Sunday, June 22, 2008

Radiohead : The Best of : Music Videos

Video Killed the Radiohead??
Radiohead – The Best of : Video Collection
Parlophone (DVD)

Now that Radiohead’s tenure with their label Parlophone has ended, it seems that they are milking the band for all it’s worth. Within the past few months we have already seen a boxset, a best of and a double edition of said best of, and to be honest all have proved to be nothing except a source of filling up someone’s pockets. Now to add to the cash cow there is a dvd with all of the group’s promo videos.

I’m always a bit hesitant when it comes to video retrospectives, especially from nineties groups. True they are good snapshots of how a band has developed but then it also means that you have to sit through a lot of cheaply made semi tacky fair which doesn’t really do justice to the song or in some better cases the first half of the compendium is dull and the second half leads to the big name directors and more interesting fare and this dvd collection does take that route.

Radiohead were a band who’s first steps were quite mediocre and then as time passed they got better, eventually to become one of the most crucial acts in the world today and this is reflected in the 20 (plus one song performed live) videos in this collection. At the start we are on shaky ground but after the first half hour or so things improve and more or less keep on going on a regular high. The band are lucky to have a lot of memorable videos to their name and when watching the dvd as a whole it is definitely worth the wait (ok I know I can just skip to the great videos but then I like to see the whole picture)

The first four off the debut ‘Pablo Honey’ are very typical nineties-style budget promos. Cheap looking, garish with a hint of affordable weirdness (check out the iguana on Anyone can play Guitar or lead singer Thom Yorke singing in a coffin on ‘Pop is Dead’) the songs, with the exception of Stop Whispering and naturally Creep, haven’t aged too well. On a nostalgic level the first four videos work but for the virgin Radioheader this could be a bore.

Unfortunately this nineties aesthetic continues into ‘The Bends’ era. True the group had no managed to master the art of creating a belting tune with emotional resonance but the first videos of their sophomore phase are weak.

The turning point comes with Jamie Thraves video for the song ‘Just’ the simple but effective story of a man lying down on the pavement with a secret that scares humanity has puzzled viewers for over ten years now, not to mention it is an entertaining video. Add that to Jonathan Glazer’s slow mo promo to Street Spirit and you know that a creative zenith is on the way.

The material from O.K. Computer is Radiohead’s best and all three promos are the most striking of the Radiohead Canon. First up is Swedish animator Magnus Carlsson’s disturbing seven minute cartoon promoting Paranoid Android. Psychotic politicians, a man with a snake coming out of his belly and busty mermaids dominate this seven minute visual fest just don’t try to understand it. Next up is Jonathan Glazer’s equally weird Karma Police video, where Thom Yorke is chasing a man with his car, until the roles become eerily reversed and rounding up the trio is Grant Gee’s ‘No Surprises’ where Yorke sings into a helmet that is rapidly filling up with water. Every emotion is captured in these three videos and sadly one wonders if the band could live up to such high quality again.

In 2000 the band surprised everybody by releasing Kid A, an album without any singles or nationwide promotion whatsoever and showed the band ditching most of their guitars and focusing on computers and synths to make music. A year later the follow up Amnesiac was released and Radiohead got onto the promotional wheel again.

This time the selection of videos from Radiohead mk II are patchy veering towards brilliant and downright boring. Shynola’s Pyramid Song video is good but lacks the soul that the song embodies. Gondry’s ‘Knives Out’ promo is brilliant and one of the definite standouts out of this collection. On the other hand Sophie Muller’s ‘I Might be Wrong’ and Johnny Hardstaff’s ‘Push Pulk/Spinning Plates’ are so dull that they spoil the momentum of great videos completely.

Radiohead’s last album for Parlophone ‘Hail to the Thief’ was a mixed bag altogether. The stop motion meets Beatrix Potter clip for lead off single ‘There There’ is the last great video the band did and the remaining two are yield different reactions. The whole collection is rounded off by a rather good live performance of 2 + 2 = 5.

As a whole this dvd is a much better update on 1998’s 7 television commercials but I feel that there could have been more input from the company. I’m sure there are some performances that are worth sticking on as extras or how about 95’s ‘Lucky’ clip, which was only aired sporadically. Even a commentary would be nice. The whole package itself needs a huge amount of fleshing out and with dvd’s you need to give the consumer more. After all one can easily find these on youtube (even Lucky for that matter). However for those who have a tiny idea about the band or a music promo geek or even the casual Radiohead fan then avoid the best of’s and check this out as it does show a band’s beginnings and what happened afterwards.

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