Thursday, November 29, 2012

Song #318 of 9999 - Black Star by Radiohead

Song #318 of 9999 

Title: Black Star
Artist: Radiohead
Year: 1995
Album: The Bends

I've been listening to all the songs on my iPod every morning while I get ready for work in alphabetical order by song title to insure a nice shuffle with no repetitions. A couple of weeks ago, "Black Star" popped up and I was stopped dead in my tracks by the voice I heard. I'm totally supportive of the direction Radiohead has taken and they remain one of the most creative forces in popular music today. But every once in a while, it's worth going back to The Bends to remember what a great pop band they were before they evolved into the world's greatest art project.

Thom Yorke's lyrics were just as unintelligible in 1995 as they are today but with less creative imagery. But it doesn't really matter because the delivery system is so pure and angelic and captivating, as Yorke takes up residence in his head voice for the duration of each of verse. (How great are those close vocal harmonies at 2:41?) The choice to remain in this range expertly sets up the hook as Yorke opens up in full voice for one of the most dramatic moments on the album. The use of texture in "Black Star" is also worth noting, with each verse and chorus arranged in a unique way. Check out the stunning second verse, where the band and producer manage to find room for all those guitars in a confined space without overpowering Yorke's falsetto. Outstanding track.

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