Thom Yorke is one of the most mercurial musicians of the modern era. A true enigma, he and each of the other members of Radiohead can be afforded the individual title of genius. Hard to define and constantly progressing, Yorke is an artist made up of a colourful patchwork of influences. A fan of 1960s pop, dance music and straight-up rock and roll, Yorke is the walking embodiment of undefined.
The Radiohead frontman is also brilliant in the way that he is never afraid to discuss his love of other artists, exhibiting the skills of a true muso. With a keen eye on the craft of songwriting, whilst also having a penchant for music’s peripheries, it is this kind of enquiring attitude that has characterised Radiohead as the beast they are. Popular but experimental, in many ways, the band is a combination of brilliant juxtapositions.
Yorke is a multi-faceted artist and having forayed into music, film, and other mediums, Yorke is an expert at finding his inspirations in the world around him. An artistic shape-shifter, he is the type of musician we all aspire to be, versatile and cerebral.
While he has cited the likes of R.E.M., David Bowie and Miles Davis as inspirations across his career, Yorke has also made his love for Boston alternative heroes Pixies very clear. Although the influence of Pixies on Yorke and Radiohead is not immediately evident, when you take a breath and think about it, it reveals itself.
There are actually many comparisons that can be drawn between the two bands. Both came as and represented the intellectual side to the machismo outpouring of the 1980s and ’90s guitar bands, and both undertook genius takes on rock ‘n’ roll’s penchant for the more visceral moments. Although Pixies came before Radiohead and delineated a significant chunk of guitar music’s blueprint, they have both suffered and succeeded in very similar ways. Admittedly, this is more the case for Radiohead and their never-ending headache, ‘Creep’.
Pixies are widely hailed as one of the most influential bands from the alt-rock scene at the onset of the ’90s, and each of the band’s classic lineup is revered as a legend in its own right. Given Yorke’s age and position as a member of Generation X, it comes as little surprise that Pixies’ second album, 1989’s Doolittle, made an indelible mark on him. He has even gone so far as to say that the album “changed my life”.
The album was so impactful that, without it, there would have been no Nevermind, Smashing Pumpkins or even PJ Harvey. It established the quiet-loud-quiet dynamics that are now ubiquitous across rock and other genres. Pixies’ use of light and dark massively influenced Radiohead’s early sound; there’s no denying it. The band’s first three records, Pablo Honey, The Bends and OK Computer, are all guitar-driven records featuring the shifting dynamics of Pixies. ‘Creep’, ‘My Iron Lung’, ‘Just’ and ‘Paranoid Android’ are just four from this period that instantly springs to mind.
Then, on the other hand, Radiohead’s later cuts, such as ‘Bodysnatchers’, for example, is a brilliant example of Pixies permeating Radiohead’s work. Though Radiohead have seemingly moved on from explicitly guitar-driven numbers, the influence of Pixies still exists within their artistry, just on a much more subversive level.
So, now that we’ve alerted you to the parallels between the two iconic bands, why not revisit some of their work?
Listen to Doolittle in full below.