Force thousands of musicians to stay home in their studios and what do you get? There’ll be an album boom for sure, just as there’s been an explosion of direct-to-you online live performances, interviews, and social media messages. Most recently, Richard D. James, aka electronic legend Aphex Twin, shared six new songs on Soundcloud. And Radiohead—a band with an equally loyal fanbase and as much longevity and experimental nerve—announced they’re “doing their bit,” as Dazed reports, “by uploading the best of their concerts to their YouTube channel.”
“Now that you have no choice whether or not you fancy a quiet night in,” the band wrote on Instagram, “we hereby present the first of several LIVE SHOWS from the Radiohead Public Library,” their newly-debuted, extensive online archive. The first concert uploaded, Live From a Tent in Dublin, captures an October 2000 performance just days after the release of Kid A. “The 23-song set included several album tracks including ‘Optimistic,’ ‘Morning Bell,’ ‘The National Anthem,’ and ‘In Limbo,’” notes Consequence of Sound. That’s a pivotal moment in the band’s history, for sure. Maybe the shock of that album is hard to feel 20 years on, but immediately after its release, Kid A shattered ideas of what rock bands were allowed to do.
There are many more classic shows to come—some of them documents of events that stand as music history at this point and most evidence of what an incredible live band Radiohead has been, their command of atmosphere and dynamics eerie in its seeming near-effortlessness. Like so much of their output from OK Computer on, these songs sound as relevant as ever, especially Thom Yorke’s anguished vocal in the opener, above, “The National Anthem.” “Everyone is so near,” he wails, “Everyone has got the fear/It’s holding on,” a lyric that neatly sums up his sense of a dystopian post-modernity’s double edge.
In our isolation, Yorke constantly suggests, we can feel so uncomfortably, claustrophobically shut in with each other. Like the damned in No Exit, there’s nowhere else to go. So, stay home with Radiohead shows. “We will be releasing one a week until either the restrictions resulting from the current situation are eased, or we run out of shows,” the band writes. “Which will be first? No-one knows.” Will there be a new album? Unlikely. The band’s embrace of their roles as active, public curators of their legacy seems like a signal of Radiohead’s emeritus status.
But they’ve spent the last several years giving away exclusive new songs, live streaming shows, releasing their entire studio catalogue on YouTube, and communicating directly with fans, so neither is their Radiohead Public Library a departure. At Consequence of Sound you can also hear recent podcast interviews with Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien (whose first solo album comes out this month) and longtime Radiohead producer and perhaps sixth member of the band, Nigel Godrich.
Check the band’s YouTube channel each week for the latest uploaded concert and enjoy it while it lasts!
Introducing The Radiohead Public Library: Radiohead Makes Their Full Catalogue Available via a Free Online Web Site
The 10 Most Depressing Radiohead Songs According to Data Science: Hear the Songs That Ranked Highest in a Researcher’s “Gloom Index”
Radiohead Puts Every Official Album on YouTube, Making Them All Free to Stream
Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness
Thom Yorke’s (relatively) recent appearance on the BBC’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ is a ‘must listen’ to any Radiohead fans during lockdown too: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0008qg3