Pickled Onion Head

So I bought the new Radiohead album, the worryingly Coldplay-esque titled “A Moon Shaped Pool”. I had heard the first single “Burn The Witch”, seen the inevitable genius video and read the glowing reviews about the number one album in the country. I downloaded it with fervour on Saturday, as I thought it would be the perfect accompaniment to the two hour drive myself and my girlfriend had to undertake in order to reach my sister’s house for the annual Eurovision-drink-a-thon (more on that later).

I love Radiohead. From my first listen of The Bends in 1995 to the unrelenting scratches that cover my CD copy of The King of Limbs in 2011 I have regarded them as the highest notch on my musical influence broom handle. As individuals they are not perfect studio musicians with unlimited technique. Thom Yorke always sounds like he’s half way through eating a pickled onion and Philip Selway’s drumming seems like he’s been dragged away from a very hot bath and is eager to return. An old friend and past band member of mine once said that you could play any music you wanted to a dog underwater, and it would think it was Radiohead.

All this aside, I think that they are possibly the most consistently astounding band ever to grace my eardrums (The Beatles don’t count because I don’t regard them as a band, just as flowers don’t regard the Sun as a big hot yellow wobbly thing in the sky). Radiohead continually evolve, reshaping their style and presence like a virus. Just as there is no cure for the common cold, so too there is no tiring of what Radiohead can produce. Plus, they always seem to prove me wrong.

Before we set out on our car journey I had a quick listen to the bulk of the tracks on the album, just to get a feel for the mood. The first song is the aforementioned first single, a perfect melding of intrigue and expectation with just a light dusting of danger. I imperceptibly salivated at what might come next. Four tracks later I felt slightly sick. Hollow. This can’t be right? Yes it was all very well crafted music with sweeping choral strings, but where were the SONGS?! I expected to hear something that would make me either want to dance, cry or become a Norwegian performance artist, but this was just, nothing. After 30 seconds of track six I noticed myself hit the skip button on my iPod. Surely not? I felt my physical form slump into a chair and by track nine I was dead inside.

My other half clicked her seatbelt into place and adjusted the drivers chair while I put the overnight bag in the boot and shut my jacket in the passenger door of our hire car. It was not until we were safely in the warm arms of the M25 that I decided to give the album a second chance. I tried to sync my iPhone to the cars Bluetooth music player and after a short ice age (which largely comprised of me being sweary at technology) the speakers were warbling with music.

Fuck. I was an idiot. They duped me, again. The album is perfect. Everything. Everything from the unashamed bass lines, right through the twitch-inducing groovy drums and all the way up the back of the ethereal guitar tones to the hypnotising vocals of old pickled onion face.

If my band recorded an album like that (we wouldn’t be able to) then we would have doors all over London slammed in our faces. Not hooky enough. Where’s the catchy chorus? We need more oooooooh’s so festival crowds off their heads on MDMA can sing along.

How do they do it? How do they get away with it? Mainly it’s because Radiohead have already done that, proved their talent and now they have tenure to record whatever the hell they want. So many artists get to that point and just release limp shadows of their previous sound (Mr Gallagher I’m looking at you) but not so with any of Radiohead’s last 3 albums. They just keep morphing into a group that moulds my jelly brain into a new shape.

With regards to the Eurovision party, there was Champagne, beer, brandy, various sickly fruit cocktails, pizza and more cocktails. My 5 year old niece was at the point of tears when the “pretty man” from Russia didn’t win and to be honest by the time the UK entry came on stage I was so drunk I couldn’t spell UK.

C x

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