The Ultimate Radiohead Setlist
(Complete with "fun facts")
Written by members of "What's That? (a Radiohead Project)"
Facts sited are attributable on Wikipedia.
Airbag (OK Computer, 1997) - BAM! Track one, the beginning of a new direction for Radiohead. Toto, we're not in The Bends anymore. A rock track, prominently featuring sleigh bells! Are you listening? Reportedly written after seeing an ad for BMW in a magazine, with the headline, "An airbag saved my life."
All I Need (In Rainbows, 2007) - In a word, ohmigawd. Fat, analog synth bass line, gorgeous, minimalist accompaniment, including glockenspiel. Best adjective: Haunting. The most gigantic soaring coda of all time.
Bangers 'n Mash (In Rainbows Bonus Disc, 2007) - A Radiohead rocker. The title is an Irish term for Sausage and Mashed Potatoes. The opening guitar line is the sausage. Listen closely for the mashed potatoes.
Black Star (The Bends, 1995) - According to Thom Yorke, this is a song about "sex in the morning." As if that weren't intriguing enough, it is also a popular rocker off their 2nd album, and is fun to play.
Bodysnatchers (In Rainbows, 2007) - We're trapped in these bodies and can't get out.
Cuttooth (Knives Out EP, 2001) - A catchy, up-tempo, piano-based rocker. Elton John rock era meets Radiohead. Orwellian lyrics. No live recordings exist (that we know of). Maybe it was never played live? All the more reason to play it. The lyrics in the chorus are the same as (but pre-date) the chorus in "Myxamatosis" off Hail to the Thief (2003).
Everything In Its Right Place (Kid A, 2000) - Best adjective: WOW! What a way to start an album. Is this disco for the 28th Century? Embrace your inner lemon-sucker.
Exit Music (For A Film) (OK Computer, 1997) - Hold on to your handkerchiefs. Not an especially uplifting track. Hugely emotional. Not for the faint of heart, yet tugs at the heartstrings. Not much of a title, as the piece was written specifically for the ending credits of the 1996 film, "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet." Thom Yorke has said, "I saw the Zeffirelli version when I was 13 and I cried my eyes out, because I couldn't understand why, the morning after they shagged, they didn't just run away. The song is written for two people who should run away before all the bad stuff starts. A personal song."
Fake Plastic Trees (The Bends, 1995) - Perhaps as close as Radiohead gets to a tender love ballad. Thom Yorke has said this song is about Canary Wharf in London. Hah, say us! We suspect this was an exasperated response to what he may have seen as a typical and annoying question ("what's this song about?"). It actually seems to be, perhaps quite obviously, about feeling artificial within a relationship.
Idioteque (Kid A, 2000) - Who else but Radiohead could compose a 'techno-rave' style House track with drums in 3/ 4, the body of the song in 4/4, and a primary chord progression phrased in groups of 5?! This is math rock! The track samples part of Paul Lansky's 1973,18-minute, through-composed, synthesized composition "Mild Und Leise." These three words are the opening line of the final aria of Wagner's Tristan und Isold, and means "fair and gentle" in German.
In Limbo (Kid A, 2000) - This track demonstrates what a challenge Kid A can be to listen to. Multiple instruments, playing multiple parts, in multiple meters, and overlapping in multiple ways. It's kind of like a dream. Lots of electronic improvisation towards the end.
Karma Police (OK Computer, 1997) - Ah yes, the retributive enforcement of Karma. A fairly straight-ahead track, and a big hit, very popular, and for good reason.
Kid A (Kid A, 2000) - Easily one of the strangest Radiohead tracks we know of. We do the "live" version wherein you can actually understand the lyrics. A virtual modern-music doozy on piano. Total Jonny Greenwood schizoid harmony. Sampled drumstick-clicks, even!
Knives Out (Amnesiac, 2001) - Reportedly influenced by The Smiths, and possibly about cannibalism, this tune has just enough odd numbers of bars in its phrases to place it just outside the realm of traditional pop music. The first two chords are identical to the first two chords heard in "Paranoid Android."
Let Down (OK Computer, 1997) - Get out your slide ruler. More math rock. Why is this song so catchy with a guitar line in 5/4 time, and the rest of the song is in 4/4? Poly-metrical commerciality! A big hit among many.
