"It's Fucking Brilliant!"
Radiohead are having the time of their lives. Why? Because rock’s awkward squad are constructing a feel-good album of sunny, swaggering anthems that could be their greatest triumph yet.
They’re having fun again. After completing two records as semi-reclusive, button-punching boffins seemingly more at ease with drum machines than people, Radiohead are set to re-enter society as well-adjusted, fully-functioning human beings. Due for release in May, their sixth studio album – working titles 2+2=5 and Are You Listening? – is three months into its gestation period with long-time producer Nigel Godrich. Sessions began in Los Angeles’s Ocean Way Studios last September, with 16 tracks completed, another 10 ready to be tinkered with and mixing duties still to be tackled.
“On Kid A we were in a bad, paranoid place,” says guitarist Ed O’Brien. “Now, it’s fucking brilliant. There’s space and sunshine and energy in the songs, and you haven’t heard energy from us for a long time.”
Drummer Phil Selway puts this emotional rehabilitation down to last summer’s short tour of Spain and Portugal, a busman’s holiday that allowed the band to test-drive a series of new songs – including Go To Sleep, Punch Up At A Wedding. Sail To The Moon and Up On The Ladder – all of which will appear on the new record, albeit in slightly tweaked form.
“I don’t think we’ve ever felt so self-assured in the studio,” says Selway. “This time no shit hit the fan. And Thom’s voice has been incredible. That’s the stand out element for me. He’s reminded us that he’s in a league of his own.”
While palpably excited, Selway and O’Brien are cautious about giving away too much at such an early stage. They’re unwilling to confirm or deny rumours that they will play this year’s Glastonbury festival, for example, but will at least confess to plans for UK live dates – their first since playing Oxford’s South Park on 7 July 2001 – following after the album’s release. Really though, they’re simply so uncharacteristically excited about the new music they can’t discuss much else.
“You know that time when bands begin to swagger, like when the Stones got in a groove from ‘68 to ‘73? In the last two years, I think we’ve done that,” says O’Brien. “To me, this record feels like the culmination of the best bits of The Bends, OK Computer, Kid A and Amnesiac.”
“We want people to hear it,” adds Selway. “Maybe in the past we haven’t pursued that route and the music hasn’t reached as many people as it could. This time, it warrants some kind of attention.”