Radiohead

I fell for Radiohead on a rainy, late summer day in 1994. It was the day I bought Pablo Honey, which was probably one of the first dozen CDs I owned. The songs clicked with me immediately and seemed to be full of unrequited love and self deprecation, which is the stuff adolescence is made of.

I’ve been thinking about you, so how can you sleep
These people aren’t your friends, they’re paid to kiss your feet
But they don’t know what I know, and why should you care
When I’m not there

Radiohead has probably denounced Pablo Honey and ‘Creep’ in particular a million times over since then, claiming it was all just a joke, but it certainly didn’t feel like it at the time. It felt like we were meant to be together.

At this point it’s hard for me not to refer to the entirety of the lyrics on that album because there were so many that I latched on to. I think it’s still one of my favorite albums of all time, in part because I don’t really think I had heard anything like it before.

However, I know I would list The Bends as my favorite Radiohead album because it went far beyond the way I saw them after Pablo Honey. After I got a little sick of Pablo Honey‘s depressed guitar wallowing The Bends seemed to soar beyond guitars and lyrics, towards 1996 and the future. It had promise.

OK Computer was spacier, but I still liked it. I think it still had some great lyrics, even if things seemed to be getting a little fuzzy. I’ve got nothing against songs about cars and aliens, but they’re further along the spectrum of what I can relate to.You could sing along to it though.

Though I spent a lot of time with those first two albums, a big part of the way I felt about Radiohead was influenced by connections between me and other people in the years after those albums came out. I lent my copy of The Bends to a girl in my art class that I had a crush on and never saw it again. (My only hope is that she liked it as much as I did.) One of the first close friendships I had after moving to Montreal was solidified in part because of our use of random song lyrics (lots of Radiohead) in conversation. One of the best memories I have of another close friend is taking her to see Christopher O’Riley play his versions of Radiohead songs in a church during a crazy thunderstorm one long, hot summer. This is the way that Radiohead was woven into my life.

I remember meeting lots of people who would talk at length about how much they loved Radiohead after OK Computer and Kid A came out. I’d always tell them they should listen to some Catherine Wheel. My point never got across though, and it was becoming more and more obvious to me that whatever people seemed to like about OK Computer wasn’t what I had liked about Radiohead from the beginning.

I never even bought Kid A. I remember hearing some things from it and just finding it weird, cold and distant. Maybe this was the point? At any rate, it was like trying to cuddle with a robot. There was no emotion there anymore.

Now when people talk about Radiohead, it just kind of makes me sad. As a band, they’re kind of empty to me. I don’t see what makes them so popular at this point. It’s not that I begrudge them fame and critical acclaim, it’s just that I simply don’t get them anymore.

This brings us to the playlist, which contains some of my favorite Radiohead songs, and a few covers. These are some examples of songs that I particularly enjoy. The lyrics are strong and the melodies are simple, or in the case of the ‘Karma Police’ cover, the melodies are complex and the lyrics are missing. It ends with what’s probably my favorite Radiohead song ever, ‘Talk Show Host’.

You want me, well fucking come and find me
I’ll be waiting with a gun and a pack of sandwiches
And nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing

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Morrissey & The Smiths

The last First Impressions post was really no indication of the way the series will be set up. If the original explanation seemed scattered and vague it was for good reason. I intend for these posts to be kind of all over the place.

Today though, I want to give you some snippets of my first exposure to Morrissey and The Smiths.

This video doesn’t really make any sense, but I don’t think it needs to. It was 1994 and Morrissey is in a hallway of swinging lamps. I’m willing to bet that this is the first Morrissey song I ever heard, and it makes me wish every karaoke bar carried his whole catalogue. I’ll take something like this over I Will Survive anyday.

As for The Smiths, I’ll set another scene for you: It was Election Day 1994 (always in November, for those of you not in the US) and I set up a blank tape in my stereo to record the 20 minutes of radio I’d be missing when I walked with my mother to her polling station. Matt Pinfield had promised to play The Smiths, followed by a debut by Oasis (Definitely Maybe was brand new, and they were featuring it that week). Up until that point I think I only knew The Smiths by reputation.

I was pretty into Oasis at that point. The ad in Spin magazine for Definitely Maybe had a 1-800 number you could call to hear clips of the album and I would call it from the pay phone in the church parking lot on the nights I was forced to attend.

I remember coming home and listening to these two songs together and realizing how easy The Smiths were to like. It’s only now that I see more lines drawn between the two songs (two bands from Manchester, two melancholic songs about marriage).

The rain falls hard on a humdrum town, This town has dragged you down

There’s no need for you to say you’re sorry, Goodbye I’m going home

The Smiths got to me with their wordy lyrics and jangly guitars, and song titles that sounded like the answers to questions people were asking me all the time. I fell for them pretty quickly after that.

As for the few bonus tracks on the playlist, I’ve included Radiohead‘s live cover of The Headmaster Ritual a song “about when we were younger, but we didn’t write it”, because it makes me wish Radiohead would devote themselves to being a Smiths cover band from now on, (just my opinion, I know).

And a few songs best enjoyed as you sink into your bed at night, into the utter loneliness. Enjoy!

The Smiths – Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me

Nine Inch Nails – Something I Can Never Have