Making Music, 1995
Sean McManus reviews Radiohead playing live in Birmingham on the second album day The Bends was released. This story first appeared in Making Music.
There's always a call for teen angst. Although Radiohead desperately want to escape from the instant association with their hit "Creep", there's something slightly unsettling and almost creepy about their performance. While the rest of the band shy away, Thom takes centre stage and acts out the anxiety the crowd is looking for. As he sings, he assumes positions as twisted and fragile as the melodies and gurns in a manner better known to Brighton pier than a rock arena. Confidently uncomfortable, Thom lets his voice flow over serrated guitar riffs, creating a strangely delicate mix. It's a far cry from their early days where volume was the yardstick to measure performance by.
The new songs are more sophisticated than some of Pablo Honey's feedback stomp-a-thons. "High and Dry" has a pop melody and gentle vocals Phil Collins would kill for if he had street cred and its single flip-side "Planet Telex" tip-toes where heavy meets mellow. This is electro-acoustic territory and Radiohead have set up camp for a long time. "We aren't the new U2," says Thom with an impish grin. "U2 are the new Radiohead." That's as may be, there's no one more likely to write the Rattle And Hum of the 90's. The strange mix of new-found mellow music and the closing guitar onslaught is held together by a tension that suggests Thom probably still hasn't found what he's looking for.