015: Radiohead “Pyramid Song” [Capitol/EMI; 2001]
True confession time: I’ve never heard a complete Radiohead album in my life. Seriously. I just don’t seek that shit out. It’s just really not my thing, soI don’t bother, except… A few years ago, there I was, reclining in the Brinks-like tomb of Fort Snob, lecturing a select crowd of stuffed animals about the proper maintenance of my Borbetomagus collection, safe in the knowledge that I was the undisputed lord of a Radiohead-free zone (and for a while, such spaces were all too rare), when– ninja-like, with a stealthy flutter of jazz piano chords and tumbling snares– in crept That Voice singing a melody so goddamn gorgeous that Fort Snob kinda caved in and went all mushy inside. I jumped into the river, and black-eyed angels swam me to an obsidian necropolis where The One Great Radiohead Song lies dead but dreaming. It was a painful episode and I’d rather not talk about it; here at the Yorke-Greenwood Institute for Recovering Music Snobs we’re told to take it one day at a time.
075: Radiohead “There There” [EMI; 2003]
Such is our love for Radiohead that “Creep”, instead of haunting the band well into their sine-wave phase, has been– in a rare show of fanboy magnanimity–quietly dismissed as juvenilia. That’s too bad, actually, because it contains more than a germ of the Radiohead to come. The song’s biggest hook, for instance, was not the Explosive Chorus (a sad cliche by 1993) but the two terrifying string slaps that preceded it: A device so simple it had every guitarist in the world surprised how in the hell hadn’t they thought of it first. On “There There”, Radiohead manage to top themselves in the same department: the nervous center of the song is, unbelievably, a drum fill. You know which one: it ends the tune. Composed of two robotic, Dave Grohl-style snare rolls, three 16th-notes each, it sounds almost exactly like Greenwood’s “Creep” figure; the rest of the song is so accomplished it’s a yawn to describe– a gorgeous vocal singing about a siren singing you to shipwreck (!), terrifically twisty changes, complicated yet totally lucid mix– but it’s this weird little self-salute reaching from 2003 to 1993 that makes it, well, perfect. –Michael Idov