Thursday, January 18, 2007

Depth of Focus: Radiohead Pt. 2

We continue our look at Radiohead's oeuvre with the post-OK Computer era videos. While they hold firm the connection with the modern world and technological existence, these videos showcase a changing sensibility as the band moves further into the 21st century...

Click here for Part One, which contains every video from the early years of Radiohead.

Idioteque (2000) Kid A

dir. by Grant Gee

First off, this is a fairly terrible copy of the video. None of these vids where meant to be seen on YouTube, but without it we wouldn't probably ever see any of them, so let's move on.
The song that the band plays is an alternate take from the version that appears on the album, which is partially why it's so interesting to watch them come up with it. Though Yorke once again takes center stage, it's nice to see Johnny Greenwood and the rest of the guys doing there thing. You get a real sense of how spacious and layered the tracks on Kid A really are.

Motion Picture Soundtrack (2001) Kid A

dir. by Stanley Donwood & Shynola

This is not necessarily a full-fledged video, since it is chiefly a collage of pieces done for the promotional campaign of Kid A, but it is at parts gorgeous and at others maddeningly thick. Much of the images resonant quite well with the music of the album as a whole, which fluctuates between these polar opposites of fiery heart and cold distance. One can almost imagine the video reflecting the production of the songs themselves, moving from a volcano of conceptual ideas into a multi-faceted and highly produced snowstorm.

Pyramid Song (2001) Amnesiac

dir. by Shynola

A visually engrossing journey through one of Radiohead's finest moments. Director Shynola takes Yorke's references to Dante and imagines a future society that might find our current one akin to hell, resting on the floor of the river Styx.
But as our protagonist (first video to not feature any members of the band) passes street lamps and stained-glass windows, he or she does not hesitate at the gates of suburbia. The deathly air surrounding this whole thing is no accident; this is a character considering suicide. As we pan out to see the air tube connected to nothing, we are confronted by pretty little lights in the sun. Does it mean our happiness aligns only momentarily? That we are destined to reach it only again in memory? Maybe, maybe not. It's a pretty sweet image though.

Knives Out (2001) Amnesiac

dir. Michel Gondry

Gondry used similar spinning cameras, changing sets and multiple characters to great paranoiac effect in Eternal Sunshine, so it's not surprising that he has said this video is more about him than Radiohead. It's actually a very poignant look at what it might feel like to lose a loved one. The romantic elements are quiet familiar to any fan of the director, but there are also cues coming from the song which is clearly about some sort of separation between people.
It's a mood that suits Thom well, and even if this is among Radiohead's strangest videos, this is probably the lead singer's best performance. The scenes on the train are especially memorable for their humor. All of which is made more impressive when you know this was all done in one take.

I Might Be Wrong (2001) Amnesiac

dir. by Chris Bran

This continues the trend of featuring at least one video per album that is highly influenced by the actual cover art of the record. The cat like creature who seems to consistently cry is stuck in a maze of dead ends, where what seems like a light in the distance is only a reflection of something in the past. Thom does his thing, but overall the video is a bit stale at parts - and the intrusions of the real-world seems oddly out of place.

Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors/Like Spinning Plates (2002) Amnesiac

dir. by Johnny Hardstaff

More a short film than a music video, Hardstaff uses the bubbling cauldron of "Pulk..." to blueprint the creation of his monstrous machine for "Like Spinning Plates." It looks a whole lot like the Matrix at times, or one very large needlessly intricate record player. Either way babies are being brainwashed and having souls sucked out...I think.

Go To Sleep (2003) Hail to the Thief

dir. by Alex Rutterford

While the world collapses around them, these suits scurry aimlessly to and fro between work and death - too busy to listen to the voices of the "loonies" on the park benches screaming for some change.
The rose growing from concrete reminds me of Tupac more than anything else, and I imagine if Radiohead and Tupac put something together it would have been way better than what Linkin Park and Jay-Z came up with.

Sit Down, Stand Up (2003) Hail to the Thief

dir. by Ed Holsworth

At first this video is kind of funny, in a SNL Micheal J. Fox kind of way, but that's before we get some gruesome images of the consequences of the "raindrops."
Holsworth is fairly obvious about his politics, but he makes some very subtle suggestions as well. A protest sign against the "American dream" reads like a surgeon general's warning and a few seconds later the sparks from fired missiles look almost like the Fourth of July. It kind of caught me off guard to think this was made almost five years ago...not much has changed.

There There (2003) Hail to the Thief

dir. by Chris Hopewell

One of the most popular Radiohead videos, Hopewell creates a fanatasical land which holds a less than friendly underbelly. The video features marvelous set design and intricate coloring with Thom delivering yet another classic performance.
It feels a lot like a fairy-tale (reminds me of that Nickelodeon show David the Nome) and has a fairly certain moral to it. Though the complication arises in deciding who the good and bad forces truly are.

I Will (2003) Hail to the Thief

dir. by ?

A live performance that made it's way around video channels for a while, I include it only to offer some perspective on the contrast between the first few videos and the last. A lot has changed about the band but the crowds still remain. And no matter how hard Yorke and his directors may try to convince us that he's a creep, in the end him and his band mates come off as rather nice, likable guys. Well, they also play some pretty incredible music, so that helps.

