Review Summary: "The Daily Mail / Staircase" is an exceptional EP, with two songs that are equally memorable for different reasons.
"The Daily Mail / Staircase" holds a unique position amongst the canon of Radiohead's studio work, in that you probably watched them record it. Both of these songs were recorded during the filming of The King of Limbs: From the Basement
, the televised live session that aired in the US on Palladia in 2011. Both "The Daily Mail" and "Staircase" made their debuts on From the Basement
. And while the audio quality for the release of this EP has been cleaned up from its television incarnation, the versions of the songs are undeniably the same. And you know what" They sound good
. Consider it a testament to Radiohead's skill: all five members of the band (in addition to back-up drummer Clive Deamer) record a live session in a studio, and it's just as crisp as any of the band's meticulously constructed studio pieces.
The first track on the two-song EP is "The Daily Mail," a slow-building rocker that was probably heavily influenced by guitarist Ed O'Brian (who is a self-professed fan of three-minute rock songs). The song, written in 2005, is a healthy blend of the guitar work heard on Hail to the Thief
and the booming brass section heard on songs like "The National Anthem." The song begins with Thom Yorke softly plunking away at the piano, crooning about the invasion of privacy by the tabloids, vowing revenge. "You got away with it / But we lie in wait," he sings, and the song builds from there. The brass band are undoubtedly the most noticeable part of the song, bouncing along with Jonny Greenwood's simple, pounding guitar riff. Yorke's voice blends in amongst the trumpets, lost in the rage that's bubbled over. It might be Radiohead's simplest song in years, and it's certainly their biggest rocker since "Bodysnatchers" off In Rainbows
. And while I'm a big fan of the quiet, introspective direction that the band has taken with The King of Limbs
, this song is a nice reminder that the band who made "Just" and "Paranoid Android" have still got it.
Speaking of quiet and introspective, "Staircase," the final song on the EP, is just that. The song plunks along to a syncopated bassline courtesy of Colin Greenwood and a jittering drum part (not unlike the one in The King of Limbs
' "Little By Little"). The synthesizers used here are reminiscent of 1980s pop as they fade in and out. The song has an ethereal quality to it, broken only by the punctuating guitar plucks that, slightly dissonant, add another level of mystery to the entire song. Radiohead only finished writing "Staircase" after they completed The King of Limbs
, but it would have been right at home on either half of the album, either tucked between fellow electronic jitterers "Little By Little" and "Feral," or between the softer "Lotus Flower" and "Codex."
Ultimately, "The Daily Mail / Staircase" is an exceptional EP. Both songs are equally memorable for different reasons, and both are reminiscent of previous Radiohead material without being too derivative. If Radiohead ever follow through on their promises to stop making studio albums and stick to EPs and singles, more like this would be nice, please.