Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dishonesty & Lies: Fake Plastic Trees

Radiohead: Fake Plastic Trees


There's nothing oblique about these lyrics: keeping up the appearances of a perfect, plastic lifestyle really does wear you out. And it's familiar, too: because of its straightforward, soaring melody, and its poignant take on modern existentialism, it has spawned versions from Amanda Palmer, Duncan Sheik, Lori McKenna, KT Tunstall, Jeff Tweedy, and more - more covers, ultimately, than any other Radiohead song, except perhaps Creep.

But the circumstances of this song's origin are surprisingly straightforward, for a band now known for unexpected album releases, cryptic album combination easter eggs, and a densely textured, often challenging songbook: after rejecting several "Guns and Roses-like" takes as far too bombastic, management kicked the rest of the band out of the studio; the band's singer Thom Yorke subsequently recorded the song in one take, and mixed it himself afterwards, making this one of the very few solo efforts recorded under the band moniker.

As a result of its unusual origin, though Fake Plastic Trees is often cited as a turning point, representing a move away from the grungy sound of their earliest works, both Yorke and band guitarist Jonny Greenwood have since distanced themselves from the song, choosing not to perform it in public except under contract or duress, and claiming in various publications that it is, ultimately, not meaningful enough to bear repeating "any more than we have to, to keep the fans happy".

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