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Choking down a shit cigarette, mostly paper, the streets are lamplit at 7:30am at the bus station in an underpopulated Latvian dock town.
Sat down amongst old men in flatcaps who instantly fall asleep when the bus shakes over the bridge. I’m listening to A Moon Shaped Pool for the first time, looking over the river and into the sprawling post-Soviet landscape of warehouses, tower blocks, rusty cranes.
Burn the Witch says panic attack and I think I’m probably having one. Familiar tongue numbing fear of motion, scared dog arched up in the corner, stare at the back of the seat.
“This is a low-flying panic attack”
Halfway into Daydreaming, and thinking I would have turned this off already if it wasn’t Radiohead. Mind on other things — getting The Fear I’ve lost everything out of my pockets by leaving the house, feeling sick, bitter taste from that rank half-stuck rollup, slanted pine trees against the orange-grey sky and I’m pulled out of my state of glaze-eyed mind-whirring by the fever dream vocal echoes: Radiohead as I remember from ancient re-listens to In Rainbows. The piano line turns SID-chip distorted through some plastic clock radio.
After a typically mopey and uninteresting start, Daydreaming fully transforms into a intricately glitched collage of moans, mechanical strings, and textures I’ve never heard before but are unmistakably Radiohead. The collage gradually degrades into a near-silent drone, short palette cleanser before Decks Dark. And the bloke sat across from me has started up this obnoxious, raspy snoring.
“It’s the loudest sound you’ve ever heard…”
Wrecked by freezing rain and wind, the passing roadside grass is a sickly yellow, and the sky turns from orange-gray to the same gray tone you can expect here for the rest of the day until sunset. Coming into Talsi, the TV at the front of the bus shows forest panoramas abruptly interrupted by a video of a magician spinning neon circles. Nicotine wearing off, anxiously glancing at the time and wondering if an express bus that can travel halfway across the country in three hours really stops at a service station for the driver to get a rank sandwich.
Crumbled church on the hilltop, distant transmission tower.
Radiohead’s trademark trembling drones punctuated by seizure drumming, snare sounds like hitting a drainpipe with a stick.
“Panic is coming on strong”
Yorke’s on about panicking on public transport, and this one’s hitting a bit fucking close to the nerve, isn’t it, feeling like a Myspace girl from a decade back, sitting in her room relating to the widely applicable, vague lyrical ramblings of some floppy-fringed twat.
One listen in, and AMSP seems as if it can be defined from other releases by its use of strings, choirs, and themes of crippling anxiety that I’m probably only picking up on because I’m feeling similar.
White noise, soft triangle waves, Yorke’s voice as much of a drone texture as any other instrument. There are no bad songs on AMSP. In fact, there aren’t any bad songs in Radiohead’s discography that come to mind. No filler, no boring moments, no boring layers.
AMSP’s version of True Love Waits is definitely a departure from the one I’m used to, the off-balance looping of the skittish piano lines create their own evolving texture like the natural coincidences sometimes heard when two separate car alarms sync up and fall out of time by complete random chance.
Hoping there’s a service station somewhere along this route. Already passed two. The sun’s up behind the overcast sky. Everything’s still in my pockets. Bloke’s stopped snoring. The album stops, I’m left with the droning quiet of a bus full of strangers, strangely calm after the nightmarish panic moments in both the album and my head. The magician video’s come on rotation, filing out the bus onto the cracked tarmac, everything unsettlingly quiet.