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Radiohead: I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings

Capitol, 2001

Rating: 4.0

 

 

Posted: November 16, 2001

By Laurence Station

When it comes to its music, Radiohead isn't afraid of a little mutation. On Kid A and Amnesiac, the band's songs seemed to have been carefully sculpted and then chaotically deconstructed. With I Might Be Wrong the group brings its unique brand of sonic alchemy to a live setting.

Normally, bands that rely on studio trickery/wizardry for amplified effect fall embarrassingly short when attempting to reproduce those sounds before paying customers. After all, acoustics change with each venue, and no two performances are ever the same. Radiohead trumps this near-inalterable axiom by treating its music as a liquid, rather than a solid, something eager for reinvention, effortlessly reborn in new formats. As experienced live, the band recasts its blender-spun recent tracks into the musical equivalent of mercury: volatile, unsteady, but completely malleable and, when poured through the right mold, quite potent.

Throughout, Thom Yorke and company appear comfortable exploring the more divergent aspects of these songs, even at the expense of confounding the expectations of fans. A prime example is the reinvention of Amnesiac's "Like Spinning Plates," which is transformed from its backward-looped, chopped vocal studio version into a pained, affecting, piano ballad, with chief lyricist Yorke singing: "While you make pretty speeches/I'm being cut to shreds/You feed me to the lions/A delicate balance/And this just feels like spinning plates."

One of the more pleasant and startling revelations throughout the record is the emergence of drummer Phil Selway from behind the wall of sound normally heard on Radiohead's polished studio works. The propulsive beat on "I Might Be Wrong" is simply fantastic, driving the song forward, yet never overwhelming it. On "Morning Bell" Selway brings a mad, skittering urgency to the song that's missing from either the Kid A or Amnesiac versions.

The main problem with I Might Be Wrong is actually a backhanded compliment: It's simply too short, offering eight tracks that cover just over 40 minutes. This being Radiohead's first official live release, one would have hoped for something that more closely approaches the feeling of a full concert, if possible taken from one show rather than the three European dates captured here. It's basically a best-of live collection that, while a nice souvenir for diehards, ultimately leaves the listener -- especially one who hasn't enjoyed the benefit of seeing the band in concert -- wanting for more. Hopefully, the group will address this issue in the not too distant future. For now, this engaging, yet short-lived experiment will simply have to do.

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