Like Spinning Plates (Amnesiac, 2001 & I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings, 2001) - How many times can one use "haunting" to describe the mood of a Radiohead piece? This makes 196 or so. Utterly different from the version appearing on Amnesiac (2001) in that, for one thing, it's not backwards! Oh, and the lyrics make sense: "While you make pretty speeches, I'm being torn to shreds." Who hasn't felt like that!? This is our singer Thom's favorite Radiohead track.
The National Anthem (Kid A, 2000) - When you first see the title, you expect some sort of deep, philosophical lyrics about Radiohead's homeland, but that isn't the case at all. This track barely has a dozen words, and is all about the groove - building nonstop from the opening hypnotic bass, to the crazy syncopated & clustered horns at the end.
Motion Picture Soundtrack (Kid A, 2000) - In a word, angelic. The instrument heard at the top is a pump organ, often found in churches, and powered by the feet. When the harps come in half-way through, welcome to heaven. Christopher O'Riley's piano "reimagination" was a big influence on our interpretation of this track.
Morning Bell (Kid A, 2000) - Insistent, driving drums, with dreamy Fender Rhodes and lyrics (except the bridge, which is gruesome). Totally draws you in, and keeps building and building. Like many tracks on Kid A, after you come out of your daze listening to it, you have to go back and figure out the lyrics - which can add a whole new layer of either understanding, or confusion to that particular track.
My Iron Lung (The Bends, 1995) - Punk Floyd. Thom Yorke has said, "This about playing stupid music for money." More specifically, it was written about having to play "Creep" over & over again, becoming sick of it, and having to continue playing because it was the Big Hit Single.
Optimistic (Kid A, 2000) - NEWSFLASH: Radiohead thinks positive! Uplifting track about never giving up, and survival of the fittest. Great song to work out to (along with the rest of the album). A popular single from Kid A.
Paranoid Android (OK Computer, 1997) - Almost prog-rock. A long track that feels like three different songs wrapped into one. Radiohead has such a way with words: "Gucci little piggy." This is the track that spawned the name of our group. Underneath the words, "What's that?," a computer voice can be heard saying, "I may be paranoid, but not an android." Class-A Radiohead.
Polyethelene (pt I & II) (Airbag/How Am I Driving EP, 1998) - At last, a song about a thermoplastic commodity used in consumer products like the plastic shopping bag. Reportedly among Radiohead's best-known but rarely played B-sides. Part II rocks, bigtime.
Pyramid Song (Amnesiac, 2001) -The first time you hear this track, you cannot tell where the beats fall...until the drums come in. After hearing this, you'll (or at least most musicians will) never hear the track the same way again. Haunting. More Class-A Radiohead . Same chordal movement as in "Everything in its Right Place," but played exactly half an octave (a tritone) above.
Reckoner (In Rainbows, 2007) - Calming and haunting. Much like "Weird Fishes" in it's layer-building development. Contains a wicked-cool Greenwood string arrangement from the middle section out. The words "In Rainbows" appear in the middle section, too.
Subterranean Homesick Alien (OK Computer, 1997) - Alien abduction fantasies as a means of escaping reality. Fittingly spacey music. Haunting (there's that word again). Remodeled title comes from a Bob Dylan song.
Talk Show Host (Street Spirit (Fade Out) EP1, 1996) - Funk Floyd. This track, like "Exit Music," appears in the film Romeo + Juliet. The mood of this piece could accurately be described as, "fuuuck." The subject matter is...unhappy, but the tune rocks and even gets funky.
There There (Hail To The Thief, 2003) - Another popular single. Subtitled "The Boney King of Nowhere," which is derived from a British children's TV show called Bagpuss. This song is super-powerful stuff, reportedly driving Thom Yorke to tears upon hearing the final mix.
Weird Fishes/Arpeggi (In Rainbows, 2007) - This tracks proves how you can build a track, one element at a time, layer upon layer, yet it never feels 'muddy' because each part enhances what came before it.
You (Pablo Honey, 1993) - The first track on the first album. Introduction to Radiohead 101. Alternative/Progressive Rock Shuffle. We do the version off the "Drill [EP] 1992" which contains some additionally angsty vocals in the bridge. A song for relationships gone (or soon to go) bad.