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Thread: CW50 - The Bands Edition - No. 4

  1. #1
    Eternal Optimist / Cricket Web Staff Member GIMH's Avatar
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    Dec 2005

    CW50 - The Bands Edition - No. 4

    4. Radiohead

    Points: 263
    Nominations: 14
    3rd Place: 0
    2nd Place: 2
    1st Place: 3

    "Yet another U2 clone". That was the initial reaction to Radiohead when they appeared - hardly bursting - on the scene in 1993. How wrong they were. Two decades on, this five-piece from Oxfordshire is now one of the most well-known and polarising musical acts. Few who have heard of them don't have an opinion on them - fewer still don't have a strong one. To some, they were the potential saviours of the stalling field of British rock with albums such as The Bends and OK Computer, the successor to the mantle that had been held by Oasis and Blur who then abdicated that responsibility for pretentious dalliances. To their legion of die-hard fans, however, they are one of the most innovative and unique bands in history their blend of alternative rock, Warp-inspired electronica, jazz, Krautrock and modern classical setting them apart - and ahead - of the pack. This is not a band, however, marked so much by their massive impact on society, their pioneering of a new musical genre or style (as of yet) or their decades-on influences of the big bands of the 21st century. This is a band defined by their ever-changing music, and it's there where we have to look to understand them.

    "You float like a feather
    In a beautiful world
    You're so ****ing special
    I wish I were special"
    * Their debut single and the song that originally put them on the map after its 1993 re-release. It still remains one of their most popular songs, although its appearance in live shows has been sparse for the last fifteen years - ironically, because it was so popular that their other songs tended to be starved of attention in comparison. In many ways signalled what Radiohead would be for the next decade - a musically adept rock band trading on the collective disquiet and disconnectedness that typified (and continues to typify) the modern, corporaratised Western world.

    Street Spirit
    "All these things into position
    All these things we'll one day swallow whole"
    * Though there were signs in other songs they'd written this is the first and clearest snapshot of the what the emotional content of Radiohead's music would be in years to come. Pitch-black, so much so that Thom Yorke admitted that he found it hard to reconcile the naked despair of the lyrics with the adoration of the crowds singing along. But sing they did, because this is still one of their most popular songs. They probably shouldn't have written such an addictive underlying melody if they wanted it otherwise. It actually stands in stark contrast to the lot of The Bends, which is much closer to the conventional British rock sound of the 90s than at any time in Radiohead's career, with heavy but attractive guitar melodies and personal, grounded lyrics.

    Paranoid Android
    "When I am king you will be first against the wall
    With your opinion which is of no consequence at all"
    * The key track of OK Computer, the album regarded by a huge portion of fans as their zenith and by many as their genuinely great album. Most definitely not a straight up-and-down rock number, it's been compared to Bohemian Rhapsody in ambition and in its multi-section structure, but the similarities probably end there. This is OK Computer in a nutshell - chaotic, captivating, unashemedly anti-capitalist and anti-establishment, and along with the album at large catapulted Radiohead into superstardom, showered with critical praise for so adroitly sticking to the narrow line between challenging, thought-provoking music and broad-spectrum accessibility. Unfortunately for those who had anointed Radiohead as the next great *rock* band, however, this superstardom was entirely unwanted and the band was going to take a very big turn away from the latter.

    Everything In Its Right Place
    "There are two colours in my head
    There are two colours in my head"
    * "If there's one band that promises to return rock to us, it's Radiohead". That's what one magazine said in the leadup to Kid A. When people around the world put their headphones on and played the Kid A opening track, they knew that Radiohead had very different ideas. OK Computer was supposed to be their way of conveying their anger at 'the system', and the commercialisation of the world, and it infuriated them to the point of despair to see it too being horribly commercialised. The result of this sense that their previous work was pointless, useless and bereft of meaning because of this was Kid A, an album that resulted from this will to reject whatever The Big End Of Town stood for, and do things Their Way, completely new, without being bound by any notions of convention or accessibility. This track, a direct representation of Thom Yorke's inability to recognise the artistic content of their work with their sudden, unwanted fame. But beyond the shock of processed electronic keyboard in place of guitars and repeated, abstract lyrics in place of chorus-verse was an intense exploration of how much can be done with nothing but harmony, vocals and musical sense. The perfect scene-setter for the album to come, one of the polarising in recent times.

