Cut Through The Noise: Radiohead, Johnny Manchild And The Poor Bastards, Foster The People


Illustration by Isaac Wert

Colin Canaday

Welcome to “Cut Through the Noise,” an entertainment column from the St. Louis Park Echo covering new music releases. Every week, a different Echo staffer takes on the role as writer, reviewing recent single releases from a variety of artists.

Fair use from Capitol Records.

Radiohead –‘Kid A Mnesia’ ★★★★★

Having only recently started heavily listening to Radiohead, the release of this album couldn’t have come at a better time. “Kid A Mnesia” is meant to provide an inside look into the production of two albums: “Kid A,” released in 2000, and “Amnesiac,” released in 2001; and it completes this task perfectly.

Recorded in the same session, although relegated to separate albums, the songs in both albums go hand-in-hand, marking a point of differentiation for Radiohead; the release of “Kid A Mnesia,” with both groups of songs together, only feels natural.

Although the classic sounds you might find in visiting either album are still present — the melancholy and depressing tones of “How To Disappear Completely,” the exhilarating crescendo of “Pyramid Song” — the main addition of “Kid A Mnesia” lies in the outtakes.

Newly released songs, which were held from the initial release, such as “If You Say the Word” fit in perfectly with the older songs, keeping a dark tone both lyrically and instrumentally. Although they fit in quite nicely with the aesthetic of the albums, their removal from the initial release is logical; they can’t hold their weight against title tracks like “Kid A” or “Everything In Its Right Place.”

However, perhaps more interesting than the new songs, are the demos and drafts of the older ones we have all come to love, or at least appreciate. Most interesting to me were the three versions of the “Untitled” track; you are able to hear the slight, and sometimes major, differences and changes between the versions, which sheds a light on the creative processes of the band behind them.

“Kid A” and “Amnesiac” were, and very much still are, groundbreaking albums that solidified Radiohead as an ever-changing band with no set noise. “Kid A Mnesia” pays homage to this history and these two albums perfectly.

Fair use from Johnny Manchild.

Johnny Manchild And The Poor Bastards – ‘We Did Not Ask For This Room’ ★★★★★

Comprised of 15 songs, and with a runtime of just over an hour, “We Did Not Ask For This Room” is the longest and perhaps the most innovative of Johnny Manchild And The Poor Bastards’ (JMPB) four albums, effortlessly blending classic earlier sounds that any fan will recognize with new ideas and directions.

I’ve listened to JMPB for almost a year at this point, with every single album on rotation in my music queue. Even so, this album has quickly become my favorite.

“The Clock” perfectly sets up the tone for the rest of the album, while showing off the distinct sounds of strings and brass that JMPB is known for. These tones are quickly forgotten, however, although ever so briefly, nearly halfway through with “Dose,” which introduces a catchy, more rock-heavy noise.

The album closes with “The Nothing,” which is no doubt my favorite song, taking a step back from the loud, fast-paced sounds that the listener has grown accustomed to throughout the album, and replacing them with slow, rhythmic beats accompanied by piano and horns. I found this track allows the listener to much more easily extract and ponder the meaning of the lyrics.

One thing I particularly liked about this album is that there is clear purpose in the track-order. Seamless connections are made between songs like “Sift” and “Mythologue,” creating a flow that demonstrates intention to the listeners.

JMPB have consistently produced high-quality music, in ways that I have never heard in any other song. This pattern of consistency is not excluded from “We Did Not Ask For This Room,” and it serves as the perfect addition to anyone’s music library.

Fair use from Columbia Records.

Foster The People – ‘Chin Music For The Unsuspecting Hero’ ★★★★✰

Off their highly anticipated release of “Torches X,” a deluxe release of their 2011 hit album, “Torches,” “Chin Music For The Unsuspecting Hero” eloquently displays the genius of singer Mark Foster.

“Chin Music For The Unsuspecting Hero” was originally created more than a decade ago, yet absent from the primary release of the album, it was critically overlooked. For many, the release of this deluxe version of “Torches” may be the first time they have ever heard it.

The track follows a rather predictable, but quite likable, progression. Opening with piano chords, the song quickly draws the listener in with a simple easy to follow flow, quickly accompanied by drums and Foster’s voice. Foster’s range has always been a sticking point in his music for me; there is something about it, and his voice in general, which evokes a happy, relaxed feeling.

Lyrically, the song doesn’t disappoint either. Written in its entirety by Foster, the song’s lyrics detail the trials and tribulations of someone facing adversity and having difficulty believing in themselves. The lyrics resonate with many, and are clearly written from a place of experience.

“Torches” has grown to become a classic, with songs from it being instantly recognizable almost worldwide. From what is released so far, “Torches X” should build on this success, allowing for wider accessibility and knowledge of some of Foster’s older work that may have not gotten the recognition it deserved when first released.