Radiohead–No Surprises

On No Surprises, Radiohead are using the glockenspiel for more than just its sound.  They’re also using it for what its sound conjures.  Its extremely simple presence in the track recalls a children’s lullaby or a nursery rhyme, as it dances around the similarly gentle keyboard.  It’s no accident that these songs sound sweet and innocuous, but often hide dark truths and sinister stories.  No Surprises is first and foremost gorgeous.  Anyone not paying attention could be forgiven for thinking it an exalting ode.   But listen to the lyrics for even a second and the despondency reveals itself immediately.  “I’ll take the quiet life/And a handshake of carbon monoxide,” confesses Thom Yorke, before revealing this is his “final fit” before he ends it all.  Hauntingly beautiful is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, but what about unnervingly beautiful?  Disturbingly beautiful?  It’s not just that Radiohead have created such a lovely song about being in such pain, but they’ve also managed to make it equally unnerving.  Who knew such jagged sadness could sound so uplifting.

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