With the exception of the title song, this mini-album once again shows the evolution of Radiohead, as the rest of Airbag/How Am I Driving? separates itself from the sounds of OK Computer. There aren’t many bands that can improve their sound each time they release a new album, but Radiohead always reveals a fresh set of songs with each release. Too many bands keep to the “tried and true” with each new release. I must confess that when I picked this mini-album up I thought I’d be getting leftover OK Computer songs. Maybe they are leftovers, but on the first play, it felt like a brand new album.
“Pearly” is a darker song with Danzig-esque guitar riffs, but Yorke’s voice is able to tone down the heaviness and lends the song a more melancholy feel. Without the haunting falsetto of Yorke toward the end, the music could cross the border into metal. “Meeting In The Aisle” is where the album creeps away from past albums with an electronic sound, without Yorke’s voice. The instrumental seems fitting for a 1960’s sci-fi movie, proving there is room for experimentation by a critically-acclaimed band. The eerie electronics continue into “A Reminder” as Yorke’s unique voice takes over a song that resembles a Miles Davis kind of jazz/rock fusion. Once again, it veers from the path of past songs and leaves you wondering what direction they’re heading for the future.
In “Polyethylene,” Thom delivers strength and range to his voice over a simple guitar and then forcefully over the entire group. The keyboards keep the track from straying into the rock territory of Pablo Honey and The Bends. “Melatonin” is a near-lullaby accompanied by uplifting chords on the keyboard with a semi-Jamaican beat that only lasts a mere two minutes. The final song, “Palo Alto,” is reminiscent of Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) with random sounds layering under the vocals and colliding into a powerful bridge. The verses sound like improvisation with so much happening at one time.
Tracks 2 – 7 are previously unreleased, which makes this a must for Radiohead fans. Although a step away from the popular OK Computer album, Radiohead evolves, or at least readjusts their sound once again. Airbag… is worth the cheap price and gives extra incentive to buying CD singles.
Written by Nolan Shigley.