    "I have seen too much, you haven't seen enough, you haven't seen it
    I'll laugh until my head comes off"
    * So you've listened to most of Kid A. Up to now, for the most part, you'd have heard a rigidly structured but fairly introverted album, mostly feeling, exploring boundaries rather than actively pushing them, with plenty of tracks as much about creating atmosphere than making any firm statements. So when were Radiohead really going to unleash? The answer lay here in five minutes of apocalyptic, oppressive electronica. The album centrepiece, it appears stripped-down to the point of minimalism, with crashing but repetitive percussive lines underlying a melody that was as simple and pure as it got, and vocals on a very narrow range of notes. Yet as usual with Radiohead not is everything is as it seems: the sum of it all was a song of startling complexity and a focussed, almost personal sort of intensity. It is pure paradox - rigidly structured yet deeply unbalanced. Thematically simple but with seemingly contradictory lyrics. Controlled chaos. For me, their greatest song by a country mile. Not even live versions can do it justice.

    Life In A Glasshouse
    "Well of course I'd like to sit down and chat
    But of course I'd like to stay and chew the fat"
    In many senses, those with a keen ear shouldn't have been so surprised by the sudden outburst of electronic influences that appeared on Kid A. In reality, they'd been present under-the-surface ever since The Bends, and OK Computer was packed with them (something many "expert reviewers" managed to miss). The same was true with jazz, also a huge influence since the days of OK Computer. Very rarely, however, had this come to the fore, often appearing in small segments where the music is just a little more fluid, the rhythms looser and the tonality weaker. It got its proper due, however, on Kid A and most particularly on Amnesiac, often described as Kid A's twin brother, and most obviously on the album closer. With a freeform brass backing underlying the plaintive, atmospheric lyrics, this is much more New Orleans street march than English pub.

    The Butcher
    "Beauty will destroy your mind; spare the gory details
    Give them gift-wrapped to the man with everything"
    * A several year hiatus after Hail To The Thief, their last album with EMI, before In Rainbows was an indicator to keen followers of the band that their sound was going to change again (notwithstanding the fact that they'd already played most of the songs live anyway). Word was that Radiohead would pare back from the naked aggression and intensity of the previous ten years for something more relaxed and accessible. But would those kind of reserved, laid-back numbers hold up against the Idioteques, Paranoid Androids and There Theres? The answer was yes, as proven by tracks like Reckoner, but the relaxed, laid-back atmosphere of the band's current music hasn't stopped them experimenting. With the immense popularity of dubstep in the UK in recent times, rhythm became very much something to be played with again on The King Of Limbs, in ways that hadn't been done in Kid A. Much of their recent music is of this vein - still in that same relaxed mode but with more electronic and rhythmic experimentation than had been seen since those halcyon (YMMV) days. The Butcher is a (personal) standout of this process - in many ways, like Idioteque in its basis on layered percussion with a deceptively simple melody and vocals. Whilst it is a very different song, it also has that surprising complexity and keenly focussed structure. And in the end it is straight-up Radiohead - trading on disquiet, unbound by genre, keenly experimental, making music in its most essential form.

    Radiohead - Idioteque (Live in Paris 2001) - YouTube


    Thom Yorke (Vocals, Guitar, Piano)
    Jonny Greenwood (Lead Guitar, Keyboards)
    Colin Greenwood (Bass Guitar)
    Phil Selway (Drums & Percussion)
    Ed O’ Brien (Guitars & backing vocals)


    Pablo Honey (1993)
    The Bends (1995)
    OK Computer (1997)
    Kid A (2000)
    Amnesiac (2001)
    Hail to the Thief (2003)
    In Rainbows (2007)
    The King of Limbs (2011)


    Radiohead: The Best Of (2008) Compilation of singles, album tracks and one b-side

    Download these songs:
    Creep; Street Spirit (Fade Out); Paranoid Android; Everything In Its Right Place; Idioteque; Life In A Glasshouse; The Butcher

    Write-up by Spark

    Quote Originally Posted by Axl Rose
    The internet is a big garbage can

    RIP Craigos. A true CW legend. You will be missed.

  2. #2
    Hall of Fame Member morgieb's Avatar
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    Feb 2007
    Radiohead only fourth?

    Want to be the online Don Bradman or Ian Salisbury?
    Then join CW Cricket today. It's what all the cool kids desire.

    RIP Craig Walsh (Craig) 1985-2012
    RIP Hughesy 1988-2014

  3. #3
    Englishman BoyBrumby's Avatar
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    Aug 2004
    Gone too soon
    Not in my twenty five, I have to say. Like and respect them, but never listen to any post-OK Computer stuff for pleasure anymore.
    Cricket Web's current Premier League Tipping Champion

    - As featured in The Independent.

    "Like queuing at the post office, or a cardboard cup of weak milky tea there is a quality of slightly clichéd but still beautifully reassuring Englishness about watching Cook bat"
    - Barney Ronay

  4. #4
    Hall of Fame Member grecian's Avatar
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    Sep 2005
    The Right Side of History
    Nope not in mine either, despite the hitch-hikers references. Just one of my fave songs ever, if that's any consolation.
    Do I contradict myself?
    Very well then I contradict myself,
    (I am large, I contain multitudes.
    Walt Whitman

  5. #5
    Hall of Fame Member Hurricane's Avatar
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    Aug 2009
    Don't be jealous of the Georgie Pie super smash
    why only 4th?
    1) Ross is Boss.
    2) See point 1.

