Radiohead: Probing Beyond The Hits

Originally published: The Quietus

‘Gagging Order’ B-side from ‘Go To Sleep’ (2003)

Originally released as a b-side to their single ‘Go to Sleep’ on 2003’s Hail To The Thief, ‘Gagging Order’ would later feature on their extended EP COM LAG (2plus2isfive) released in Australia and Japan in 2004. It cuts a similar cloth to the single from which it featured as the flip side, yet is stripped back to just Thom Yorke and a beautiful acoustic thrum akin to ‘Lozenge of Love’ (from 1994’s My Iron Lung EP). Hail To The Thief was seen as a vitriolic rebuke to the current political events of the time, and the track’s lyric somewhat unveils our “keep quiet and carry on” attitude to it all: “A couple more for breakfast/ A little more for tea/ Just to take the edge off/ Move along, there’s nothing left to see/ Just a body, pouring down the street.”

‘Bodysnatchers’ from In Rainbows (2007)

The second track from In Rainbows, ‘Bodysnatchers’ is arguably one of Radiohead’s finest guitar-driven songs to date. The mechanical yet fluid guitar hook bounces around with a hypnotic, bellicose rhythm that runs throughout the track. Yorke later explained to the NME, “Just before I get sick I’ll have this 120 hour hyperactive mania and that song was recorded during one of those. I felt genuinely out of it when we did that.”

The song captivates the listener’s consciousness further with a thumping rhythm section and additional lead guitars that build to a climaxing break. Recorded in one live take, it shows Radiohead as a driving musical unity, taking on the spiritual and otherworldly mind, body and soul of the occasion: “I have no idea what I am talking about/I am trapped in this body, I can’t get out.” Aurally, it will nail your ears and balls to the wall – take heed.

‘Palo Alto’ from Airbag/How Am I Driving? (1998)

Palo Alto is about 40 miles south of San Francisco, California, and is home to the Xerox PARC research centre (a hub of nerds being socially awkward lemmings and bouncing around ideas like Mac OS and Windows) in Silicon Valley. The city’s welcome sign reads “Welcome to Palo Alto, A city of the future” and acts as the inspiration for the opening line of the track that featured on the Airbag/How Am I Driving? EP.

Yorke lyrically places us in this “city of the future” where “it is difficult to concentrate” with his apathetic vocal set against digital loops and distorted guitars. Stylistically it bridges the gap between their harder-edged punk background and their future-progressive scores. It reads like a Shakespearian black comedy where “Everybody’s happy/ Everybody is made for life” before his final lament: “When the sky’s Califonia blue/ With a beautiful bombshell.” A bleak and beautiful reminder of our future-present state of being.

Read the full article here.

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