Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Hey Geronimo — Radiohead’s In Rainbows
Sometimes I wonder about why music matters so much for teenagers, thinking back to the intensity with which I obsessed over bands when I was in late high school. Maybe it’s because it gives you a sense that you’re not the only one feeling a particular way (though likely everyone else you know does feel the same, it’s just impossible to see through your emotional myopia), because it’s a way to connect with something that seems to transcend the banality of everyday life, or just that it gives you somewhere truly private that you can live in free from observation or supervision – the holy grail of teenage-hood. I was very much about all that when I was 17, and even though I think back on myself as a teenager now with a fair bit of embarrassment, I think there’s something special about the fanatical attachment I had to music, when it really did seem like life or death.
The album that defined my late high school years was In Rainbows by Radiohead. I was the kind of fan who trawled message boards and collected soundboard recordings, and Radiohead are a band who reward nerdy scrapbooking – they’ve always been good at creating the impression of being a world of their own, a kind of haunted forest with little side tracks leading off the main path. They’re the masters of the cryptic tease. In the case of In Rainbows, though, it was like they suddenly became philanthropists overnight, years of secrecy and reticence turning into a glorious summer of spontaneous gigs, live-streamed covers of their favourite songs, and even – gasp – jokes! The capstone of this was the album itself, which was casually announced on their website with a total lack of fanfare: “Hello everyone. Well, the new album is finished, and it’s coming out in 10 days. We’ve called it In Rainbows. Love from us all.”
Having waited four years for my first Radiohead release (I got on board just after Hail To The Thief), I really did feel the love – I vividly remember running outside with sheer joy after reading those words. The fact that the album was essentially free (if you wanted it to be) was just icing on the cake. Obviously the ‘pay what you want’ pricing strategy had implications for the industry that are still reverberating today, but at the time I couldn’t care less – my favourite band was gifting me their precious new album, and the goodwill was palpable.
Radiohead’s generosity extended to the music of In Rainbows, which is still to my ears their most accessible album. I had been listening to live versions of potential new songs for years, and there was no case where the album version didn’t completely exceed my expectations (except perhaps ‘Videotape’… but I’ve made my peace with the studio version over the years). Songs like ‘Nude’ and ‘Weird Fishes’ are so warm and technicolour that it was hard to imagine this was the same band who recorded ‘Kid A’ and ‘Amnesiac’, which felt like they were not so much recorded as intercepted as part of an arctic radio broadcast, and the mixture of electronic and acoustic instrumentation that defined songs like ’15 Step’ and ‘House of Cards’ builds an intoxicating retro-futurist scaffold for Thom Yorke’s ethereal voice.
The acoustic fingerpicking of ‘Faust Arp’ is as intimate as a lost Nick Drake rarity, and the bridge of ‘Reckoner’ – ‘because we separate/like ripples on a blank shore/in rainbows’ – is still the most purely beautiful moment in their discography. It’s like the ‘wire monkey mother’ (as I’ve heard them unkindly but wittily described) suddenly became flesh and blood – In Rainbows was Radiohead at their most maternal.
With any album one has a deep emotional connection with, it’s impossible to be objective, so I’ll stick to the subjective – In Rainbows is still my favourite album, even after literally hundreds of listens. It was my teenage balm, and I will always be grateful to Radiohead for making me feel like five guys in Oxford genuinely cared about an 17 year old boy in Brisbane.
Strap in for an intergalactic rock concert in vivid technicolour because Brisbane’s Hey Geronimo have just dropped their 2nd album ‘Content’ into our orbit. A rollicking, retro-futuristic opus that smashes stacked 70’s style harmonies, vintage synths and psychedelic riffs into a Hadron Collider with sharp, wry lyrics that cheekily skewer ultra-modern subject matter like Facebook, Tinder and emojis, and guitar lines that were incredibly written and performed by an actual robot (an AI dubbed ‘Alex’), ‘Content’ is unlike any other album you’ll hear this year. Possibly this millennium. Listen to it here and catch them on tour this November.
Hey Geronimo ‘Content’ Tour Dates
FRIDAY, 2ND NOVEMBER
NETHERWORLD, BRISBANE QLD
TICKETS: Free Entry
FRIDAY, 16TH NOVEMBER
107 PROJECTS, SYDNEY NSW
SATURDAY, 17TH NOVEMBER
YAH YAHS, MELBOURNE VIC