By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
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"I remember when Thom was recording 'Planet Telex,'" says Greenwood, "It was about 2 or 3 a.m., and he was lying on his back on the floor. I was just watching the television, thinking 'What is this?' It sounded really tedious. But then it all came together quite beautifully."
In fact, The Bends is among the best guitar-pop albums to come along in the past few years. Orbiting around Thom Yorke's lyrical self-analysis and catchy guitar riffs that range from straightforward acoustic to otherworldly hard rock, it was a literate man's International Pop Overthrow, with more the mood and intelligence of Ride or The Stone Roses backing it up.
Their latest effort is on the same level. Radiohead recorded about a third of OK Computer in a converted apple shed outside Bath, England, and the remainder in the Oxford country home of Jane Seymour. The choice of "studios" was an artistic decision.
"I think the intention was to bring it back around to the way it was in the beginning, just listening to ourselves record on a four-track," Selway says.
The result is an album that is even more spacious, atmospheric, and experimental than The Bends. And though it lacks some of the pop cohesiveness of its predecessor (perhaps owing to the fact that it was self-produced, whereas The Bends was overseen by John Leckie, one of the U.K.'s top producers), OK Computer is another step in the right direction for Radiohead.
Employing simple acoustic melodies as a base, then constructing elaborate--if not schizophrenic--structures around them, vocalist and songwriter Yorke has created yet another excellent album that begs a redefinition of the term "pop." Conforming neither to standard length nor structure, songs like "Airbag" and the single "Paranoid Android" are as complex as they are appealing--which basically means most radio station programmers aren't going to touch them.
"You're the second person today that's said that to us," Greenwood says. "And you're right. There's no 'Creep' on here. Actually, I think the sound of the record is more akin to a traditional '70s English rock album. It doesn't fit into the standard 1990s definition of what a rock album should sound like."
It's also much darker than The Bends, moving still farther away from the Material Issue or Oasis sound to a more sullen, perhaps even dreamy perspective. Radiohead has always been about contradictions, though, and their music can't be confined to a single depressing dimension.
"That's true even more so on this album," Selway says. "It's got quite acerbic lyrics on top, with a different feeling underneath. It's one of our many contradictions. Even within the same song, you'll often find quite opposite feelings."
In terms of marketability, Radiohead has lowered its expectations a lot since Pablo Honey, which basically just bought them the time and status to do what they please. "We're not a band who goes for easy options," Greenwood says. "So don't expect another big single."
They've always been a bit of an anomaly as a band, anyway (does "What the hell am I doing here?/I don't belong here/I don't belong here" ring a bell?). They say the absence of an identifiable "scene" in the U.K. makes them feel a bit more at ease now.
"In that sense," Greenwood says, "we fit in perfectly.