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Radiohead - Airbag/How Am I Driving? CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.83 | 54 ratings

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4 stars I had the luck to pick this up at a used CD store very inexpensively and at risk of sounding cliched, it was a steal! Although I could not give it 5 stars because there is a sense of some promising ideas not quite developed as far as they could be (and as with many RADIOHEAD works, I wish it had come with lyrics because I can barely understand what's being said even though English is my native language!), I must say, what is there--is extremely beautiful, and I honestly consider this almost up there with the two albums it resembles the most. Stylistically, the album seems somewhere in between The Bends and OK Computer, although not quite "classifiable" as either.

"Meeting in the Aisle" is unlike anything I have ever heard from RADIOHEAD, and is to my mind the best track on the album. It has an electronic, almost world-beat kind of sound, and I admire the unusual scale and pitch bending used here, which gives it hints of Asia or the Middle East. This appealed very much to me as a fan of artists such as PINK FLOYD, RICK WRIGHT, and PETER GABRIEL, who seem to delight in intricately layered, synth and effect-heavy, unusual pieces. The other thing I appreciate...although one might tend to automatically think of it as dark, like almost all other RADIOHEAD pieces, this one has in my opinion room for interpretation by the listener. Most of the time I enjoy THOM YORKE's singing, but this was definitely one time where he was most effective by not singing--this song does not have to be melancholy. It can be if you want, but it can also be adventurous, exciting, mysterious, and even uplifting if you are not too put-off by the unusual scales. This is an overlooked gem!

"Airbag", of course, is an excellent track, which featured on OK Computer, where I think it was one of the standout tracks along with "Subterranean Homesick Alien", "Let Down", and "Climbing up the Walls". "Pearly": Some very interesting guitar tones from JONNY GREENWOOD here, and an entrancing rhythm that seems typical of the Bends/OK Computer era. Was not one of the major standouts, though.

"A Reminder": This track had an almost PINK FLOYD-like connotation; the ambient sound effects were reminiscent of many PF works, and the keyboard work sounds quite similar to RICK WRIGHT's ethereal Farfisa work typical of earlier albums such as More and Ummagumma. This immediately drew me in, and I very much enjoyed it.

"Polyethylene": Promising, but it had a raw, unfinished sound. I am wondering, though-- was this deliberate? It sounds remarkably like something from SYD BARRETT's The Madcap Laughs, where due to BARRETT's problems at the time, there were a lot of interruptions, abrupt changes in the music, and overheard comments from the studio. I especially like what this track turns into in Part 2, particularly the synth and the crisp percussion work.

"Melatonin": Beautiful, lyrical synth-string work here, very melancholy (perhaps the word the song's title is intended to evoke?). It has an almost yearning sound to it reminiscent of the end of "Street Spirit" ("Immerse your soul in love..."). I admit I cannot understand the lyrics, so I'm going on the tone of the music and voice alone. It actually becomes very uplifting. I like the way the bass and percussion are understated here--very effective with that synth work. This is one of the songs, though, that I wish were extended into a fuller piece, so it does indeed leave a sense of yearning, wanting something more that doesn't quite come. "Palo Alto": An enjoyable, rocking tune, but as with "Pearly", not a total standout from the rest of their work of that era.

All in all, a quality effort that I consider myself very lucky to have found, but its major flaw is that it leaves the listener wanting...where is the rest? It would certainly be nice to see some of these ideas extended, espeically "Meeting in the Aisle", "Melatonin", "A Reminder", and "Polyethylene".

FloydWright | 4/5 |


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