How Radiohead Stopped Me From Swerving into Some Trees:
THIS IS A WRITING EXPERIMENT
My tribute to a great band and a scientific experiment: I am going to listen to the top five albums that they have made, decide the order of that list in terms of favorite and write about the experience. Warning: this is for either the serious Radiohead fan or my stranger ways with words.
If you’re with me so far, here we go. First into my list of five, at five, is 2003’s “Hail to the Thief.”
Lyrics are quoted, albums are hyper-linked and quoted, and songs are italics.
Bands are hyper-linked–and not always as you would expect.
“Walk into the jaws of hell” Greets us further into post-Bends paranormal electronic Thome Yorke beat-boxing, 2003, and the year of “Hail to the Thief.“ The album seemed to sporadically produce itself and slip away quite unsung.
-The album that we usually breaze by out of respect. A milestone overlooked though—this remains about the last time that we fully hear Mr. Yorke’s words clearly. But we all look to the book or lyrics inside. It also has remained on my I-Pod throughout years of CD’s, records, mix tapes, and, as Mr. Willie Nelson calls them, life’s many varied “Phases and Stages.”
The first song is beginning now.
2+2=5 opens “Hail to the Thief“ in rare demanding fashion, but agreeable nonetheless.
“We don’t really want the loonies taking over.”
We know who Yorke is singing about, don’t we. We are in on the secret together.
Radiohead’s guitarists join in together –
And remember this is the guitar duo that is able to rip just like The Tornados made Dick Dale’s genre way cooler with their surf guitar impression. As like in Where I End and You Begin (The Sky is Falling In) where Johnny Greenwood and Ed Obrien’s screeches and scratches their strings over a dope drum beat from the break beat era.
Now the official era begins whereas almost all hope of lyric hearing is lost though we don’t always know exactly what Thome Yorke is saying, until he needs us to:
“I will eat you alive…”
Two songs pass with enjoyment, until returning to the beat.
The video you and I claim to dislike really is one of the better pop tunes they have mastered. There There’s popularity shouldn’t put you off, “just cause you feel it, doesn’t mean it’s there,” true and dank. Especially when the cymbals chime in along with haunting Yorke chanting overdubs.
“Walking disaster.” Now you notice the stroll in the woods during the MTV video adequately applies to the groove of this number.
I hate to note the drop-off in quality for the second act of the album. But I am one focused solely on truth. The later half doesn’t ever offend, upset, or excite because of the lack of impact needed.
Scatterbrain closes the disc: Usually Radiohead are Abbey Road-like album enders, wrapping the whole package up with the heartbeat that started Breathe In The Air— type accuracy. But not really on this one. It is methodical and well done, my memory either my fault or theirs immediately forgets it.
My memory can conjure the beginning beat of “Kid A” anytime of night.
It is sublime—one of the most ever to warmly open an album, especially considering the normally chaotic dystopia concept disc. I told you we wouldn’t understand Thom, “running in the shadows.”
Tick, tick, tick, drum stick. Weird sounds now sound fresh.
Horns join a funk session of the rhythm section to open The National Anthem, which I wish it were and that is tough for me to write because I truly like ours already a lot—and Radiohead is not even American and my hero Benjamin Franklin would not care to hear me say that probably. More horns, until it gets to funky—just before returning to the sublime. The opening of the album is perfect at welcoming us to the never heard before sounds to come on the rest of it.
How To Disappear Completely follows up on a quite tall promise of a song title, “that day it wasn’t me.”
“This isn’t happening.” Before telling us that he can walk through walls.
“I’m not here,” we can somehow believe you because of that rock and roll guitar coming and disappearing into that acoustic one. A violin, “it’s already passed” we take “passed” in the worse way it could mean—commanded by the violin’s direction.
But our heads continue to nod. Nod. Nod. That’s the key to understanding Radiohead’s music. You have to own a head nod, right—a little soul.
I’ve wondered off because I have forgotten about the atmosphere that Treefingers instrumentation creates. That last paragraph spaced way far out because of it.
I wake from that dream to Optimistic, “big fish eat the little ones, you can try the best you can”—and this lyric is only possibly close to cool if you are hearing it from this particular band.
We allow them to get away with a lot, later Beatles type boundary breaking.
“This one is—
this one just…”
I’d really like to help you man.”
This song is one of the entire catalog’s strongest efforts.
And then In Limbo stumbles in, melting perfectly, forcing a rookie to check if the song has changed.
“I’m on your side” another lyric we allow to pass and enter with the truth of a parent’s intention.
“You’re living in a fantasy.”
All of this over a Miles Davis “Bitches Brew Session” Jazz beats—“I’m lost at sea.” Our heads nod in the wake. Scary noses close the song and halt the nod.
Into a black hole it goes.
Now a smooth 16-Bit beat enters…Idioteque is the dankest song Nintendo’s box craze has ever created. Yo, this beat is during the year 2000, think of the shit in 2000.
