Radiohead - Com Lag: 2+2=5
Benjamin Short 14/05/2004
Perhaps the most astonishing thing about Radiohead in the post-OK Computer phase of their career is their prolific output: Three albums, a collection of live recordings, and now this - a compilation of B sides, live tracks, rarities and remixes, originally released only to the Japanese market. The question is, are messrs Greenwood, Greenwood, O'Brien, Selway and Yorke still as relevant as ever, or have the record buying public grown deaf and apathetic to their disaffected music?
The album opens with a rendition of '2+2=5', recorded live at Earl's Court. Surprisingly, given Radiohead's formidable live reputation, this recording lacks energy, and fails to do justice to the version on 'Hail To The Thief'. Nevertheless, the audience reaction is ecstatic, and when Thom Yorke screams “YOU HAVE NOT BEEN PAYING ATTENTION”, you genuinely fear his wrath.
'Remyxomatosis' sees Thom's voice being twisted into intriguing new shapes by Christian Vogel, whilst the heart and soul of the original song are torn out, and replaced with heavy, industrial electronica.
'I Will' was written as a serenade to those killed during the first Gulf War. This demo version (taken from Radiohead's Los Angeles sessions) reveals the song's tragic beauty, by way of a soothingly strummed guitar, and guitarist Ed O'Brien's hauntingly sublime backing vocals.
'Paperbag Writer' may borrow its title from The Beatles, but that is where the similarity ends. 'I Am A Wicked Child' borders upon being funky, and that is an adjective which is seldom associated with Radiohead! It features a bluesy harmonica, laid back vocal harmonies, and soft percussion.
The similarly titled 'I Am Citizen Insane', and 'Where Bluebirds Fly' are glitchy instrumentals which will come as a slap in the face to those who still long for the days of 'Creep' and 'No Surprises', yet they will surely delight the hardcore fans at whom this compilation is clearly aimed.
Four Tet's 'Skttrbrain' remix does little other than bolt a clattering techno beat to the original track, and throw in some sting samples for good measure.
'Gagging Order' and 'Fog (Again)' are a pair of acoustic songs, which hark back to the era of 'The Bends', featuring guitar, piano, and emotionally affecting lyrics such as “Move along / There's nothing left to see / Just a body / Pouring down the street”.
Everything about 'Com Lag: 2+2+5', from the obscure sounds right down to the chilling sleeve art, perfectly expresses Radiohead's artistic vision. We can only imagine what it takes to inspire music which is undeniably beautiful and inventive, but sometimes difficult to love.