Phil Rose delves into Radiohead’s work and its cultural context, drawing out how the music addresses political, environmental, and social crises. This book reveals the true depth and musical genius that has solidified Radiohead’s place in rock history and pop culture.
In a straightforward, if at times lumbering, narrative, Rose (Radiohead and the Global Movement for Change) explores the career of British rock band Radiohead in exhaustive detail. Rose dives deeply into the group's musical output, highlighting lyrical themes of mass surveillance, climate change, automation, and the military-industrial complex. Rose briefly chronicles the band's birth and early days, when the members (Colin and Johnny Greenwood, Philip Selway, and Thom Yorke) met at Abingdon School in Oxford, England, in 1985 before launching into an account of their first album, Pablo Honey (1993), up through critically acclaimed records including OK Computer (1997) and Kid A (2000) and beyond. Rose offers close readings of each song on every album, illustrating the ways in which Radiohead was inspired by literary themes or political events. "Sit Down, Stand Up (Snakes and Ladders)" from Hail to the Thief (2003), for example, grows out of frontman Yorke's listening to news reports of the 1994 Rwandan genocide; the song ends with a simulation of a mass attack in which missiles are heard dropping like "raindrops." Meanwhile, "Lucky," from OK Computer, warns of the dangers of the collapse of civilization and urges people to embrace love as a way of staving off such a catastrophe. Rose's tightly packed, admiring analysis will appeal primarily to Radiohead fans. Correction: An earlier version of this review misidentified the book's author.