In 1985, many tragedies occurred around the world. TWA flight 847 was hijacked by Hezbollah, the northeastern United States was hit by the one of the coldest winters in recorded history, and the volcanic eruption near Armero, Colombia killed 25,000 people. However, this was also the year the British experimental rock band Radiohead came together to create lyrics and sounds that portray personal and emotional tragedies and triumphs, for decades to come.
Over the years Radiohead has given us a multitude of material that always blows away their die-hard fans and gets music magazines buzzing over what kinds of bizarre sounds and lyrical messages will be found within the 12 or 13 tracks. Every album is different from the last, and each song on every album feels and sounds like there was a genuinely unique reason for its creation. The Supercollider/The Butcher EP is their latest release, debuting in early November. Although it only has two songs, both tunes portray the individuality and uniqueness feel typical for entire Radiohead albums.
In the track “SuperCollider” you get the sense that every element of the instrumental spectrum included in the song and all of the lyrics represent the different elements in our universe that collide, break apart, blow up and come together to create the ever expanding wonderment of space and time. Through lyrics like “Swimming upstream, before the heavens crack open, thin pixelations coming out from the dust” and “In a B-spin Flip-flopping In a pulse wave outstepping,” one gets the sense that Thom Yorke (Radiohead’s lead singer and creative brain) sees himself as small spec of matter flying around through all of the unexplained vastness of the universe.
It’s hard to imagine how somebody could be that in touch with the universe around them, but Radiohead’s past songs have shown us that Yorke is very in touch with the creative energy flowing through the synapses of his mind. Couple all that with a fast electronic drum beat, repetitive keyboard chord progressions and a steady bass line, you really do feel like Neil deGrasse Tyson could use Supercollider as a musical tool to explain string theory in his next space documentary.
In the song “Butcher,” the meaning gets significantly more personal. This track gives the impression that Yorke is picking on the way society molds our adolescent youth. The song opens with the line “Beauty will destroy your mind, spare the gory details give them gift wrap for the man with everything.” It can be inferred that Yorke is talking about how the one percent of society molds us into serving the system, becoming numb to death and destruction and how focusing on images of ourselves takes away youthful creative energy. A little later in the song the lyric, “Cut out, chop liver on the block, my heart still pumping, my heart still pumping,” portrays how Yorke sees us all as pieces of meat served to a higher power and every day the blood in our veins keeps pumping as rhythmic representation of the ongoing servitude to these deceiving controllers. The message is very reminiscent of the “The Wall” by Pink Floyd.
One song on this EP is about the expanding wonderment of our universe and the other is about a depressing interpretation of millennial youth. However, both songs have different ways of reminding us to remember the importance of creative inspiration. This is the best thing about Radiohead. They’re a heavy listen but you walk away thinking about the importance of the message strung out through the musical and lyrical components of each song and the broader messages comprised throughout the album. What’s more inspiring than that?