    Leading the charge against nuances being used in posts.

    Overrated XI M Bracewell, Burns, Rahane, Don Voges, Bairstow, Alecz Day, Donovan Grobelaar, Luke Ronchi, Faulkner, Dan Christian, Permaul

  6. #6
    Hall of Fame Member grecian's Avatar
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    The Right Side of History
    Quote Originally Posted by Hurricane View Post
    why only 4th?
    Guessing they didn't get as many points as the top three, TBH.

  7. #7
    International Coach Agent Nationaux's Avatar
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    Jan 2011
    Just listening to Karma Police. Love that song.

  8. #8
    cpr is offline
    International Coach cpr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BoyBrumby View Post
    Not in my twenty five, I have to say. Like and respect them, but never listen to any post-OK Computer stuff for pleasure anymore.
    Couldnt listen to anything post OK Computer in the first place personally. Whereas some found their dalliances into different area's groundbreaking and innovative, I just found them a bit rubbish. Doesn't help Yorke has a marmite voice. Have no issue with the first 3 albums, some belting tunes there. Suppose thats one more belting album than Nirvana, so I guess the place is justified by that warped logic
    "All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusions is called a philosopher." - Ambrose Bierce
    Langeveldt: I of course blame their parents.. and unchecked immigration!
    GingerFurball: He's Austrian, they tend to produce the odd ****ed up individual
    Burgey: Be careful dealing with neighbours whose cars don't have wheels but whose houses do.
    Uppercut: Maybe I just need better strippers

  9. #9
    Hall of Fame Member FaaipDeOiad's Avatar
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    Oct 2004
    The thing I really don't get about the people who object to the "post-OK Computer era" Radiohead is that a lot of the stuff on, say, In Rainbows is almost a full circle return to the same sort of challenging prog/pop blend that made them a massive success in the first place. There's some evolution of the sound but I don't see what's so wild and out there about Jigsaw Falling Into Place for example, it's fundamentally a pop song.

    Anyway, OK Computer is the best album of the 90s IMO, Paranoid Android is one of the most challenging pieces of rock music to ever have significant commerical success as a single, and there's very few bands who have managed to so drastically re-invent their sound and still managed such excellent quality control. Not many acts could have songs as radically different as the aformentioned Jigsaw and something like Reckoner on the same record and still have them both be absolutely kickass, memorable songs.

    Not my favourite band but certainly not too far down the list, and I think they'll be remembered as the most important musical act of their time, and with good reason.
    It's cold on the outside they say
    But the cold leaves you clear while the heat leaves a haze

  10. #10
    Global Moderator Spark's Avatar
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    Feb 2010
    A Blood Rainbow
    Reckoner is pretty poppy as well. Fantastic song though.

    Oddly I suspect I rate OK Computer much lower than many here.
    do you think people will be allowed to make violins?
    who's going to make the violins?

    forever 63*

  11. #11
    Eternal Optimist / Cricket Web Staff Member GIMH's Avatar
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    Dec 2005
    Well they weren't on my list but I wouldn't begrudge them this finish, obviously very popular here at CW. I enjoy some of their earlier stuff but not to the extent that I would own it.

    I personally wasn't surprised they only finished 4th but it seems a fair few of you are.

  12. #12
    Global Moderator vic_orthdox's Avatar
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    Nov 2004
    Melbourne, Australia
    Think that a number of posters who post prominently about music on the forum are big fans of them, but you received votes from a wider range of posters than that; so there was an inflated feeling that they could end up in the top couple.

  13. #13
    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    Aug 2004
    Elm, he do brood. And Oak, he do hate. But the Willow-man goes walking, If you stays out late.
    It's been rigged!

  14. #14
    Hall of Fame Member Ikki's Avatar
    Cricket Champion! Jackpot Champion!
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    Sep 2005
    Don't leave me Murph!
    Never got the intense feelings some of their fans have about their music. Was never really into them and still am not. Rated very highly on CW though.

  15. #15
    Request Your Custom Title Now! Flem274*'s Avatar
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    I fall asleep to Neil Wagner's roars
    Quote Originally Posted by Hurricane View Post
    why only 4th?
    Why as high as fourth?
    Quote Originally Posted by Bahnz View Post
    I need u like Henry Nicholls needs batting school
    He was terrible in that series
    I need u like Ross Taylor needed to be fit
    He's way better than Henry Nicholls
    And now all I can think about is your smile
    and that ****** test series too
    Losing to Australia sucked and I miss you
    Proudly supporting Central Districts
    RIP Craig Walsh

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