Radiohead’s New Single “Follow Me Around” Is Classic Rock

Radiohead in 1997

Radiohead in 1997
Photo: Jim Steinfeldt / Michael Ochs Archives (Getty Images)

Kid A Mnesia, the forthcoming reissue of Radiohead’s iconic fourth and fifth albums (Child A and Amnesiac, natch), also contains a third disc compiling material unearthed from these original recording sessions. And while the debut single “If You Say The Word” certainly sounds like it was recorded during this time of transformation for the art-rock group, the latest single, “Follow Me Around”, is something different. : namely, this is one of the simplest pop songs ever written by Radiohead.

From his opening chords, it’s clear this track was left out. Child A and Amnesiac For a reason. These two records redefined the sound of Radiohead, in a way that took a big departure from the guitar-based rock he was known for. The biggest absence? Exactly the kind of strummy, immediate guitar hooks that had given the band its initial reputation – in other words, the very definition of “Follow Me Around”, which is defined from the start in traditionalist opposition to the then evolving style. of the group.

The song has been kind of a longtime white whale for fans. Originally (and only for a few years) available as part of Meeting people is easy, the tour documentary that did a great job make it feel like being at Radiohead was a fucking disappointment), viewers heard it repeated during a soundcheck in Japan. From that point on, it was a rarely heard presence on live shows – first performed in 2000, in fact, only because of a fan campaign to have it played live ( through a website called – what else? –followmearound.com).

Listening to it now, it’s easy to hear why Radiohead would have hesitated to include it in the release at the time. It might be the simplest, purest pop song they’ve ever released, even “High and dry”, Which is about as pop as the band gets, has weird, ethereal elements pulling the seams. Here it’s just an acoustic guitar and Thom Yorke singing in a classic rock register. Honestly close your eyes, and it’s not hard to imagine Eddie Vedder singing that B-side of an old Pearl Jam single.

It’s surprising to hear Radiohead, through the 2021 lens, deliver such a ’70s-style folk-pop ballad at a time when the band were busy reinventing themselves, but given thatHis earlier origins — and the fact that Yorke always excelled at organic simplicity, whether behind the piano or strapped to an acoustic guitar — is a compelling document of a Radiohead that could have been. Johnny Greenwood made no secret of his belief that the band was going to revert to a homecoming rock guitar record after that.s “experimental” phase, only for the exact opposite to happen.

But “Follow Me Around”, with thatThe three-chord foundation, the Neil Young-style verse-chorus-verse structure, and the accessibility of the earworm, is a testifies to this alternative path. Radiohead ended up transforming itself, as well as the sound of mainstream and indie rock art, with its ambitious creative reimagining. SSongs like this are a reminder that, underneath it all, there is an equally clear reason why the band could take such an ambitious turn: bbecause he mastered the possibilities of classic rock that were at the origin of his sound.


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