One of the key challenges with this band is that they’ve made so many radical changes from album to album, that they’re in constant competition with themselves, more so than with most bands. In the opinions of many, this record didn’t quite hold up to Kid A and Amnesiac. Yet, to be fair, very few albums held up in comparison to those, so the point about stiff competition within their own catalogue and without is proven.
But I think that HttT featured some of the band’s best work, this track included, and I think it can be argued that the group managed to synthesize their strengths into a record that still sounds like Radiohead. And they’ve done so without sacrificing one texture over another to an impressive degree here. Love them or hate them, they’ve been able to pull off this trick better than most. And it’s no easy trick.
On this track, they play pretty close to the sound they established on 1997’s OK Computer. But even on that album, the group added texture by way of electronics to separate them from the sound they created for themselves as a straight-up guitar band, writing songs on their own terms, seemingly in reaction to none. And this track proves that you can do that, and still serve a rock sound without crossing into ‘dance-rock’ territory, which to me would lose the subtlety of the music entirely.
Overall on this track and many others on this same album, Radiohead make the ominous atmospherics and aggressive guitars and drums work together without anyone seeing the seams. It’s easy enough, given the asset of Thom Yorke’s voice, and Jonny Greenwood’s dexterity when it comes to constrasting texture and arrangement. And Phil Selway is a vastly underrated drummer, even in the face of Yorke’s recent tendency to turn to the laptop for beats.
A lot of the criticisms placed against this album were unfair, but a lot weren’t. It’s too long, and the pacing suffers greatly as a result. They corrected this with 2007’s In Rainbows to a larger degree. But, for songs that work on an individual basis such as this one, the record is as undeniable as anything the group has put out.
One thing this band has always believed in is grass roots communications with fans, in place well before the recent “pay what you can” marketing innovation that everyone but the band themselves viewed as revolutionary. As such, it’s worth checking out the official Radiohead website for blog entries, podcasts, and other assorted information.
To hear more music including unreleased materials, check out Radiohead Myspace page