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Music DVD Review: – From The Basement

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What we have here is a DVD that comes exactly as advertised. Which is to say that it delivers on its promise of a series of live performances recorded in the studio, without any big production values — hence its "from the basement" title and theme. The performances seen and heard here were also done mostly without any audience. I say "mostly" only because light applause can occasionally be heard.

As for the artists represented here, they fall mostly under the banner of what might be called "alternative" — whatever that means these days, since what is heard here is stylistically pretty much all over the place. But there are some big "alt-rock" names here, including Beck, PJ Harvey, the White Stripes, and Sonic Youth.

The biggest of these names is of course Radiohead, who also get the lion's share of the playing time here with four tracks represented. Two of these ("Down Is The New Up" and "Videotape") close the DVD and are credited to lead vocalist Thom Yorke, who does perform them solo. But let's face it, they are still Radiohead tracks.

The full band opens the DVD with "All I Need" and "Reckoner," two tracks from the great In Rainbows album. I had already seen Radiohead's stuff when it was shown on VH1 last year, but it's still nice to have here to play whenever the mood strikes. You can never have enough of Radiohead playing stuff from In Rainbows.

But Radiohead are not the only highlight here. The two White Stripes tracks serve as a reminder of just how great Jack White is on guitar (and how Meg pounds the shit out of those drums). The Beck stuff is, well, Beck. PJ Harvey hits some unearthly high notes behind a metronome and an acoustic piano on "The Devil." Sonic Youth sound great as well, walking a tightrope between post-punk and psychedelia on "The Sprawl" and "Pink Steam."

As for the rest of what's here? Well, I have to be honest and admit I skipped through some of it. I'm sure Neil Hannon and Laura Marling are fine songwriters, for example, but I lasted less than a minute with each of them. Something about those acoustic guitars and dour faces, I guess. Hey, I had a deadline, okay?

On the other hand, there were also some quite pleasant surprises on From The Basement. I definitely liked the doomy, lo-fi minor chords of Autolux, for example, even if their song "Let It Be Broken" sounded suspiciously like a slowed-down version of "Pinball Wizard." I also dug the fuzzed-out rock of Albert Hammond Jr. and the sleepy dirge-rock of Super Furry Animals. And I was already a fan of the Shins. Ditto the Eels.

So my short review reads like this: If you're a Radiohead completist, you'll want this. Just consider the White Stripes, Sonic Youth, and PJ a nice little bonus. But if you're not, there's plenty of other great stuff here you might also like or otherwise be surprised by as much as I was. There's also some filler. But that's what the skip button is for.

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, Ultimate Classic Rock, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • Tom

    Super Furry Animals submit a fine performance here. “Let the Wolves Howl at the Moon” is especially pretty. Much love for one of the greatest and somehow most underrated bands of our time. “This generation’s Beatles” is how one artist put it recently.

    Glad to know there is a full DVD of all of these performances.

  • That’s really unfortunate that it’s only two tracks from Radiohead’s performance. They played pretty much all of In Rainbows when they were on. Fortunately, it can be had on Itunes for $8 or so. I was just hoping it would be released in hard-copy form.

    Glen, knowing your tastes, if you haven’t check out the Super Furries, you are in for a treat. Amazing, incredibly creative band. Rings Around The World and Phantom Power should be on your list.

  • Tom,

    There’s actually four Radiohead tracks here. It’s just that two of them are Thom alone at the piano. But it’s all the same stuff from that VH1 (or was it MTV2?) broadcast. Three from In Rainbows proper, and one from the bonus “In Rainbows 2” thingie.

    And yeah, I liked what I heard from the Furries. Guess I’ll have to go net-scouring to try and find more.

    -Glen