Come 1995, Radiohead were in full transition mode. Looking to eradicate themselves of the reputation they gained through the MTV success of ‘Creep’, the band began walking back the grunge-heavy guitar sounds and hero-worship of their debut LP, Pablo Honey. For one of the most eclectic and stylistically unique bands of the past 30 years, it’s hard to remember that Radiohead were, in essence, no different than Bush or Collective Soul to most consumers during their initial popularity.
Even The Bends wasn’t as much of a major leap forwards in terms of composition or change in the group’s sound that it sometimes gets credit for. While the melancholic atmosphere of ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ and the thorny discontent of ‘My Iron Lung’ were glimpses of the future, tracks like ‘Planet Telex’, ‘High and Dry’, and ‘Just’ were still very much a guitar rock band trying to at least sound modern rock-adjacent.
There were some important differences, however. Perhaps most important was the addition of producer Nigel Godrich, who would help guide the band into their more experimental recordings yet to come — although Godrich’s contributions are limited to the song ‘Black Star’. Also essential was Jonny Greenwood’s adoption of keyboard instruments, the likes of which gave him far greater influence in the band’s arrangements.
Radiohead gave a final farewell to their generic alt-rock sound with The Bends‘ closing song, ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’. Although the style is in line with their previous work, Thom Yorke’s cryptic lyrics allude to a less personal, more esoteric writing technique that he’ll be soon to take on in earnest.
While on tour in Yokohama, Japan, Yorke and Greenwood stopped by the set of the Japanese television programme Bubblegods to perform a few tracks from The Bends, including ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’. Yorke rocks a twelve string acoustic guitar, while Greenwood matches him note for note on his own acoustic. The song’s eeriness really comes to life in the stripped-down format, highlighting the song’s fleeting lyrics and unsettling wordless vocals that make Yorke sound like a ghost. Yorke and Greenwood have done the two-man acoustic format in recent years, but never have they been as straightforward with the final product as they are here.
Check out the acoustic performance of ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’ down below.