ED O’BRIEN & JONNY GREENWOOD
When Radiohead started off, their sound was dense and colourless, with O’Brien and frontman Thom Yorke playing big, distorted chords and leaving Greenwood to lay out the tasty licks. What made them so important and inspirational was what gradually happened next.
After the huge “Creep”led success of their debut album, Pablo Honey, the band started to get a bit more thoughtful about their sound. The songwriting became more complex – fans were initially confused as hell by the sevenminute indieprog vibe of “My Iron Lung” – but the intertwining riffs and carefully curated sounds of The Bends led to the groundbreaking OK Computer, where the guitarists learned two valuable lessons: firstly, that sound is sometimes more important than melody; and secondly, that not everyone has to play all the time. For example, O’Brien doesn’t play on “Karma Police” at all until the coda, when the guitars finally kick in.
Over the last two decades, they have refined that process even more, to the point where it’s often impossible to tell who is playing what on which instrument. Truly, it’s the perfect example of players surrendering their own musical egos to the greater good of the song.