Radiohead's Creepy Frequency
Jim Farber
(New York Daily News, June 3, 1995)

SINGERS PRETENDING TO BE disillusioned freaks are a dime a dozen in rock 'n' roll. But every so often there crawls from the abyss a figure of such clear and convincing weirdness one can only bow in awe.

Thom Yorke of Radiohead is such a creature. At Tramps on Thursday, Yorke twisted himself into a perfect vision of cowering alienation. With his pinched features, stooped posture and contorted expressions, the singer looked like the Edvard Munch painting "The Scream" come to life. At other times, he appeared like a caged animal, ready to strike.

Yorke's lyrics upped the rage. "I want to be part of the human race," he sang at the start of the show, yelping as if that goal were unrealizable.

Such a wretched outburst makes sense coming from a band that made its name two years ago with a hit called "Creep." Between Yorke's disturbed vocals and lyrics and the music's serrated guitars the song makes chillingly clear the connection between worshiping another person and loathing oneself between exaltation and contempt.

As celebrated as the single may be live, Radiohead buried it in the middle of their set. That did them no harm considering how much strong material they have at their disposal. To maintain momentum, they did have to rely on older songs from their 1993 debut, "Pablo Honey." It's a far brisker, more animated work than the new "The Bends."

On older numbers like "Anyone Can Play Guitar," the band got to prove they can rock as convincingly as Yorke can complain. With their epic guitar style and their way with a tune Radiohead came off a bit like U2 gone dissolute.

Certainly, Yorke owns as strong an instrument as Bono. At times, he achieved an operatic whininess. In concert, it was hard not to admire how naked and unashamedly pained Yorke could be, especially given his riveting anti-charisma.

Combined with the moody music, Yorke offered little fun and no humor in the set. But the band still managed to evoke a weird excitement, if only through the sheer sad purity of their vision.