Saturday, 12 October 2013

Hunt For The Best B-Side: Radiohead - Gagging Order


In the second (and overdue) entry to one of MRD's newer serial features, the artist in focus in this edition is one many I'm certain, will recognise. Whether that be a recognition in admiration or loathing, I leave to you. But getting back on-topic: Radiohead is a name that needs no introduction, aside from the quintessential noting that their discography - so far as their singles are concerned - has taken as much a change and expansion as their entire back catalog of tracks have went through. Surprisingly, it's not the early post-punk or latter sample-influence that is demanding of attention today. In this edition of B-side hunting, the target is Radiohead's sixth studio album, Hail To The Thief - hailed as many as the band's under-appreciated 'sum' of their discography; deplored by others as lacking the flair or imagination of previous endeavours. In mid-August of 2003, the band (or rather EMI) released Go To Sleep, the 2nd single in promotion of Hail To The Thief. While the title track's accustomed alternate jam of guitars, bass and percussion was a welcome return for a band that had previously sounded less like a 'band', and more a backing to Thom Yorke's creative web of themes, the irony is that the B-Side in question, is one of many of Yorke's solo efforts that challenges 'Radiohead' recordings.


Gagging Order completely removes itself of Colin Greenwood's textural bass, or Jonny Greenwood's extravagant guitar riffs; even Ed and Phil's contribution on guitar and percussion alike isn't to be found. Like fellow [overlooked piano-dominant] listens on How I Made My Millions or Fog (Again), Yorke sits like the epicentral individual struggling for his right to exist, and equally his right to complain - 'I know what you're thinking/But I'm not your property' he begins in that same charismatic-come-cold tone of his. With nothing but an unfiltered, unaltered guitar at his side, the song is straight-put yet still contains a manner of hypnosis in its rhythm. Yorke's minimized proclamation of current extreme-wing-ran society and the normality of being told what to do, is less extrvagant and lesser moreso in its punch, but the prose on the status of where to go, what to eat, how to feel remains just as evident.

But while this may lack in structural and aesthetical development, the beauty of a piece like this is exactly that; the realization that such a stripped back (if scampering) composition, can invoke the strongest of contexts, even within such instrumental limitations. Yorke's delivery from out the pattern of plucked steel strings - and the somewhat volatile twang of bass strings alike - is a little distant, but interestingly shows him in a more discrete form when discussing socio-political themes. The track admittedly does risk leading its listener into confusion as to its lack of development in the closing section. But for a solo outing that lacks the other four members' contribution, Yorke brings to light acoustics' glaring ability of less = more in an age chock with digitised ideals. And now, standing a decade on, it's a factor many contemporary bands have adapted via simulacrum-esque reverb and excessed production alike.
~Jordan

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