Radiohead, a ban so iconic and yet often only superficially appreciated that many have failed to recognized how they were, for at least a large period of time, the world’s biggest political band — the word’s most woke band.
To understand Radiohead one has to know their roots. The band formed in 1985 at Abingdon School, an elite private institution in the heart of the English countryside county of Oxfordshire. Their privileged early life influenced the band in ways it wouldn’t with others: the five members — Thom Yorke (lead vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards), Jonny Greenwood (lead guitar, keyboards, other instruments), Ed O’Brien (guitar, backing vocals), Colin Greenwood (bass), and Phil Selway (drums, percussion, backing vocals) — bonded over a common spirit of rebellion and radicalism, and translated those feelings to their music in impeccable fashion. The band’s anti-establishment roots further developed during the late 80’s period of indie expression, the same post-punk movement that took a decisive stance against Western (especially in Britain) conservatism and big corporation.
While Pablo Honey propelled them to fame, mostly thanks to hit single “Creep”, it wasn’t until The Bends that the band’s musical prowess really begun to shine, and with that the distinctively provocative and worrisome understanding of Western capitalism and its drowning effect on the youth of their time. Thom’s voice during The Bends began to morph into the sound we have since learned to love Radiohead for; a far more entrenched and socially mindful lyrical output that immediately transports listeners to a modern dystopia submerged with dread and paranoia. It was Ok Computer, however, that truly put Radiohead on the map. As Pitchfork recalls, “OK Computer was a perfectly realized global-capitalist horror film: a cinematic masterpiece in which airplanes crashed, yuppies networked, and the specter of the next world war loomed, while the sound of a beautifully warped Spaghetti Western soundtrack crackled ominously in the background.”
The band’s sound and lyrics married perfectly for the next few albums too, with 2000’s Kid A and 2001’s Amnesiac heralding an era where each of Radiohead’s members were as outspoken as ever about their their political stances. You see, OK Computer was political, but only through inference. It wasn’t until the following two albums that Radiohead took the foot of the break and went all out, allowing for every single piece of their music to become an outlet for their widespread opposition to global capitalism. Needless to say, 2003’s Hail to the Thief came full circle with its unmistakably anti-Bush rhetoric, while many have come to interpret the recent “Burn to the Witch” as an attack on recent United States President-Elect Donald Trump.
It’s important to not forget that Radiohead managed a feat not many other bands of their stature have: they allowed their music to constantly underscore their world views while remaining musically brilliant, constantly pushing the envelope artistically to the deserving praise of critics, peers and fans alike. Radiohead carved a niche of their own during two decades of rock explosion ranging from punk to indie, and alternative to Brit-pop, paving the way for three decades of unparalleled success that sees them at the top of today’s rock world with a headlining Coachella gig this coming April.
With all that said and done, however, Radiohead has long remained one of the hardest source of music to play during DJ sets. The ominous and dreary soundscapes they so brilliantly produce aren’t always the perfect fit for DJs, and aren’t exactly considered remix-friendly either. A selection of well-respected producers have, however, managed to take Radiohead material and give it a twist, remixing tracks to what we think are brilliant results.
While we are not advocating that these remixes did the originals the perfect justice, for that may be truly impossible, we present to you our favorite Radiohead remixes of all time, including work by Modeselektor, DJ Shadow, Four Tet and Caribou:
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