A Six-Pack of Radiohead

Radiohead are one of those bands that seem to have staked out their own unique territory. We all know them but it’s really hard to describe their sound. Rock? Sure. But with Thom Yorke’s keening falsetto I almost want to invent a genre called haunting ambient rock. (Or something.) Herewith I lay out half a dozen tunes I dig. Your mileage may vary. 

Wikipedia: “Among Radiohead’s earliest influences were Queen, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd and Elvis Costello, post-punk acts such as Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Magazine, and significantly 1980s alternative rock bands such as R.E.M., U2, the Pixies, the Smiths and Sonic Youth.

They have also cited jazz artists such as Miles Davis, Charles Mingus and Alice Coltrane. According to guitarist Jonny Greenwood, “We bring in our favorite jazz albums and say: We want to do this. And we enjoy the sound of our failing!” He likened their jazz influence to 1950s English bands imitating American blues records.”

Radiohead almost feels like one of those bands where you don’t want to take the song out from the album because it’s all of a piece. But hell, even they released singles. (I never really understood, BTW, what the big deal was with “Creep.” Not a bad song but it really never held up for me.)

Radiohead (named for a Talking Heads song) were always pretty Internet savvy. In 2007, long before we all got used to streaming, they released In Rainbows as a “pay-what-you-want download.” This was a shock to the system as the major labels were used to controlling the releases. Yorke told the BBC: “We have a moral justification in what we did in the sense that the majors and the big infrastructure of the music business has not addressed the way artists communicate directly with their fans … Not only do they get in the way, but they take all the cash.”

Not all their shit is moody. From that album, “Bodysnatchers.”

Spotify list

You couldn’t avoid OK Computer if you tried. From 1997, this was their third album and it is arguably their “before and after” album. If you didn’t know them prior to this album, you did afterward.  It won a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album.

As Wikipedia advises, it “initiated a stylistic shift in British rock away from Britpop toward melancholic, atmospheric alternative rock that became more prevalent in the next decade.” In 2014, it was included by the Library of Congress in the National Recording Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Gotta go with “Paranoid Android”

Spotify link

There were a couple of songs I wanted to do from Hail to the Thief but I’ve always dug “There There”:

Singing you to shipwreck
(Don’t reach out, don’t reach out)
(Don’t reach out, don’t reach out)
Steer away from these rocks
We’d be a walking disaster
(Don’t reach out, don’t reach out)
(Don’t reach out, don’t reach out)

Spotify link

What does a band do after releasing their “Sgt. Pepper?” Why, suffer “complete burnout” of course. “Yorke became ill, describing himself as “a complete fucking mess … completely unhinged.”

Drummer Philip Selway said Radiohead worried that the success had “turned us into a one-trick band.” Bassist Colin Greenwood said: “We felt we had to change everything. There were other guitar bands out there trying to do similar things. We had to move on.” (I tell you what. If ME ever reaches that pinnacle of success he’s just gonna enjoy it.) 

This tune, “Idioteque” is from the follow-up album, Kid A.

Spotify link

Here’s another tune from In Rainbows, “Reckoner.” Man, I love Yorke’s voice.

Spotify link

One more from Kid A. “Everything In Its Right Place.” Indeed.

Spotify link

Radiohead’s most recent album was 2016’s A Moon Shaped Pool. I have no idea if they have any recording plans. But on the off-chance you happen to be in Istanbul in July, they are scheduled to play at something their website lists as the PAC Festival.

Radiohead were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019 – very appropriately I think –  by David Byrne.

 

24 thoughts on “A Six-Pack of Radiohead

  1. I like those Radiohead choices a lot. I know you’re not doing a ranking per se, but There There is my favourite Radiohead tune and Everything… is great too.

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    1. Like you when you do album rankings, I listened to a lot and put a lot of thought into it. I was tempted to do just Kid A or Ok Computer but decided against it. A wealth of good material from a band I don’t spend nearly enough time listening to.

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      1. I don’t always feel like listening to them, and it took me a while to come around to them. It was Kid A that made me a fan – I had trouble getting past his voice on OK Computer. They have a wealth of great material though – if you’re a hardcore fan, there’s a lot of great b-sides and non-album stuff too.

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        1. I don’t like the last couple as much as most of the earlier stuff – although A Moon Shaped Pool (their most recent) is very pretty.

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  2. World weariness. Radiohead never sounded angry. Always sad and disembodied. And this for more than a quarter century since they made the loser anthem “Creep” in 1993, the calamized version of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.

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      1. “Yesterday I woke up sucking on a lemon”, sang Thom Yorke on “Kid A”, enveloped in eerie voices. You can’t say it more soured.

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  3. Just listening to your set. I’ve always been on the outside looking in. I do like what they do but never took a big bite. Saw them on Austin a few years back. Good live set. The first song wigged on your list out a bit. I like that.

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    1. They are an acquired test for sure. But I love his voice, totally unique. Add to that their space trip music and I dig them. I’m not a rabid fan but they go way outside my comfort zone which we both know you gotta do sometimes. But man, they are a weird bunch.

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