Radiohead

Airbag/How Am I Driving?

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Once the incredible OK Computer went platinum, proving (at last) to be as impressive to the populace as to the press, Capitol salivated for quick new product, with a new LP two years away. Fortunately for the company that made Sinatra and the Beatles famous, their powerhouse Oxford five had been releasing B-sides in the U.K., on the back of the singles "Paranoid Android," "Karma Police," and "No Surprises." Presto!! Out pops this seven-song mini-LP, basically the LP's "Airbag" and six B-sides. Mind you, Radiohead are effective judges of their own material. Unlike many U.K. bands, they never serve up a non-LP track so fantastic it should have made the first team. But Airbag is a fine purchase, as their lesser material is still provocative, ambitiously stretching (Thom Yorke and pals take a few chances, such as the spacy instrumental here, "Meeting in the Aisle"), and, as usual, clash several moods together at once. So, if you didn't buy the expensive English singles, get this. You can't go wrong with the pile-driving "Palo Alto." Like the other true standout, "Polyethylene, Pts. 1 & 2," it deliciously comes off its hinges on a dirty-sounding guitar slash in the chorus (a nerve-racking churn comparable to the Kinks' smashed-up riff in "You Really Got Me"), triggering a descending, scary guitar trill that oddly echoes the keyboard solo in Frankie "Boom Boom" Cannon's 1963 number 3 hit "Palisades Park." Typically traumatic! One loud boo, though, to all concerned, for omitting the fine, gently moving "Lull" (from the "Karma Police" U.K. single). Likewise, where's the curious, glassy voice-and-piano fragmentary vignette "How I Made My Millions" off the "No Surprises" single? Or the live versions of "Airbag" and "Lucky"? What, there wasn't room on the CD (snicker)?

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