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Exit Music - Songs With Radio Heads

Exit Music, Songs With Radio Heads

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

EXIT Music describe Songs With Radio Heads as ‘an exercise in translating well-loved tracks into a different genre’.

Hence, Radiohead tracks such as Karma Police, No Surprises and Everything In Its Right Place get a makeover into jazz and hip-hop, as well as exploring the dance potential of the band.

The tracks don’t attempt to replace the memory of the originals, but rather to present an alternative much like The Futureheads did with their cover version of Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love.

Needless to say, it’s an odd experience – sometimes successful, sometimes not but always interesting.

It was a smart move to pre-empt the release of the album with the single Just by Mark Ronson, given that it’s arguably the best track on the long-player.

Under Ronson’s supervision, Just – with its self-loathing lyrics, particularly vicious guitar riff and special middle-eight – is given a funky make-over packed with smart beats, a cracking horn section and some pretty distinctive vocals of its own.

Ronson not only enlisted the help of the formidable Daptones horn section (The Dap Kings) but also the vocals of Alex Greenwald, lead singer of Phantom Planet (the band best known for California, the theme to The OC). The result is a blast that stands up well alongside the original.

Other successes include Shawn Lee’s gutsy version of No Surprises, which kickstarts the album in suitably impressive fashion.

While Osunlade and Erro’s shuffling, atmospheric take on Everything In Its Right Place adds extra haunting layers to an already beguiling track.

Pete Kuzma’s High & Dry, featuring the soulful vocals of Bilal, takes some getting used to but emerges as another worthwhile exercise in delivering a credible ‘what if’.

They come in contrast to the likes of Karma Police from The Bad Plus, which feels like a bad piece of lounge music, or Rjd2’s electronic overload Airbag, which feels a little too spaced out and blip-laden for its own good.

A project like Exit Music is always going to have people divided over its merits and quality. Radiohead fans may scratch their heads and ask ‘why bother’, while those who haven’t previously followed Thom Yorke probably won’t find anything to change their minds.

But there’s enough here to arouse curiosity and impress, especially given the diversity of the talents involved. If you’re going to do a cover, it’s worth bringing something different to the mix.

At the very least, Exit Music does just that and forces you to have an opinion. It’s well worth trying.

Track listing:

  1. No Surprises – Shawn Lee
  2. Morning Bell – The Randy Watson Experience (Feat. Donn)
  3. In Limbo – SA-RA (Feat. The SA-RA All Stars)
  4. High & Dry – Pete Kuzma & Bilal
  5. Just – Mark Ronson (Feat. Alex Greenwald)
  6. Airbag – RJD2
  7. (Nice Dream) – Matthew Herbert (Feat. Mara Carlyle)
  8. Blow Out – Lo-Freq
  9. The National Anthem – Meshell Ndegeocello & Chris Dave
  10. Karma Police – The Bad Plus
  11. Paranoid Android – Sia
  12. Everything in Its Right Place – Osunlade (Feat. Erro)
  13. Knives Out – Wajeed (From Platinum Pied Pipers) (Feat. Monica Blaire)
  14. Exit Music (For A Film) – Cinematic Orchestra