of the sky, “15 Step” greeted you. The programmed drums, clipped of their crispness, blip and snap in an unconventional and disorienting beat. Programmed and live drums weave together in an unconventional and somewhat disorienting beat, and Thom Yorke’s entrance follows this lead. “How come I end up where I started” sounds like a man, literally or metaphorically, lost. The song occasionally dips into these pockets or confusion, but never as unsettling as the opening twenty seconds. Gradually, the song finds its footing: live drums enter and give more stability, and by the time the rest of the band joins in, the misdirection becomes a gentle (yet eerie) floating feeling.
Appropriately, given the narrator’s confusion at the opening, the track stabilizes right as the narrator shifts from first person to second person. “You reel me out and then you cut the string,” is the last line of the opening verse, and by the time the narrator feels stable within this lopsided rhythm, his outward turn becomes accusatory. “You used to be alright – what happened?” he says, and now the track becomes disorienting for the listener. This quick shift replaces the uneasiness of the opening seconds, trading rhythmic uncertainty for emotional turmoil. Of course, this isn’t Yorke directly accosting the listener, but it still reveals a quick shift from lost and confused to a focused anger. Generally, the pieces fall into place for the audience (or in this case, the listener). However, here it’s the narrator who puts everything together before the audience, making the audience squirm for a minute while reconstructing the story.
Stream Lucius’ beautiful cover of Bob Dylan’s “When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky” – as featured on ATO Records’ brand new Bob Dylan in the 80’s tribute album, premiered yesterday on the Wall Street Journal.