Radiohead – My Iron Lung [EP] / Airbag/How Am I Driving? [EP]

October 30, 2006

Radiohead – My Iron Lung [EP]

Radiohead may be an alternative gargantuan today, but before they dove into the ocean of experimentation, they were a fairly straightforward and enjoyable pop/rock band. This timeframe could be described as starting with The Drill EP, the bands first release, and through Pablo Honey to The Bends. The Bends is easily the bands best album from this period, and Pablo Honey is comparatively inferior and even a bit mediocre save a few very strong moments. The disk that seemed to be forgotten in obscurity is this EP which was released in between Pablo Honey and The Bends. It features only one album track from The Bends which gives it it’s name, and otherwise delivers on the level of containing enough new material at the time to almost constitute an album if they added one or two more tracks.

The title track is obviously a winner, but the b-sides are what the fans will flock to this one for. Strangely enough, the disk gets reliably weaker as it goes along. The first b-side on the disk, The Trickster, is generally argued to be one of the bands absolute best b-sides period, and surely deserved to make it to The Bends in replacement of perhaps a weaker song such as Sulk. It’s crafty and many times snide attitude gives it true color. Lewis (Mistreated) almost could have been a Pop Is Dead clone, but instead makes itself out to be fine guitar pop. Punchdrunk Lovesick Singalong ends up being a warm, comforting endeavor and Permanent Daylight is a delightful outing into guitar layering pop heaven. After these tracks, the songs get progressively worse but still comfortably abrasive and nice. Lozenge of Love is a very quiet ballad with only so much direction. The final b-side, You Never Wash Up After Yourself, is quite the elementary and unsophisticated little blurb. The EP reaches it’s low point with an accoustic take of Creep where Thom Yorkes vocals and guitar playing are clearly not in tune. This version is inferrior to it’s Pablo Honey predecessor in every way, not even getting remotely close to catching the energy of the original pop anthem.

This is really not just your average EP full of sub par b-sides. It was a gateway into the era of The Bends and on it’s own has some pretty great material. This is a pretty big haul of material for an EP, especially considering it’s fairly obscured time of release, but it is well worth getting. It’s not that hard to track down and has a wealth of great material that is essential for Radiohead fans to feast on eventually.

Radiohead – Airbag/How Am I Driving? [EP]

Fast forward five years.

When Radiohead released OK Computer, there was a pretty big immediate buzz. Every song was in some way a type of revelation to the fans, and praise of surpassed expectations could be heard from fans of not just the British pop band but also fans of alternative rock. With the unanimous love for the album through critical praise and sheer sales came a slew of singles. This Japanese import is a compilation of not only a brilliant track from OK Computer, Airbag, but also six b-sides compiled from the OKC era singles. The disk is worth the high import price you may need to pay for it, as the songs are all classic Radiohead tracks.

Pearly is very much in the same vein as The Trickster was around five years earlier. The song plays with a sneaky and almost sinister mood at times, and ends up being one of the catchier b-sides the band ever made. This track alone would make even an expensive import an essential for the hardcore Radiohead fan, but the rest of the disk does justice to even the most touching moments of OKC by creating a simmilar atmosphere and feeling. Meeting In The Aisle is a fantastic drifty instrumental that complements the OKC era art as good as the strongest of the bands A-Sides. The next song, A Reminder, is a wonderfully relaxing piece that even complements the instrumentation with ambient background city noise (possibly Japanese noise, as this was a CD to accompany a Japanese tour) and a tired sounding Thom Yorke producing more poetic gold. The surreal and curiously pretty Polyethylene, Pts. 1 & 2 is a tough one for any listener to fit their head aroun, but worth getting to know in the end. Melatonin is another nice ambient gem that would almost be worthy of accompanying Fitter Happier as an effective transition piece elsewhere on OK Computer. And Palo Alto, a louder and more catchy and abrasive rocker ends the EP with great success.

If you are one of the many who were touched by the beauty and creativity of OK Computer and feast for more simmilar material, and wouldn’t mind shelling out a fair bit of cash for this rare import, the purchase wouldn’t be a bad idea. It’s clear why these songs are b-sides, that much is very obvious, but it should be noted that these all feel like lost passages in the masterpiece that is OK Computer. If taken in the same light as that of OK Computer, this is a great collection.


  1. I surprisingly found ‘Airbag/How Am I Driving?’ at Best Buy for only $5. Of course, I snatched it up right away. I’ve heard how rare it is.

  2. I think that it has been reissued or something. Since this post, I have also seen it in stores for very cheap. I got mine in a record store in Boston for about $7 while I was on vacation, and saw it for even cheaper in Barnes and Noble. I’ve heard rumors about a reissue, but I’m not sure.

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