some music is made for the
dance floor, some for political rallies.
radiohead's music is for headphones--the big, plush ones that let you
lean back, close your eyes and become lost in the sound.
cue the british band's new
album and you'll hear shards of guitar
cutting and swirling through dense, trippy compositions. holding it all
together is the unnervingly beautiful wail of thom yorke, who sounds
like johnny rotten (if he could sing).
the sonically daring ok computer
has recieved near-unanimous praise as
an album-of-the-year candidate and manages to recall the dubious "art
rock" era without drowning in its excesses.
how hot is radiohead with the rock cognoscenti?
when the band played new
york's irving plaza this summer, the vip
section was crowded with madonna, sheryl crow, courtney love, marilyn
manson, joan osborne and members of u2, rem, and the beastie boys.
yorke knew all this was coming
the minute ok computer was finished.
yeah, sure he did.
"it took a year and a half
to do and it was very difficult to be sure of
our ground because the ground itself was very unfamiliar," he said. "at
the end of it was a week of sleepless nights worrying about it thinking,
'this is not what people are expecting. oh god, we're doomed.'
"by that point, we weren't
in a position to judge because we'd worked on
it so long," he said.
capitol records wasn't pleased.
there was nothing like "creep," the
1993 hit song that gave radiohead its start. in fact there wasn't
anything remotely close to a catchy song that radio stations could
"i think some panic buttons
were hit, which was cool," yorke said. "we
didn't expect anything else."
capitol came around when
the reviews came in and the album showed strong
radiohead's music is as demanding
upon rock and roll generally gets.
songs develop slowly and shift dynamics abruptly. melody is there, but
it's not drilled into the brain with repetition.
perhaps because the five
members of radiohead grew up in the ost-punk
era, the ridiculous elements of "progressive" rock--ham-fisted classical
references and ponderous solos--are missing from what they do.
"i never considered it to
be a difficult album to listen to or obscure
in any way. it's just the sound we had in our heads," he said. if we
wanted to be willfully obscure and difficult, we could have made a much
more willfully obscure and difficult record."
ask what sounds yorke, guitarist
gonny greenwood, guitarist ed o'brien,
bass player colin greenwood and drummer phil selway drew inspiration
from and you get a stew of popular uic: marvin gaye's what's going on?,
miles davis' bitches brew, the beach boys' pet sounds, some kraftwerk,
try to find a common thread and you'll wind up with your hands tied.
yorke's lyrics are filled
with vivid though indistinct images: kicking,
sqealing gucci little piggy came to his mind when watching a woman spill
wine on an expensive dress.
the album has been described
by listeners as everything froma concept
album about aliens to a commentary on an information-clogged society.
yorke leaves the interpretations to others, but notes he's been writing
more as a reporter these days.
"the record before was very
much about my personal feelings-- a drunk
guy on the back of a bus feeling sorry for himself," he said. "this one
was much more about being a witness to the external world. it's very
much more of a difficult way to write."
he writes almost like a shopper,
drawing up compulsive lists of images
and arranging them into categories that become songs. he "sees"
melodies in colors, the colors that ended up on the album's cover.