Wednesday, June 1, 2011

90's Jams #1: Radiohead "Paranoid Android" (1997)

There's a reason why people yawn at statements like "Paranoid Android is the Jesus of rock music" or "Paranoid Android is absolute pinnacle of 90's rock," which is because those people are getting tired of everyone stating the obvious. When the same shit continuously places at #1, even if everyone loves it, the top spot starts to look obvious and boring. But there's a reason why beloved songs are beloved. We at this website will openly admit to being enormous suckers for multi-part epic radio singles, and we will probably forever be guilty of placing the best of these among the best songs of their respective decades... "Oh! Pretty Woman," "Good Vibrations," "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Bad Romance." One of these even made our 90's Guilty Pleasures list with George Michael's "Freedom '90."

Whether "Paranoid Android" is the best of these is up for debate. However, it's just so tightly woven... Every last intricacy.. The woodblock clicks during the acoustic guitar riff.. The text-to-speech voice saying "I may be paranoid, but not an android.." Nigel Godrich's production.. The little off-notes in Jonny Greenwood's ridiculously absurd guitar solos, especially the one in the last 30 seconds or so.. truly one of the greatest of alltime. It may take years to spot every last subtlety and nuance. Its density is surely part of the appeal, and completely necessary considering the weight of its lyrical subject matter. Thom Yorke described it as being about "carnage," while the chaotic and alienating nature of the 2000's and the internet age have surely redefined its subject matter.

Radiohead started putting this song together in 1996 while they were on tour opening for Alanis Morrisette, at just about the halfway point between the cathartic rock heard on The Bends and everything before it, and the progressive Kid A, the signal of everything that was to follow. Arguably, "Paranoid Android" splits the difference of all of Radiohead's best attributes, all in one trippy 6.5 minute little world... Unlike anything else they've ever released, and yet somehow also their most definitive moment. Outside of the modern rock spectrum that was truly built around "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "Android" is the one moment in 90's music with an absolute "before" and "after."

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