Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 261
Tues. Nov 26, 2013
“Round The Bend”
Thom Yorke once described “How to Disappear Completely” as “I really was in the Dream. the whole song is my experiences of really floating.” Beck’s “Round The Bend” completely captures the essence of Radiohead’s atmospheric attention. While most fans believe Beck’s Sea Change is all unplugged, “Round the Bend” is the one song that connects Sea Change with Radiohead’s Kid A.
With help from Radiohead’s producer, Nigel Godrich helps create a musical canvas that matched Beck’s lyrical ache of despair. Listen very closely and you’ll discover that “Bend” is actually the bastard son to Thom Yorke, Johnny Greenwood, Ed O’Brien, Colin Greenwood and Phil Selway’s 2000 masterpiece “How to Disappear Completely.” A real moving tribute, “Round the Bend” is definitely one of the most desolate and more haunting and beautifully layered creations on Sea Change.
In an interview with Greg Kot for the Chicago Tribune, Beck explained his creative philosophy when writing songs like “Round the Bend” for Sea Change when he said, “But this time I changed that approach and tried to say something very simple. You have to experiment and try different approaches for a long time, until you get to the point where you know what works. My favorite writers were always Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, and Hank Williams, because of their directness. That kind of writing is much more difficult in a way: To say something simple that communicates and that doesn’t come off as trite or banal. When I was younger I thought that anything that says, “Baby, I miss you, I love you,” was boring. I wanted to see every color in the kaleidoscope, so that’s what I went for.” To help craft every emotional kaleidoscope color in his reflective lyrics of depressions, Beck tapped Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich to helm the sessions for Sea Change.
It’s no coincidence that Beck picked Godrich for his dynamic production duties for Radiohead’s 2000 pièce de résistance Kid A. In an interview with Paste Magazine, Beck once described working with producer Godrich like this, “The luxury of that time allowed us to get something that was more interesting. We would usually get to the obvious thing first and then, after the track had sat around for a year or so, Nigel would do something totally different with it. We would lose whatever we had in the beginning and go somewhere far more interesting. In a way, you couldn’t be precious about anything you were putting out, even if it was your heart and soul.” Of all the songs from Sea Change, along with the string arrangement by his father David Campbell, you can tell that producer Nigel Godrich had the most influence to shape the eerie sound of “Round the Bend.”
Godrich is known for challenging the artists he works with, even pushing Paul McCartney to dig deeper creatively during the making of Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. Beck talked about what Nigel brought to their recording sessions when he told AV Club, “When I started out, I was very particular. I didn’t ask anything; I just kind of knew what I wanted. But I think you develop trust and a language. Nigel’s very particular, but I like that, because it makes me do things that I wouldn’t normally think anybody would be interested in. The song that I would just want to throw away, that would be his favorite.” Although the Serge Gainsbourg inspired “Paper Tiger” was Godrich’s favorite song from Sea Change, you know it was Nigel that helped Beck bring the atmospheric aching beauty that is “Round the Bend” to life in the studio.
Before beginning the Sea Change sessions, Godrich and Beck listened to his 1998 album Mutations. Nigel noticed maturation in Beck’s voice which he shared with Time Magazine when Sea Change’s producer said, “Before we recorded, we listened to Mutations, and his voice sounded like Mickey Mouse. His range has dropped. Now when he opens his mouth, a canyonesque vibration comes out. It’s quite remarkable. He has amazing tone.” Being a knowledgeable producer, Nigel helps craft the sonic textures to match Beck’s deeper and more emotive voice.
When he was asked by Paste where Beck gets inspiration for such emotive songs like “Round the Bend,” Hansen replied, “I don’t really write things based on books or anything else. They’re movies I make up in my head.” “Round the Bend” is definitely one of the most haunting soundtracks on Sea Change. Blurry yet so evocative, the colors of Beck’s heartbreak stay with you long after “Bend” has spun to its eventful conclusion.
With inspiration from Radiohead and studio assistance from Kid A producer Nigel Godrich, “Round the Bend” proves Sea Change is not all acoustic but a subterranean lost canvas of loneliness. It’s amazing, once you make the connection; it’s hard to not hear “Bend” as an extension of Radiohead’s “How To.” If you want to hear Beck completely disappear into his Sea Change of solitude, take Beck’s journey inside the desolation sadness of “Round the Bend”