Radiohead have always been a band who have kept their noses out in front of the competition with a constant push for artistic advantage and achieving a unique singularity because of it. From the band’s alt-rock beginnings to their current ranking as one of the most experimental and critically acclaimed groups of all time, they’re a band who don’t often welcome covers.
Largely because, to cover a Radiohead is a very delicate process, such is the complex lyrical and sonic structure the Oxford band employ. Conversely, the group are dab hands at creating their own interpretations of other people’s songs. If you needed any proof of this perfect combination, then we only need to travel back to 2007 and one incredible webcast.
The performance saw the band take on numerous different covers while they pioneered livestreaming. Playing songs by The Smiths and Joy Division they held back one spot to cover Björk’s song ‘Unravel’. Easily regarded as two of the most creative figures in modern music, Radiohead and Björk are two in a million. The huge admiration frontman Thom Yorke holds for Björk is no secret and, in the webcast, we got a taste of just that as Yorke alongside his Radiohead bandmates covered Björk’s enigmatic song.
Taken from the Icelandic singer’s glorious 1997 album Homogenic, Yorke and the band deliver a quite spellbinding performance of the track as part of a live webcast, which they unveiled as the height of technology in 2007. At the time, it was a somewhat revolutionary idea. The band took the chance to connect with fans directly through the internet and offer them some of their most memorable songs alongside some equally brilliant covers. There were some beautiful moments on the now-iconic webcast including a cover of The Smiths’ ‘Headmasters Ritual and of Joy Division’s ‘Ceremony’—but one stood out above the rest.
While the technology they were using was a little ahead of its time—it’s Radiohead so of course it was naturally a technological development—the band actually looked backwards for their content. Björk’s ‘Unravel’ didn’t just represent a song for the band to work their magic on but was actually quoted as being one of Thom Yorke’s favourite.
The celebrated lead singer admitted to SPIN magazine back in 2006 “I’m trying to get Radiohead to do a cover because I think it’s one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard.” It looks like he got his way as only a year later they were taking on the stunning track and delivering the kind of performance that can send shivers down one’s spine.
The video below is a little scratchy but the audio is perfect and any extra sonic inflexions over time have actually added to the art as a whole. It makes the rendition of the song landed with extra potency.
Sure Thom isn’t note-perfect but the sentiment of the song, his love of the music as well as the original artist, and ultimately, the intensely beautiful delivery means this video simply has to be seen.