The latest album by Radiohead arrived after a series of mysterious events relating to the band. The band’s website faded away, social media accounts went dark, and mysterious cards went out to fans. All culminating in the release of A Moon Shaped Pool. The two songs and videos that had been released – Burn the Witch and Daydreaming – only hinted at the brilliance contained within. Gone are the grunge indebted guitars as well as most of the inscrutable electronic exercises. In their stead are songs seeped in English folk, motorik krautrock, and a deep sense of middle-aged sadness. For me personally, it is an album that I can relate to on a deeper level. After a dozen spins or so, I have no problem stating that this is my favorite Radiohead album since 2001’s Amnesiac. With a band like Radiohead it can be a slippery slope to navigate. They’ve steadfastly presented themselves as outsiders, even whilst having their every move analyzed by tens of millions of fans. It’s an interesting position to be in – perhaps the most unusual in Rock n Roll history. When you are in that situation it is easy for reviewers to have long-winded philosophical discussions about what the band is trying to convey. And sometimes, an analysis of the music falls by the wayside. Make no mistake, A Moon Shaped Pool would stand on its own with or without Radiohead’s complicated history.
Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.
Radiohead easily could have ended up as 1 hit wonders from the 90’s based on their hit single Creep from the debut album, Pablo Honey. Angst filled lyrics, Nirvana-esque music – it was a perfect single that embodied the early to mid 90’s. The Bends – released in 1995 – was a reintroduction of sorts. A progressive element seeped into the music, with the abrasive songs balanced out by haunting melodic gems. Street Spirit was the 3rd single lifted from the record, and the 1st Top 5 UK hit for the band. For me, this song embodies everything that Radiohead would become over the next 20 years. Ghostly & emotional vocals by Thom Yorke backed by a band firing on all cylinders. The guitar refrain has to be one of the most haunting riffs Radiohead has ever created. In fact – I’ll go so far as to say that this remains my favorite Radiohead song. The lyrics present a contradiction of sorts, bleakness followed by the light. “All these things into position / All these things we’ll one day swallow whole / And fade out again and fade out again / Immerse your soul in love”. The video for the track adds to the emotional resonance of the song (embedded below). As a side note, my 2nd favorite Radiohead song is Talk Show Host – a b-side to the original single release of Street Spirit (Fade Out). It also succeeds admirably in creating its own atmospheric universe of isolation. Both tracks can be found on the deluxe reissue of The Bends.