|Chicago Tribune, july 1st 1993|
Alternative Guitar Rock Shows Its Many Moods
by Brad Webber
The Trash Can Sinatras and Radiohead, two quintets from the British Isles, may be the yin and yang of alternative guitar rock - with the former's dizzyingly textured strumming playing against the latter's acidic, driving picking.
Oxford, England's Radiohead plunged into the maelstrom of guitar-centered rock as the headliner of the soldout show Wednesday night at Metro.
Dressed like the mod, odd denizens of The Village from the '60s TV show "The Prisoner," singer/guitarist Thom E. Yorke and lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood ambled about in horizontal striped sailor shirts anchored by dark jeans.
Holding his arms as if constrained by a straitjacket, Yorke mumbled his way through the caustic "Creep," a modern rock track of minor notoriety, thanks to MTV. The rather waggish rendition ("I want you to notice/I'm something special/So (expletive) special/Cause I'm a creep") spurred a sing-along. Part farce, part act of self-realization, the deprecating tune was hammered out with conviction by Yorke.
Throughout the 17-song, hour-plus set, the platinum-locked Yorke - an unlikely sex object at about 110 pounds wet - staggered about in a Jagger-style, buttocks-out chicken walk. Facial contortions are the singer's stock in trade: He pouted, almost breaking into a full-blown bawl in spots.
Riveted to the feedback-riddled sound, second guitarist Ed O'Brien's guitar wobbled with superb wah-wah effects on "Stop Whispering."
Like most of the songs grabbed from the group's debut album "Pablo Honey" (Capitol), "Anyone Can Play Guitar" left little white space as the three guitarists filled every gap with blazing, sometimes groovy ("Puck is Dead") licks.
Likewise drowsy, the Trash Can Sinatras weighed in with rich, resonant strumming and lyrics suggesting Highland peat bogs and languishing coastal tides. Singer Frank Reader, absorbed by his own folksy minstrelsy, lurched spastically on the lip of the stage, encouraging a rapport that was slow in coming.
"Hayfever," from the troupe's second album, "I've Seen Everything" (London/Go!Discs), finally garnered appreciation, along with "Obscurity Knocks," from 1991's "Cake" LP.
Guitarists Paul Livingston (who also performed backing-vocal duties) and John Douglas, bassist David Hughes and drummer Stephen Douglas reeled in melodious pop hooks tempered by the misty broodiness typical of pasty-skinned U.K. bands. Compared with the band's fine LPs, the set was a bit disappointing, though; the song "I've Seen Everything" lacked the melancholy brass accompaniment that proved crucial. And Reader's voice was lost in the cavernous reverberations of bass early on. But the Trash Cans finally latched onto the right mix and delivered dreamy, trance-inducing frets.