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Volume 91, Issue 10
Friday, September 12, 1997
British boys compute with O.K. London crowd
By Donna MacMullin and Carey Weinberg
It was like the sky opened and a band of tattered angels fell from the heavens. Strobe lights, colours, smoke and amplified squealing guitars set the stage for a Radiohead drama.
On tour for their latest album entitled Ok Computer, the band stopped in London for a show late in the summer to greet the young and eager crowd with their beautiful, yet jarring noise.
The last time this band was in town in the summer of '95, they played a riveting show at Call the Office, where their rehearsals and sound checks proved to be so successful that they were able to do some recording for the album. And lucky for London, they came back this summer for more.
This time, even as lead vocalist Thom Yorke wriggled across the stage like a severed worm, the songs rang out in perfect resonance and the audience looked on in a state of blissful awe.
Although one of the main criticisms received from this album was that it is much more mellow sounding than their previous two releases, The Bends and Pablo Honey, the band would like to think different dynamics added a positive dimension to their latest release.
"The Bends was more of an introspective album. With this one, we're looking out a little more," said Phil Selway, drummer of the band. "A harder edge is always relevant to what we do. This album is a bit more laid back, but I'd like to think there is still a bit of a bite there."
Selway's voice crackles over the phone from Oregon, just one of the sites the band stayed while on the first leg of their North American tour. The soft and friendly British droll was enough to make any Canadian girl melt as he carried on about the recent attention given to the album. "It's a bit overgushing really," he said. "It's hard to be objective when we criticize our own work. I guess there is a bit of false modesty on our part when everything seems so out of proportion and overwhelming. We can only smile really and take it all in."
Selway explained how many different sources of inspiration helped to produce the medley of sounds on Ok Computer, one of which being the recording site for the album a lovely house in Bath, England.
This was also the site where one of the most intriguing tracks on the album, "Fitter, Happier" was recorded. "The lyrics were something that Thom [Yorke] felt should be included, but we thought they really didn't fit into a song," Selway explained, adding the band decided to synthesize a voice through a computer to lend something different to the piece. "I think the sound gives it the effect of something teetering on the brink of being precious. It lends an emotional strand to the piece which is really much more extraordinary than anything we could achieve with a simple human voice."
"Our songs have never dealt with fluffy subjects really," he continued, adding that Yorke described the album as "kind of like a bunch of snapshots moving rapidly."
The same sort of feeling arose while watching Radiohead perform on stage. While the band certainly proved their bite is still there, the concert was kind of like a picture show a rapidly-moving, perfectly-developed film, which was definitely worth a thousand words from the fans.
Part of the spectacle of a concert is contained in the atmosphere of the venue. At one point in the performance, the obligatory mosh pit began. This phenomenon is perhaps the worst thing spawned by the grunge movement. While musing over this thought, Thom Yorke ceased wiggling, stood before this mass of moshers and said:
"You know these people who are pushing each other around you should stop because people at the front get hurt you know, and besides it's really annoying."
Thom Yorke not only wiggles, but he rocks.
The cadence of the music and the range of emotional territory the band traversed through the show is without a doubt the stuff that places them at the forefront of the music scene for what will probably be a long time.
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Copyright © The Gazette 1997