Thursday 16 April 2009

Icons #5 Radiohead

If I'm brutally honest I liked Radiohead best when they rocked.  I still like the more recent stuff, but it doesn't move me in the same way The Bends or OK Computer did.

I saw Radiohead while they were touring their first album, Pablo Honey, when they were supporting James.  They were fantastic.  I mean James were good, but Radiohead had this real rawness to their sound and Thom Yorke, at the time, did a good impression of nutter punk.  The first album didn't exactly set the world alight though, but Creep went global once MTV America picked it up.  The film of Radiohead playing it at a pool party is still a classic.  Yorke trying for uber cool, all in black, while everyone else is, well, dressed for a pool party.  Creep isn't even the best song on the album, but it did have swearing in it.  The Radio edit didn't of course.  You're so 'very' conservative etc etc.

And then came The Bends.  

Go and stick it on right now!

It is without doubt still one of the most forward thinking Rock albums ever.  It hasn't dated.  I used to think that it was cold and metallic, but I don't feel that anymore.  It just sounds like nothing else.  No one has been able to replicate it, they just defied convention.  Sure it does the quiet loud thing, but it was so different to the Britpop that was everywhere at the time.  (I loved my Britpop, don't think I didn't.)  But Radiohead made an album that sounded so clean, so modern, but yet was still balls out rock.  The quieter songs work well too, but for me it's about 'Just', 'Sulk', and 'Blackstar'.  Truly brilliant album that everyone should own.

And then they did it again.

OK Computer is a rarity in that it lived up to the hype.  Listen to it now and it's still so evocative. It was everywhere.  You couldn't walk into a shop without hearing 'Airbag' or Paranoid Android'.  Couldn't turn on the TV without hearing 'Let Down'.  Every once in a while an album comes along that just makes you sit down and listen to it.  It is achingly beautiful in places 'Lucky' and 'No Surprises' in particular are two of my favourite songs ever.  Radiohead proved that they really were something special with OK Computer.  You look at bands today who can't move out of their box.  Snowpatrol, Razorlight etc.  Talented yes, but not able to move in other directions.  OK Computer was the sound of a band moving in ways we hadn't heard before.

Three years later came Kid A and Radiohead defied convention and expectations.  Johnny Greenwood waved goodbye to the guitar (pretty much) for three albums.  Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief followed.  They are all stunning albums in their own right but personally I found them harder to get into.  

In Rainbows, the album you could pay what you liked for, is their most recent work and their best album since OK Computer but it's the Radiohead of The Bends and OK Computer that I'm celebrating here.

Nobody else sounds like them.  No one else makes music as moving, as beautiful, as challenging as they do.  And there is no other band that I need to see live again, like I need to see Radiohead.

This post is dedicated to @WH1SKS.

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