a case for paranoid android

Several years ago I noticed that some band named radiohead was at or near the top of several best albums ever (or decade, etc.) lists.  I was a pretty avid bmg (remember when bmg ruled the day?) member and cd purchaser generally, so I picked up OK Computer.  Sometimes things take awhile to grow on me, but I think about the first time through I was hooked.  I don’t remember which titles jumped out at me specifically, but I am confident airbag was there, and for sure paranoid android.  It is, I believe, my favorite pop song ever.  It saddened me to fly to washington to see radiohead and alas, they didn’t play paranoid android.

Needless to say, I am quite a fan of the video which combines 36 [sic] paranoid android covers from youtube.

I have now watched a fair amount of the supporting footage and though the quality varies a bit, I think there’s some pretty impressive material out on youtube.  First off, the quantity.  There have got to be hundreds of distinct covers of paranoid android out there.  Why the paranoid android love?  My list goes something like this

  • the passacaglia-ish airbag is such a great lead in
  • the four beeps to start the track (fwiw, it seems the four beeps come at the end of airbag, not the beginning of ok computer, but it seems most folks like them at the start of paranoid android)
  • the skid into the intro that starts the piece / intro
  • best guitar riffs ever?
  • the near-nonsensical lyrics somehow work, like
    • “Please could you stop the noise, I’m trying to get some rest.  From all the unborn chicken voices in my head.”  I guess it wouldn’t have been enough that there were chicken voices in his head, but they had to be actually unborn as well
    • “When I am king, you will be first against the wall.  With your opinion which is of no consequence at all.”  There’s a pretty amazing amount of paranoia and anger there
    • “Ambition makes you look pretty ugly.”  Guess it kind of depends on who you ask :)
  • a touch of counterpoint, like the background “I may be paranoid but I am not android” and the “that’s it sir” part
  • the A-B-A structure which are oh so varied in parts.  violence and beauty
  • the fact that the B section has a kind of first verse without lyrics
  • did I mention the beauty of the B section?
  • how about the contrast of the B section’s peacefulness and lyrics about panic and vomit
  • the eruption of the return of the A section (maybe it is more like A-B-Coda?)
  • it is really in no hurry, contrasted with the abrupt ending
  • and hey, it is radiohead, the best band in the world?  am I right?
  • and yes, I find the harmonies interesting :)

So, that’s a pretty good list I would say.  On to why I am such a fan of the compilation.  Perhaps two words sum it up best for me, community and integrity.  Some it feels like all of the included artists were respectively gathering around the world to join in an effort to add to the compilation, even though it didn’t exist.  I also feel a pretty high level of intensity and integrity around the music, which I touch on again below in some few more bullets.

  • 0:00-0:26 – total community feel for me.  Just feels like we’re witnessing a rather magic gathering.  And for some reason the kids at around 0:17 remind me of oasis.  I think it rather powerful when these folks reappear throughout the video.  Like old friends returning with purpose
  • 0:26-0:36 – her voice is pretty varied compared to many of the performers, and her accent aids the feeling of foreignness
  • 0:36-0:40 – there are many folks that are much better than me at the guitar, including many in this video who want their guitars in the frame more than their faces
  • 0:43-0:56 – how about the integrity?  Perhaps the biggest question for me about this video is how come this singer took down his video?  I would like to see the rest
  • 0:56-1:16 – I do like the split screen.  And again with the integrity.  There are parts throughout that just boil over with almost a zombie like devotion to the music as guitarists strum along
  • 1:16-1:25 – the guy on the left is actually playing shortly in salt lake at the pie and I hope to go video him
  • 1:25-1:33 – tell me that guy isn’t Jonny Greenwood
  • 1:33-1:45 – and who doesn’t like the pie?
  • 1:45-2:05 – the “I may be paranoid . . .” part was kind of a throwaway for her, but used to great effect here.  And I think some nice belting on “what’s that.”  I wish there was another “I may be paranoid . . .” to mirror what happens in the actual song
  • 2:05-2:27 – how about those riffs on more than just the guitar?  And who knew andre braugher had it in him?
  • 2:27-2:39 – not a huge fan of the singing, but she does look like a bit of the quintessential female radiohead fan
  • 2:39-2:50 – the guy on the drums is pretty impressive I think, and I like the dancing
  • 2:50-3:10 – I like the duo and could have seen more of them.  More of the integrity.  Folks just laying it out there
  • 3:10-3:40 – more jamming and I like the shot of the foot moving around a bit, kind of giving some closure but a sense of moving forward
  • 3:40-3:49 – welcome back fourteen year old gallaghers!  Ok, maybe one gallagher.  I think they really were fourteen
  • 3:49-4:08 – the new timbres add a great deal.  I think the editor grabbed the best part of the small ensembles.  I wasn’t real blown away with the rest of their performances, but like the parts included
  • 4:08-4:13 – actually liked the rather light improv
  • 4:13-4:55 – (and beyond) tell me it doesn’t feel like that guy has been sitting there for ages waiting for his turn to sing!
  • 4;55-5:15 – again included the better parts of the ensembles
  • 5:15-5:44 – I love the shots of the marching band!  Love them!  Really.  What adds the community feel better than a marching band?
  • 5:44-6:06 – with the much movement and changes it feels more like a coda than the return of the B.  Like everything / one is coming together at the end with purpose
  • 6:06-6:10 – the bear suit is a total of like twenty seconds so he got a pretty good chunk of his video in
  • 6:10-6:28 – good old wailing and dancing around to bring in the abrupt end

Yeah, I think that about sums it up.

The other night I video’d myself reciting the love song of j alfred prufrock, my favorite poem ever.  After witnessing all the brazen disregard for potential criticism exhibited throughout the paranoid android videos, I am nearly convinced I will put something up.  Once I get it really good.  No making fun though :)

Fwiw, I am spackest on youtube.



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One Response to “a case for paranoid android”

  1. OHADI22 says:

    Hi Earl!
    You probably would’ve guessed who I am by now.
    I stumbled upon your post just now and I totally got sucked into it, I think that’s the most detailed review I’ve gotten about my rendition so far. That’s cool, man!
    I gotta say, it felt good realizing how deep you delved into the song, cause I could relate to that – I definantly spent many, many hours coming up with it and putting everything together. :)

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