The man is renowned as one of the greats, placing in the Rolling Stones top 100 for both; greatest singers and greatest artists of all time, and there is very good reason for this. His passion for music embarked at an early age, writing his first song at 11, and with the basic experience in his band On a Friday and time spent in the music department at his high school, his lyrical and vocal skills were slowly developing into the master talent we see today.
1993 saw the beginning of a new era for Thom and the four, oxford boys, with their debut album Pablo Honey, as the newly transformed Radiohead. The notorious Creep, which featured on this album, showed early signs of Thom’s narcissistic angst, uttered through lyrics such as “I’m a Creep, I’m a Weirdo”, which will forever resonate in my head. This distressing theme continued through to their third album; Ok Computer, which for many is regarded as Thom and the bands masterpiece. The moody and lurid vocals that float through the ever-present guitar riffs, such as in Paranoid Android and Exit Music (For a Film), make this album a truly unique piece of work. But, in particular, as Thom sings through gritted-teeth, clenching at the audible anguish of each song, listeners are hypnotised by his brilliance.
Radiohead’s fourth album Kid A saw an entirely new approach for Thom’s career, showing influences of his early DJing days at Exeter University. In this album, experimental electronic synths and abstract sounds are far more prevalent, and the former vocals are liquefied into an ethereal noise, specifically, in songs such as Everything in its Right Place and Kid A itself. (It is more than likely that Thom was the architect of these brilliant electronic manifestos). These experimental influences are also shown in Radiohead’s most recent album The King of Limbs, and the various works he has done with big names in that genre, such as Burial and Modeselektor. Despite the mixed reviews of Kid A, this does further illustrate Thom’s aptitude, as not all artists have the ability to clean the slate, and start from fresh with an entirely different style and passion!
The band continued to evolve and experiment with different sounds in Amnesiac and Hail to the thief. But for many In Rainbows saw a long awaited return of the brilliance (with not one weak track) of Ok Computer, that first teased our ears in 1997. For Thom, the song, Reckoner, not only highlights his composure and talent on guitar, but more significantly, the absolute perfection of his voice, with complex pitch changes and prolonged, eccentrically held notes. It simply cannot be faulted.
Additional to the eight albums, Thom produced a solo album called The Eraser (2006), which voices some of his strongest beliefs toward the environment and the importance of its preservation. “The tick tock tick of a ticking time bomb” referring to the pervasive problem of global warming and its eventual devastating effects. In this album, Thom was freed from the heaviness of Radiohead, not only allowing him to relate on a personal level to the songs, but allowing his vocals to once again rule the stage.
This year sees another angle to Thom in the form of Atoms for Peace, fortunately blessing us with new material that is graced with his talent. And so, despite Thom’s egotistic temperament challenging that of Morrissey’s, it is inconceivable not to acknowledge the ingenious creations he has principally been accountable for over the past 20 years of his career, and I hope I speak for many when I say, I wish for this to continue.
Words: Sam Reevey