“Women and children first. And first”
“Ice age coming” he sings “throw it into the Sun,” then “this is really happening” sometimes with a question mark, sometimes not.
“Release me” lyrics run into a quiet of electronic funeral service. Motion Picture Soundtrack is that perfect closing album, “sleeping pills” he sing about and howls.
I don’t need those fuckers now either thank you. Literal dust falls on the head. That type of thing only happened when I was a child’s mind—now I listen to the sadness in it all, and enjoy the feeling very much.
I’m sad that it is over.
Until of course Airbag invades the location.
The bass has been discovered after Kid A faked the real thing.
“Ok Computer” has begun.
My head is nodding in a different way. It still grew up with the killer nineties guitar and old Dave Navarro sounding stuff. And I remember it on this album.
It counts down before it actually does rock. Blip, two,three, Paranoid Android drops.
“What’s this” the singing goes. The beat goes just as hard. It gets even better if you can believe that. Even though you can barely hear it.
He just finished singing about “my opinion not being of any consequence” though.
—the bass picks up a bit. Maracas in the background? “pushing little piggy” Guitar screeches. Drums crash. This is a high-point of the album and one reason that I have placed another above it.
Then of course, why we are here? church
—Radiohead can sometimes reach choir heights with dub-trackings of haunted chanting. “God loves his children”—yeah—guitar—drum—crash—electric fuzz freak out in 1997?—this was a new sound.
“Cracks in the pavement” to a backdrop of guitar acid bend around that drum trip. Soul. “Uptight, uptight!” Soul—“uptight?”
Drops of piano on top of all that is how Subterranean Homesick Blues “they think I’ve lost completely.” Bass bounce.
Like a Chopped and screwed southern record’s version of a nineties gangsta rap beat. “Uptight”…Drum hi hat roll, bending with a bass and chimes finishes into Exit Film that is too good for me to write during. It is I believe their best single. And if you haven’t noticed I have listened to them a lot.
“I don’t like hanging around” Goes the lyrics of the next song, Let Down: You know, like not being able to have the skill to respectfully describe one of your favorite songs in words for other people to understand…Let Down closes into a psychedelic Super-Nintendo. Zelda, Link.
Karma Police again, has a video, so what do all obsessive fans do?—they hate it. But to hate this would be to hate mornings—even if for the exact opposite reasons of most other people.
Fitter Happier, “not drinking too much…eating well…no more saturated fats…In fact the list is so good:
not drinking too much
regular exercise at the gym (3 days a week)
getting on better with your associate employee contemporaries
eating well (no more microwave dinners and saturated fats)
a patient better driver
a safer car (baby smiling in back seat)
sleeping well (no bad dreams)
careful to all animals (never washing spiders down the plughole)
keep in contact with old friends (enjoy a drink now and then)
will frequently check credit at (moral) bank (hole in wall)
favours for favours
fond but not in love
charity standing orders
on sundays ring road supermarket
(no killing moths or putting boiling water on the ants)
car wash (also on sundays)
no longer afraid of the dark
or midday shadows
nothing so ridiculously teenage and desperate
nothing so childish
at a better pace
slower and more calculated
no chance of escape
concerned (but powerless)
an empowered and informed member of society (pragmatism not idealism)
will not cry in public
less chance of illness
tires that grip in the wet (shot of baby strapped in back seat)
a good memory
still cries at a good film
still kisses with saliva
no longer empty and frantic
like a cat
tied to a stick
that’s driven into
frozen winter shit (the ability to laugh at weakness)
fitter, healthier and more productive
in a cage
That was a computer telling us that smart stuff. We know all of that already don’t we? We can change it.
The next song rocks very literally, figuratively of course?
A couple of songs pass and No Surprise begins with the bass buzzes my cheap speakers can’t handle. The bass guitar deep and rich–rolls its way along the song…Sublime. Sublime, like the beginning of the album its on, almost…
”They don’t speak for us.”
Wait a moment, perhaps it is?
“I’ll take the quiet life…and carbon monoxide…no surprises.” …..bass… “This is the final fare, my final belly ache.”
“Pretty house” he sings.
It ends perfectly, and a somehow better song than No Surprise begins. Its called Lucky.
The guitar pulls us out of the crash “when you’re standing on the edge.” This song has helped me to drive on the road, when I felt like swervin’ into some tress, because those times truly call for artwork of this magnitude. The CD player has literally saved my life, inside my various cars. While Ok Computer has remained.
Not MP3’s yet.
“I feel my luck could change—pull me out—guitar—the culmination of the OK Computer experience is at hand.
Now the downhill…”When you’re standing on the edge.” Lucky is the soul of this album.
The Tourist is an excellent closer, though I always wished it had ended on the prior song’s last notes. It didn’t and that’s cool I guess.
End of Part One. Thank you for reading all of this. You must either be a large Radiohead fan or enjoy how I write. Either way, thanks.