Musicians’ inspirations /// Chris (The Four Fours)

The Four Fours

Radiohead – The Bends

I got into The Bends around the time I got seriously into playing guitar. For me it came into my life at a time when I really wanted to learn about the world but was becoming disenfranchised with education, or at least the education I was receiving at the time. The Bends provided something that really resonated with me and inspired me to make music. It’s angsty but sensitive, ugly but beautiful.

My guitar playing developed loads by playing along with, and against, this record. At one point I could play pretty much every part off the album. For a number of years I played Fender Telecasters too, I don’t play them much now, but I still own two and I would never part with them. For now my main guitar is a Gibson SG 60s Jr, it forces me play differently and is definitely my sound for The Four Fours, but every now and then a part crops up and Matt’s like “that’s so Radiohead”.

Okay, so with the album playing in the background…

1) Planet Telex – Wow, like nothing I’d ever heard before. Opens with a huge tremolo effect, incredibly atmospheric and dramatic. The lyrics are a shift from personal, introverted writing found a lot on Pablo Honey, to cultural and global concerns, a sign of what was to come with OK Computer. The drumming is perfect. It’s one of those rare songs where the verses are bigger than the chorus but the song still works. Then there’s the guitar part in the second verse, pre-bends galore (that’s where you bend a string before you pick it, then release the bend down to the fretted note).

2) The Bends – Big chords which sound glorious. This is quite an immediate song, lots of open chords. Some truly unconventional and effective guitar parts, like pulling strings off the neck.

3) High And Dry – I read somewhere that this song was originally recorded during the Pablo Honey sessions but did not make it onto the album, and that the version on The Bends is the original demo, re-mastered. Considering the success of the song and how much it gets played, that’s quite remarkable.

4) Fake Plastic Trees – A great acoustic based track with subtle flourishes from the band. The title is meant to be inspired by the landscape around Canary Wharf. Legend has it that Thom Yorke recorded the vocals for Fake Plastic Trees after getting back from a Jeff Buckley gig, and got so worked up tracking the vocals that he broke down to tears afterwards. Okay, so I’m a little it lost by a lot of the lyrics, but this song has one of my favourite Radiohead lines: “If I could be who you wanted, all the time”. Thom Yorke is the master at writing final lines (I’ll come back to that in a bit). Dodgy trivia time… the video for Fake Plastic Trees was one of two music videos from 1995 where the lead singer was in a shopping trolley, the other being Pulp’s video for Common People.

5) Bones – This is the pick up after two slower tracks, got all the glory of The Bends. There’s lots of bluesy music going on, and backing vocals that remind me of t-Rex’s Twentieth Century Boy.

6) Nice Dream – Apparently this was originally considered as a single. I like the slides between the chords on the acoustic guitar, some producers would try to engineer them out, but I like them. There’s some nice strings on this track. It builds and builds into a scorching guitar part, then drops back to a delicate coda.

7) Just – How great does the acoustic sound? How many chords can you fit into one song? This is a spiky track, musically and lyrically. Self-loathing and alienating: “You do it to yourself”. The guitar playing is phenomenal. The video is also great. What does that bloke laying down on the street say?

8) My Iron Lung – Lyrically it’s about being bound to something, it’s meant to be the kick-back to Creep. Really intricate parts and a huge arrangement. Great guitar work.

9) Bullet Proof… I Wish I Was – This is perhaps the biggest sign that Radiohead were about to branch away from rock and that the albums to come would be more ethereal. After the last three tracks this is a gentle come down.

10) Black Star – A classic transcendent song about heartbreak, Black Star is a telling account of a failing relationship: “I know all the things around your head and what they do to you. What are we coming to? What are we going to do?”.

11) Sulk – The bass line in this song is fabulous, really playful and bouncy, a great juxtaposition against the heavy ambience of the guitars. When it kicks in there’s a mass of sound and octaves galore.

12) Street Spirit (Fade Out) – This song reminds me a little of R.E.M.’s Everybody Hurts and Strange Currencies, partly due to them all utilising arpeggios, but also because they each have incredibly harrowing lyrics. The album is challenging, uncompromising, serious and even bleak at points, but ends on a beautiful line, like an antidote for all the fear: “Immerse your soul in love”.

So that’s The Bends, then there are the b-sides, I listen to some of these more than the album tracks. Check out ‘The Trickster’, ‘Talk Show Host’, and my favourite, ‘Permanent Daylight’.

Chris (The Four Fours)


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