Who knew there was a vault of 90’s Radiohead songs sounding like 90’s Radiohead songs which would be released 20 years later? 3 new studio tracks that could win back all those fans who couldn’t make the leap when OK Computer was left behind and the experimentation of Kid A stole ‘their band’ away from them? Who knew? Radiohead knew. But they went the long way round anyway.
I Promise sounds like it slipped between the grooves on OK Computer because it did. It’s just as perfect and haunting and uniquely ‘of’ 90’s Radiohead as Street Spirit or Airbag or Blackstar or Exit Music (for a Film).
Since Kid A made their appeal more selective and they found their newer ‘quirk’ strangeness and charm driven sound in the squark boxes and mellotrons, many ageing Radiohead fans sat on the side lines. Bemoaning their ‘weird new phase’ and their disappearance ‘up their own arses’ these once progressive Indie thinkers were now cast as luddites. They could try and console themselves with Muse and a bit of Pavement, but it wasn’t the same.
I’m not usually one for expanded editions of by gone classics. Who’s Next does not benefit from 3 different versions of Bargain as it was already perfect in it original release. Had you asked me I would have said the same for OK Computer.
I have to hand it to team Radiohead though. OKNOTOK is the way to reissue an album. The original recording is brought up to modern standards (Though we can never really say it was a muggy or patchy job in the first place). All the B-Sides are there. There are live versions and alternative mixes of songs that are still fascinating in their original incarnation and then there’s this trio of unreleased studio recordings that were good enough to make it on to the record first time round but just didn’t fit. It’s a bumper package. But I’m only here for those 3 tracks really. Bosh them out on a 12″ single and save me £60 please.
I’m highlighting I Promise here as it was the one they pushed the release of the box set with. So it’s been on the radio and stuff. I might do another post on Man Of War and Lift at a later date because right now I can’t tell if they’re also some of the best music Radiohead has released in over 20 years, or if that huge wave of false nostalgia I feel from hearing a new Radiohead song and not having to try and ‘get it’ before I can love it is just my mind playing tricks on me.
This is the record people thought they wanted after OK Computer. Radiohead knew better and gave them something else entirely. Now that 1997 is a distant foreign land it’s magical to be projected back there with such vivid clarity.