Radiohead – My Iron Lung

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Hot on the heels of the creatively confusing and post adolescent Pablo Honey, Radiohead issued this mini-LP in 1994, ahead of their sophomore release The Bends, one which remains an oft overlooked artefact in the band’s catalogue. What is immediately clear from first song to last, is that Radiohead had done some serious growing up, crafting their art and taking it in a far more mature direction.

On the title song they betray their debt to Nirvana, while “The Trickster” could be The Smiths jamming with Jimmy Page. “Lewis (Mistreated)” is a sort of post-punk rocker and similar to their earlier work on Pablo Honey, as is “Permanent Daylight,” another heavy guitar-rock number with a strong Johnny Marr feel.

The atmospheric “Punchdrunk Lovesick Singalong” is in a class of its own, where iridescent guitars effortlessly rise and gleam like meteors at twilight. “Lozenge of Love” is a brief, plaintive affair, where Thom Yorke employs his semi-falsetto to fine affect. The Jeff Buckley inspired “You Never Wash Up After Yourself” is another highlight, and a unique addition to Radiohead’s canon – just Yorke and Jonny Greenwood’s accompaniment, whose classically-oriented guitar playing is nothing short of exquisite.

The CD concludes with a live, acoustic rendition of “Creep,” the only real accessible-dysfunctional ‘hit’ the band ever truly had, and the one that launched a million manic depressives in the process. At times Yorke sounds like an alley cat on heat, screeching and extending his vowels as if being stung by a nest of vipers.

Any Radiohead fan would no doubt already own this collection, so there’s perhaps little point in me pointing out its virtues. The Australian edition is the one to get, due to it having the whole eight tracks, although whether it is still in print is another question. Nevertheless it is well worth tracking down, serving as not only a time capsule of where they were at, but also a hint as to where they were heading.