27 April 2007

Radiohead's deus ex machina returns

Radiohead: Airbag/How Am I Driving? EP
A decade ago, Radiohead took a revolutionary sharp left turn in the progression of rock, turning from traditional structure and guitar-driven melodies to heavily manipulated, computer-driven works of almost Baroque structure.

The 10-year anniversary of OK Computer isn't going unnoticed. Almost preemptively we have the glorious re-release of their celebrated EP: Airbag/How Am I Driving? a seven-track mini-album parallel to the LP that should have been titled "What Could Have Been." This EP, first released in 1998, was initially ignored by all but completionists, and the poor sales halted production. Of course, once it went out of print it went from being a ubiquitous item in the "R - misc." slot in used CD stores to a $70 collector's item on eBay.

Thankfully for devotees who embraced rather than turned away from the alien soundscapes, this gift reappeared and is available again in the same unadorned format as the original. While the first track is the same as its Big Sister (save for the hallmark beeps counting down the lead-in to the revolutionary "Paranoid Android") the EP follows with what are now considered to be the "classic" Radiohead sound.

"Pearly" sounds like a bridge between "Exit Music (For a Film)" and The Bends' "Just" while the instrumental "Meeting in the Aisle," maintains the air-travel theme of the era and offers a glimpse into the increasingly detached, nonhuman future-sound. "Polyethylene (Parts 1&2)" also reaches back to The Bends in sound, suggesting the EP was a late-released prequel to OK Computer, ushering in the golden era of this influential UK group.

Radiohead - Palo Alto.mp3
Buy the Airbag/How Am I Driving? EP

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