(Presentation of the article in the NME Originals issue about Radiohead from 2003)
Radiohead are evidently head and shoulders above the indie quagmire that spawned them and are struggling ever further towards the decadent penthouse suite with gilt Jacuzzi that is stadium rock stardom. Whether that’s a desirable development remains to be seen, but at this intermediate stage it’s enthralling viewing.
The studious reserve that once dulled their impact is long gone, and they’ve adopted a surly fifth form arrogance, thrashing, strutting and sneering and still managing to look and sound nothing like Birdland.
That’s because Radiohead are still essentially a song band, so they can marry the near-classic, spine-shuddering emotional resonance and vulnerability of “Creep” and “Prove Yourself” with the swaggering aggression of “Ripcord” or “How Do You?”. Nine times out of ten, a solo acoustic section in the encore would look like a painfully deliberate stab at showing sensitivity, but Thom Yorke is a naturally straight tunesmith with enough streaks of lyrics irony and self-loathing to earn respect from the most suspicious of anti-rockists.
They’ve finally got their looks in order, too. The most confused forehead in pop now appears satisfied with sporting a 1978 Barry Sheen cut the colour of school canteen custard, and Thom and Jonny make a fetching Daltrey and Townshend-ish double act.
While foot-on-monitor cock rock is alive and well in their sordid secret fantasies, they’re still kicking against the pricks and their own egos with the kind of inbred healthy-cynicism-meets-unbridled-enthusiasm of an indie band with a few (laudable) ideas above their station.