A friend of mine once said that Radiohead were the kind of band who it was easy to admire, and yet difficult to like. I always agreed, preferring the accessibility of bands like Oasis and The Stereophonics to the intensive coolie labour it could sometimes take to listen to Radiohead. Then, last summer, I went to see Radiohead play at Victoria Park in London. And I saw the light.
This album can ask a lot of the listener, but if you can really give into the music and just let it carry you off, you can become so consumed by these songs that you find yourself suddenly opening your eyes at the end of a track, blinking in surprise at the fact that you are actually back in the real world. They tear your soul open, and force you to confront those feelings for which you probably don't even have a name. Despair perhaps, numbness perhaps, but above all, the way it can sometimes feel just to be a human in the 20th Century.
It's hard to pick a stand out track (even the pretty much tune free "Fitter, Happier" makes for compelling listening), but "Exit Music (for a film)" is one of the most touching, fragile and beautiful songs you will ever hear. When you consider Thom Yorke wrote it as a soundtrack to the end of Romeo and Juliet, the lyrics become even more intense; "Today, we escape, we escape". "Don't lose your nerve. I can't do this - alone".
If you have ever felt alone, disenfranchised, pointless or depressed, this record will connect with you in a way you may have never thought possible. And that contact will make you feel better. Less alone. It makes you feel like there are other people out there who feel like this. It's a record which takes you on a journey through the darker parts of the soul. A record about how it feels to be human.
Oh, and it's very, very good (did I mention that?).