Before you gripe about how Radiohead’s stellar new live release is only eight songs long, you should know that it still runs 40 minutes. That’s longer than recent albums by Weezer and the Strokes, so just hush up and give yourself over to these maniacal, vibrant renditions of already great songs, most of which were culled from Kid A and Amnesiac. The sore thumb here is the previously unreleased acoustic strummer “True Love Waits,” a repetitive little nothing whose inclusion here should logically have been replaced by the band’s pulverizing live version of “Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box.”
The studio versions of these songs, all released within the past year, were bafflingly mechanical in a way that took a few listens to get acclimated to; the songs were often as distant and cold as the mountaintops pictured on Kid A’s cover. On I Might Be Wrong, however, Radiohead injects each of these tunes with a tornadic energy that accentuates the songs’ nervous idiosyncrasies.
Stripped of its twitchy backward tapes, for example, “Like Spinning Plates” reveals itself as a haunting meditation on hypocrisy: Thom Yorke gently opines, “As you make pretty speeches on being cut to shreds/You feed me to the lions,” to a soft piano backing. Conversely, “The National Anthem” and the title track gallop along with a decidedly punkish determination.
“Everything in Its Right Place” trumps them all by building seven minutes of trippy, swirling vocal interplay between Thom and a sampled version of himself (manipulated onstage by Jonny Greenwood). It slowly spills into a sputtering, hallucinatory jumble of echoes and half-understood words that might actually be more effective in your headphones than in person. Like everything Radiohead has done since The Bends, you can file this under “essential listening.”
E-mail Chris Willie Williams at [email protected].