Single Review: Radiohead “Paranoid Android”

Paranoid Android
Album: Ok Computer
Year: 1997

Thom Yorke resists becoming the bored, greedy surburbanite in the stinging “Paranoid Android.”

A contemplative guitar opens the single.Yorke asks his neighbor to stop mowing the lawn. His mind has been buzzing with fearful thoughts. He thinks he hears something and inquires as to what it is. A low voice says in the background that while he may be unsettled, he has not lost himself to capitalism. (“Please could you stop the noise, I’m trying to get some rest/From all the unborn chicken voices in my head/What’s that…? (I may be paranoid, but not an android)
What’s that…? (I may be paranoid, but not an android.”)

He can’t stand people who have left themselves become bean counters. It’s those “androids” he will have destroyed if he ran the country. Their opinions are like everybody else’s which in the end, don’t matter. (“When I am king, you will be first against the wall/With your opinion which is of no consequence at all/What’s that…? (I may be paranoid, but no android/What’s that…? (I may be paranoid, but no android.”)

The guitar strums with some quiet rage for nearly a minute or so. He sees an old friend who is now rich and stepped on many toes to have money. He dresses in Gucci and overindulges in expensive possessions. The person pretends to not know him, causing Yorke to go into a rage. The guitars seethe in response. (“Ambition makes you look pretty ugly/Kicking and squealing gucci little piggy/You don’t remember/You don’t remember/Why don’t you remember my name?/Off with his head, man/Off with his head, man/Why don’t you remember my name?/I guess he does.”)

A storming guitar solo follows. It then segues into a unsteady calm as Yorke cries “ahhh.”
He collapses, pleading for his sanity. (“Rain down, rain down/Come on rain down on me/
From a great height/From a great height… height/Rain down, rain down/Come on rain down on me/From a great height/From a great height… height/Rain down, rain down/Come on rain down on me…”)

The low voice returns, telling Yorke he must become an android now. He will play football like the other clean-cut neighborhood boys. He will attend lunches with young professionals to get an edge. He will deal with nothing but stress. It’s all for his own good. (“That’s it, sir
You’re leaving/The crackle of pigskin/The dust and the screaming/The yuppies networking/
The panic, the vomit/The panic, the vomit/God loves his children, God loves his children, yeah!”)

The guitars come back but are frantic and scattered, as though they are figuring out what to do.

The multi-faceted “Paranoid Android” has aspects of 1984 in it, particulary as he is taken away at the end. It’s as though for years he hid as a regular person, faking to be an “android” to get through life. The fear truly does set in until the end, though. However, Yorke has been on edge since the beginning of the single. Accomplished and intelligent “Paranoid Android” effectively addresses the issue people being complacent about their role as drones in the workplace and in society.

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Single Review: Radiohead “Creep”

Creep
Album: Pablo Honey
Year: 1993

Out of all the bands who emerged from the grunge era, it was Radiohead who would survive. In the early 90s, Radiohead was just another Britpop band trying to build a fanbase and sell enough records to make another album. By 2000, they had reinvented themselves as abstract rockers and were dubbed the “best band of its generation” by CDNow.

According to GreenPlastic.com, “Creep” is about a drunken guy who sees a girl at a party but can’t gather the courage to make a strong first impression.

Baffled guitars and drums begin the single. Thom Yorke practices his conversation before he speaks to her. He decides to he’s going to own up to his nervousness and intimidation. He will compliment her on her fair skin, sweet personality and graceful walk. He ends it by saying he wishes he could as unique as she is. (“When you were here before/couldn’t look you in the eye/You’re just like an angel/your skin makes me cry/You float like a feather/in a beautiful world/I wish I was special/you’re so f***** special.”)

Surrendering guitars reverberate in the chorus. Yorke has stopped walking towards the girl and shrugs his shoulders. He puts himself down, shaming himself for ever thinking he has a chance. He feels out of his element. (“But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo/What the hell am I doing here?/I don’t belong here.”)

He wishes to be one of those aggressive guys who hits on a girl like she’s a baseball. He could careless if it meant he would be a worse off person. He just wants the ability to speak to her without being afraid. He also wishes it she who was afraid of him. He feels the social pressures that women face: not fitting the ideal image and feeling guilty about it. He wants her to remember him. She’s a one-in-a-million girl and compared to her, he’s ordinary. (“I don’t care if it hurts/I want to have control/I want a perfect body/I want a perfect soul/I want you to notice/when I’m not around/You’re so f****** special/I wish I was special.”)

The chorus’ melody continues but in a higher pitch. Yorke sings in falsetto that she’s leaving the party with some of her friends. (“She’s running out the door/she’s running/she run, run, run, run, run.”) The surrendering guitars return to join Yorke as he lets out a heartsick cry of “run.”

In the last verse, he comments she’s living her life as she pleases, unaware of him. (“Whatever makes you happy/whatever you want/You’re so f****** special/I wish I was special.”)

The single ends quietly with the guitars and the drums comforting him. He dejectedly says tha that he’s “a creep, I’m a weirdo…I don’t belong here.”)

Although it may be hard to believe but “Creep” was played ad nauseam on the radio. I took the brilliance of music back then for granted. I assumed it would always be there and so I didn’t pay much attention. If I heard it today, the radio would still be on. Even if it was the third time I heard it. Songs like “Creep” make me miss the early 90s.

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