No Surprises: The Top 20 Radiohead Songs
It’s not easy to pick a favorite Radiohead song, let alone create an entire top 100 list, butAmerican Songwriter scribe Jim Beviglia has managed to do just that in his book No Surprises: Radiohead’s Best 100 Songs. Whether you’re a die-hard fan, a casual listener or a Radiohead newbie looking for a place to start, this book will provide an in-depth and insightful look at one of the music industry’s most celebrated bands. Here’s a list of Beviglia’s top 20 Radiohead songs, taken from the book.
20. “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”
As the second guitarist in a band in which Jonny Greenwood usually plays lead guitar, it’s understandable how Ed O’Brien often falls off the radar in band discussions. And yet the steadiness of his playing is integral to the band’s success, because it allows Jonny to go off on his daredevil flights and sonic experiments knowing that the core of the song will remain strong. On “Street Spirit,” O’Brien’s steadiness becomes brilliance right before our ears, playing arpeggios that tug at the heartstrings with every clarion note. From there the rest of the song can be built, and yet, at the end, it comes back to the arpeggios once again, not quite fading out so much as bidding us a melancholy farewell (and bidding a farewell to The Bends as well.) Thom Yorke has spoken about the dark alleyways that his lyrics traverse here, as they alternate between desperate hope and resigned despair, despair getting the better of it. Some light creeps in as Yorke sings “Immerse yourself in love” at song’s end, piercing through the Gregorian chant backing vocals, but it’s fleeting. Through it all, those arpeggios persevere. In a way, they keep “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” from being too dark, melancholy as they may be. O’Brien’s playing presses on through it all, unwavering, courageous even, beckoning us to do the same, steady as we go.
19. “Jigsaw Falling Into Place”
Thom Yorke on the club scene. Who woulda thunk it? Yet here he is on this In Rainbows track, nailing the inner workings of a one-night-stand-to-be with lothario cool and anthropological attention to detail. His descriptions, all flash cuts and quick shots, are practically cinematic. The band makes a typically atypical move here; whereas the obvious choice might have been to go back to some of the artificial rhythms of Kid A or Amnesiac to portray the desired atmosphere, Radiohead goes with a whooshing acoustic groove that keeps right up with one of Yorke’s more wordier compositions. The vibe of the song is reminiscent of “Hazy Shade Of Winter” by Simon & Garfunkel, which gives an indication of the level of songcraft on display. Yorke’s lyrics get short shrift sometimes, but they shouldn’t be ignored here. He nails the impossibility of true connection between these two damaged souls, impassively rifling off his observations as if he were reading them from notes he had taken. He finally takes off in the chorus, warning his protagonists that, while they seek such fleeting physical pleasures to feel more alive, they’ll end up having no more choice as to how things turn out than inanimate puzzle pieces forever fated to end locked in the same position. “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” is some of the sexiest music the band has ever laid down, even as the song itself clinically deglamorizes the act of hooking up.
Click here to read the rest of the Top 20.