THE MIRROR CRACK'D
RADIOHEAD, OXFORD APOLLO
Bring me your timid, your awkward, your huddled shoulders yearning to be somewhere, anywhere else. Not that America is short of auto-lacerating anti-heroes, but young Thom is the genuine article. Anyone who grew up in the shadow of UBS – Ugly Boy Syndrome, soon to have its own registered charity – will recognise the signs. And Radiohead are UBS made sound, the most convincing of all the current rockers who feed off the fury, bile and self-contempt that lurk like a geyser inside every geek. America, as I say, should love them. Everyone should love them – the happy, the confident, and the psychotic excepted. Because Radiohead, purveyors of desperate English neurosis, clearly want to rule the world. Megalomaniacal insecurity is what we're talking here. And they know how to go about it. Make a f***ing devastating rock record – already done, if the new material heard live is anything to go by – and take it to the States. That, no doubt, will come.
When Radiohead played Reading last year it was a pitiful spectacle. They looked stultified and weary. They've since undergone a reinvention of the kind usually associated with illegal booster shots, transplanted frog glands or born-again Christianity. F*** me, the fervour of them. I challenge any Godbothering zealot to tell me Jesus loves me with the same enthusiasm Thom puts into telling the world about how life sucks. That's rhetoric by the way. And evangelists who take me at my word will the tarred, feathered and dispatched from the scene with an inverted cross slung between the backs of runically daubed goats. Just thought I'd mention it.
“How,” asks my neighbour, “can a band sound this dinosaurish this early in their career?” She, of course, has never been an Ugly Boy and just doesn't understand, but she has a point. Radiohead are Classic Rock now. Very, very fine Classic Rock, and if you have a problem with that then you're on the wrong page, because here on page 20 we love Classic Rock, at least for this week and as long as it’s Radiohead who are making it. Gloriously good songs by thin English boys, on painkillers because they really need them. Frail bodies casting skeletal shadows, they soak the room with noise. Thom has a guitar-free mic pose that sums it up – park skulk, part hunch, part poisoned defiance. Look at me. Please don't look at me.
Thom patently desires to be invisible, to be massive, to bestride the Atlantic like a cringing colossus. Not that it'll help if he succeeds. He'll probably never feel different to the way he does now. He may shake off the curse of “Creep” – the new songs should see to that, at last – but he'll never shake off the feelings that spawned it. None of us ever do. The beauties, the beasts, the talents, the losers, the brightest and best, the dimmest and dullest. Every f***ing one of us wants to run and hide, then scream at the world when we reach shelter. And that's what each Radiohead song documents. Radiohead justify every self-inflicted wound with music that sounds like vindication, like bitter triumph, like revenge.