Australian Guitar - - Cover Story -

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.

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