House of Cards (2008) In Rainbows

dir. by David Frost

There is an inherent fragility in "House of Cards" - a simplicity which hints at deeper tones of beauty. A gorgeous, soothing ballad made up of humble parts, yet filled with apprehensive ideas. It is precisely this combination of romance and anxiety that director David Frost captures in his revolutionary new video for Radiohead's tune. It's a vision of humanity disintegrating into bits of digital information - albeit with grace and beauty. [Read full review]


Like Spinning Plates (alternate) (2002) Amnesiac
dir. by Laurent Briet
One of the most spellbinding music videos ever committed to tape. Like Hardstaff, director Briet finds notes of creation in the opening sounds of the song. What exactly is being created is of less certainty. But globes, worshiped females and birds seem to imply the history of creation itself - and the way in which it seems conditioned to, once again, inevitably suck our souls out.
The effect used here looks even more Matrix-ish than the previous one, so it's clear that the song lends itself to very exotic imagery. It's no coincidence that these are two of the more dense videos Radiohead has produced. While the music plays backwards, Thom sings forwards - and yet he creates a melody that seems backwards. Yet even beyond the depth of this particular track, the fact that these two epic visions emerged in this way is proof of how influential the song is in the creation of a video - and further proof that Radiohead are making some of the most arresting and inspiring stuff around.

I Might Be Wrong (alternate version)
dir. by Sophie Muller
A rather frantic piece from the director of your favorite and least-favorite Gwen Stefani videos. It was filmed after the Internet-only release original, but failed to make a huge impact due to it's hyper-stylized cinematography. I actually think it highlights the rather spooky elements of the song quite well.

Rabbit In Your Headlights (1998) Unkle ft. Thom Yorke
dir. by Jonathon Glazer
It obviously immediately will recall the Karma Police video but it quickly moves into far more disturbing areas. Watching this man get run over by cars is really hard, especially when it seems like many of them are doing so intentionally. But in the end we are inspired by his resilience, his refusal to give into an environment bent on his destruction, instead forcing his will upon those objects which hold him down.
Glazer uses yet another Christ-pose, which may just be a coincidence, but calls for a deeper analysis of the work. And every time I hear Thom say "rabbit" I anticipate seeing that giant horrid animal from Sexy Beast popping around the corner.

El Presidente (1998) Drugstore ft. Thom Yorke
This is kind of ridiculous.

I Will (2003) Hail to the Thief
Of all the fan-made videos we found on YouTube, this is one that was the most thoroughly engrossing - even if it's not the entire song.

Thom Yorke "Harrowdown Hill"
dir. by Chel White
One of our favorite videos of '06. Not surprisingly it fits rather well with the rest of the Radiohead videography despite bearing only the name of Yorke.


Anonymous said...

Does Paranoid Android feature any band members? I think that one was the first not to have band members?

Anonymous said...

There's also a really interesting I Might Be Wrong video by Sophie Muller that was shot using a pinhole video camera.

Anonymous said...

Whoops I didn't read the whole page sorry!

Imran said...

yeah actually in the bar scene the band is animated sitting around one of the tables, i wouldn't have caught it if someone didn't point it out to me...

TAL said...

great collection and explanation
but 'Go to sleep' is from the album 'hail to the thief' and not from 'Amnesiac'

Imran said...

thanks for catching that, we totally missed that during the edit!

Anonymous said...

You missed one, the 2nd video for Like Spinning Plates which actually uses a Matrix-style bullet time camera setup to great effect.

Imran said...

right you are. thanks.

Imran said...

the sophie muller one appears in the "others" section, along with the added like spinning plates. thanks peace.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I just stumbled on this randomly. I've seen most of the videos but it's a nice little summary there. :)

One thing though, you should differentiate more between the ones that were done "officially" and not, if you're giving the band credit for commissioning good videos. There is a lot of mislabeled stuff on YouTube. The ones for Sit Down Stand Up and I Will are completely unofficial, so is the beautiful Like Spinning Plates one you pointed out with the colored light (the Pulk/Pull/Plates one by Johnny Hardstaff- aha GREAT name- IS official).

And I don't know about that Fitter Happier one. It might have been commissioned by the band, but it was never released, it just showed up on YouTube recently. unlike Let Down, which was going to be a video but got canceled, this one could just be a fan made it. I don't think it's very good either, personally.

Originally they were plannign to do videos for EVERY song on OK Computer, so it's possible though. Too bad that didn't work out.

You should check out some of the shorter "blip" things, they make a bit more sense than Motion Picture Soundtrack where they were randomly struck together I think. they're currently on this site:

my favorite is probably No Surprises, but it's hard to choose between that and the others from OK Computer, Pyramid Song, There There and of course Just.

kaylynn. said...

thank you thank you thank you.

much respect for your work here.

Anonymous said...

You made with this post. Good work! :)

edweird said...

The video of 'Sit Down Stand Up' featured here is fan made, and is not Ed Holsworth's one.

rich said...

nice work! though im sure the idioteque video was always a bit blurred and slightly weird looking.

Anonymous said...

The band memebers are animated in the Paranoid Android video. Does that count?

Doron Assayas said...

I hope this doesn't come off as a horribly shameless self plug, but I would be very interested in hearing actual fellow Radiohead/music video enthusiasts' opinions on our entry to the animated music video storyboard contest. (Unfortunately we didn't make it to the semi-finals).

Weird Fishes / Arpeggi music video

SocialTyrant said...

Fantastic post, thank you!

High and Dry is definately my fave, followed by Just.

Not a bad video in there at all though!

Depth of Focus Videographies: Radiohead / Bjork / Michael Jackson / Bowie