EVERYTHING IN ITS RIGHT PLACE
(Presentation of the article in the NME Originals issue about Radiohead from 2003)
There are few groups who can successfully support the twin burdens of leftfield artistic endeavour and big-time bankability. We know one such group, though. A group who may be traumatised by existential woe and the futility of modern existence, but who nevertheless are able to fold this pain into difficult hits. A group who look funny on the outside, but who sound deep and beautiful on the inside.
The Cure, however, are not really with us. Instead we have Radiohead. A band who, just like them, have grown slowly but enormously in stature, while at the same time hitting increasingly abstract and bleak musical switches, the culmination of which were the two quasi-electronic albums of the last 18 months, 'Kid A' and 'Amnesiac' (records that spookily echoed the glacial angst of mid-period, early-'80s Cure - 'Faith' and 'Pornography', precisely). Now, however, with 'I Might Be Wrong', we have the first hint of a spiritual thawing, that Radiohead's ice age may be ending.
'I Might Be Wrong' is a live album made up of songs from the 'Kid A'/'Amnesiac' period, recorded over the last year in Oxford, Oslo, Berlin and Vaison La Romaine in France. Eyebrows were raised when it was revealed that Radiohead would be releasing a live collection of material from their last two LPs so soon, but you needn't spend too much time with 'I Might Be Wrong' to discover why they've done this. Put simply, 'I Might Be Wrong' sounds significantly better than both of the studio albums that spawned it.
Rather than 'live', 'I Might Be Wrong' should be billed as Radiohead's alive album. If 'Kid A'/'Amnesiac' were the epitome of sang-froid, of ghosts lost in the machine, then 'I Might Be Wrong' lets the flavour come flooding through those same songs. And boy, do these songs benefit from the investment of a little human frailty and tenderness.
'The National Anthem' hums with a wickedly buzzing bass noise, replacing its techno jazziness with a menacing new wave edge. A terrifically urgent 'Idioteque' sounds as if it's about to launch the tent into space as noise and melody collide in perfect harmony. The beautiful piano code of 'Like Spinning Plates'' ripples unobstructed, 'Everything In Its Right Place' reaps the percussive benefits of an audience clapping excitedly through it before spinning away into a woozy dub, and 'Morning Bell' speaks a persuasive kind of post-punk blues.
Best of all, though, is that shorn of studio trickery, 'I Might Be Wrong' is forced to highlight the gifts that make Radiohead special, the gifts deliberately disguised on 'Kid A'/'Amnesiac': that they write brilliant songs which Thom Yorke sings beautifully. And as Yorke coos his way through the towering declaration 'True Love Waits' (the only previously unrecorded song here), accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, it's a sound so clear and true that it's obvious why he's been making doe-eyes in interviews towards the electric guitar again. It's still his best form of musical communication. (8)