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Primer – Radiohead

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Some folks come to this site strictly for the hip hop articles. Others for the comic book stuff. And still others for the social commentary. We get a lot of disparate readers. While there’s some cross pollination, the hip hop aficionados don’t always know the alt rock joints, and vice versa. So here’s a new series called Primer where we take it upon ourselves to make introductions.

First up, Radiohead, an alternative rock band that formed in England  in 1985. Their first record, Pablo Honey, was hardly an indicator of the genius that would follow. In that way, they’re kinda like Beastie Boys, whose best work also spit in the face of their first record.  Soon Radiohead would blow critic’s minds with The Bends, and then up the ante again with the classic OK Computer. They got purposefully obscure in the years that followed, taking fans on a roller-coaster of beautiful and quirky innovation.

If you’ve heard the name but don’t know the band, here’s a primer that barely scratches the surface.

1. Creep – Back in the early nineties, my friend Mark picked me up and didn’t say a word. He just put this on and we drove around listening to it on repeat. We knew something just changed in the musical landscape. This wasn’t like anything else on the radio. Ok, it was a bit like “The Air That I Breathe” from the Hollies, insofar as it lifted its chord progression from that tune. Still, this was something wholly other.

2. Fade Out (Street Spirit) – Radiohead, with producer Nigel Godrich in  tow, took steroid level leaps and bounds on their second record The Bends. Fade Out (Street Spirit) may not have been a huge radio hit, but its Dust in the Wind quality let the world know this band weren’t your average Brit-Poppers. 

3. Let Down – Anyone that likes to roll a fatty and listen to Dark Side of the Moon should throw OK Computer on. A layered masterpiece that shows the band communicating fluidly to each other through the entirety of its 12 tracks.

4.  Just – Also from their masterpiece The Bends, Just is the kind of songy-song Radiohead would put aside in favor of more sonic experimentation influenced by Aphex Twin. At least for a few years. This one kicks ass.

5.  Reckoner – From their 2008 album In RainbowsReckoner was listed as one of the best songs of the decade by Pitchfork and NME and has been covered by folks like Gnarls Barkley

So consider the introduction made. There are several hundred Radiohead songs out there to sink your teeth into if you liked any of the tracks above. Be fruitful and multiply!

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Radiohead

  • Thom Yorke (vocals, guitar, sounds)
  • Jonny Greenwood (guitar, keyboards, other instruments)
  • Ed O’Brien (guitar, backing vocals)
  • Colin Greenwood (bass)
  • Phil Selway (drums, percussion, backing vocals)

Discography

  • 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)
  • A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)

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