Radiohead return to impress fans and critics alike, while US rockers Imagine Dragons show how much they’ve evolved.
RADIOHEAD — OKNOTOK
There’s no need to further extol the virtues of OK Computer. The attention with OKNOTOK, the 20th anniversary release of Radiohead’s 1997 masterpiece, will instead fall mainly on its three unreleased tracks, all of which have been floating around unofficially since the Nineties. I Promise is the pick of the bunch — a beautiful, beguiling ballad that gently unfolds from a simple marching-drum refrain and presents Thom Yorke’s soaring voice at its spine-tingling best.
Lift has been part of Radiohead legend for years and stands, as the band themselves have noted, as a Sliding Doors moment — a sign of what would have happened if they stayed on the path of the radio-friendly unit shifter. Pleasant pop for sure, but clearly not a fit with any of their post-Bends albums.
Of the three ex-bootlegs, Man Of War sounds the most jarring in its newly polished form — a snapshot of their early love of post-punk, but in truth, a useful counter-argument to those bemoaning their experimentation ever since.
All the same, few, if any, other bands in the world would hide songs like these away, nor keep back the likes of Polyethylene (parts 1 & 2) or How I Made My Millions as mere b-sides.
As a historical document, OKNOTOK is a goldmine for Radiohead fans. A sketchbook from one of the last century’s greats, just as they were reaching the peak of their powers. And if you’re a newbie, well... don’t make any plans for a while.
THE WHITE NOISE — AM/PM
Based in Los Angeles but with ties to Texas, hardcore punk outfit the White Noise reach their debut album after four years honing their agitated sound on the road and in the studio.
The five-piece present a 10-song set that takes the railroad from the fierce, unrelenting drive of Rated R to the Weezer-esque pop-punk of I Lost My Mind (in California), stopping at familiar stations in between.
The song titles drift close to parody at times — All Drugs Go To Heaven being one example, Innocent Until Birth certainly another — and just as the listener suspects there is nothing but a screamo vibe happening, so arrives the lighters-out ballad Montreal, a drastic gear change that is swiftly reversed with 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, anthemic in the manner of Mechanical Animals-era Marilyn Manson. They make a big noise and may yet become one.
DANNY AND THE CHAMPIONS OF THE WORLD — BRILLIANT LIGHT
Brilliant Light, the sixth album from Danny George Wilson’s Danny and the Champions of the World, makes it easy to forget this is a UK band.
The Americana-inspired, alt country-cum-folk rockers may have been formed in London, but they take you to places that make you think of Springsteen, Bon Jovi and a long-forgotten era (the Eighties, most of the current chart-toppers weren’t even born then).
A double album, it feels a bit long-winded at times, but it’s a hearty old slog through twangy guitars, bluegrass-esque melodies and a few well-placed relaxing filler songs that take you easily from one foot-bopping track to the next.
The middle few tracks on the record are the strongest, with the most anthem-like of them all Gotta Get Things Right In My Life and Never In The Moment the standouts. Long Distance Tears and the album’s upbeat opener Waiting For The Right Time feel beguilingly familiar, like pleasing earworms you’ve had your whole life. And that’s a good thing. Brilliant Light is an overall brilliantly light, easy and breezy listen.
IMAGINE DRAGONS — EVOLVE
Imagine Dragons are back with Evolve, their third studio album. It’s aptly named, because the Las Vegas foursome have evolved perfectly in the music department.
The album’s first track, I Don’t Know Why, gets things off to a good start and feels like a fusion of their classic sound from Night Visions with some new sounds and beats mixed in.
The first two singles released, Believer and Thunder, were the perfect introduction to the full album.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Believer sounds in parts familiar to 2012’s hit single Radioactive, but that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a great anchor for where the band have come from and a reminder of how they have evolved, which tracks such as Walking The Wire and Yesterday are perfect examples of.
ALGIERS: THE UNDERSIDE OF POWER
Algiers are back with the follow-up to their critically-acclaimed eponymous 2015 debut album.
The American four-piece have taken inspiration from their time growing up together in Atlanta and seeing the devastating effects of racism, prejudice and violence to produce their second album, The Underside Of Power, which is a powerful expression of their anger at the rise of what they term “sinister politics”.
Since their debut release, Algiers have added former Bloc Party drummer Matt Tong to their number, whose contribution is the driving force behind many of the 12 tracks.
Catchy title track The Underside Of Power remains the most accessible song the album has to offer, but there is plenty more in the way of Southern inspiration, gospel sounds and rousing protest lyrics for fans to get their teeth into.
The album also features a couple of instrumental tracks that evoke feelings of tension and unease, fleshing out the band’s musical response to the dark times they are living in.