Sunday, August 27, 2017


Mug shots:  Colin Greenwood (bass), Jonny Greenwood (lead guitar, keyboards, other instruments), Thom Yorke (lead vocals, guitar, piano, other instruments), Philip Selway (drums, percussion, backing vocals), Ed O'Brien (guitar, backing vocals).  From Oxfordshire.  Formed in 1985.  Their 1992 single "Creep" ultimately made them famous; they still play it at concerts because their audiences love it, but they reportedly don't much care to do so because of its hit singledom.  I see/hear it as their Nirvana "Smells Like Teen Spirit" song.  Eminently singable.  One of the few you can clearly hear the lyrics to, sing along with.  But I imagine that, every time someone in the audience requests it, it's like what Joni Mitchell said about asking Van Gogh to "paint another 'Starry Night,' man."   

Radiohead has mainly worked with producer Nigel Godrich since 1994--he's their George Martin.  Nine albums and 30 million album sales later, their music has evolved incorporating electronic music, looping, sampling, 20th century classical, jazz, krautrock, and Jonny Greenwood's orchestral arrangements (Jonny also does film scores for writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson, and Thom is currently doing his first score for Luca Guadgnino's "reimagining" of the horror film Suspiria).

No matter how many times I listen to their songs, I find myself looking up the titles on my Sonos controller--even to my favorites.  Not because the songs are indistinguishable, but rather because they bleed into each other, and they engage one in a liminal way--like waking dreams.  Listen to the audio of Thom and Jonny's concert (pictured below) at the Macerato Sferisterio (a stripped down concert benefitting 2016's Le Marche earthquake) and you'll understand.  The music is gorgeous and haunting.

Radiohead's techniques have become more and more elastic and experimental through the years as they've shifted from rock instrumentation to a more electronic orientation, with all members switching among various instruments.  Songs are credited to all of the members, and Jonny Greenwood has said that he sees the band as "just a kind of arrangement to form songs using whatever technology suits the song.  And that technology can be a cello or it can be a laptop."

Paul Thomas Anderson directed the video below for "Daydreaming," from Radiohead's latest album, A Moon Shaped Pool.  The video features Thom Yorke opening door after door, wandering through corridors, up stairways, through landscapes, hospitals, schools, middle-class homes.  Opening front doors, exit doors, ultimately sliding a heavy metal door releasing Thom out into a snowy landscape and a mountain, up which Thom trudges in his street clothes, finally burrowing into a tunnel and collapsing next to a fire, uttering what appear to be backwards lyrics that seem utterly primeval.  What better visual metaphor for the experience of their music I described above as liminal--every song opens another door; they're like a series of doors, one leading to yet another.  No beginning, no ending, but a cycle, evolving, devolving, endlessly searching.  Like filmmaker David Lynch, Radiohead seem to have a direct connection to the unconscious in their work.

For a more biographical--and fascinating--exegesis of the video, check out "The Hidden Secrets in 'Daydreaming.'"

"Dreamers/They never learn.../This goes/Beyond me/Beyond you.../We are.../Just happy to serve/You."

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