Radiohead – Airbag / How Am I Driving?

Radiohead - Airbag HAID

Airbag / How Am I Driving? is a mini-album by Radiohead released in 1998 only for American audiences, consisting lead track “Airbag” and seven b-sides from various singles off of the band’s landmark OK Computer. The songs are true to the band’s spacey-alternative rock themes from the parent album, along with two of Radiohead’s first ambient experiments – “Meeting in the Aisle” and “Melatonin.” None of the songs here are as particularly depressing as those on Kid A or OK Computer, although “Palo Alto” rivals the latter’s “Electioneering” with its commentary on empty work environments and banal pleasantries. “Polyethylene, Pts. 1 & 2” is anthemic, with a descending guitar riff that is the most rock-out track the band had recorded since Pablo Honey. Those looking for some more exposition of the OK Computer-era would do well to check out this album, and it’s a lot easier to track down than the singles themselves. The only real disappointment is that there aren’t more b-sides from that era on here – it’s not like there isn’t more space on the disc.1

This is one of the few albums where owning a copy of the physical release substantially increases its value. Incorporated with Airbag / How Am I Driving? is a small booklet of various short stories written in an extremely dry tone describing a man in his typical work day. There are old presentation slides that reveal absolutely nothing of importance, evoking the mind-numbingly absurd Office Space-esque atmosphere that heavily informed much of OK Computer. The supplementary material would probably be funny if it weren’t such a sad depiction of nine-to-five corporate life, and as such it exemplifies the listless haze that surrounds much of the late nineties era of Radiohead’s output.

1. Airbag – (4:46) – ★★★★★
2. Pearly – (3:32) – ★★★★☆
3. Meeting in the Aisle – (3:08) – ★★★★☆
4. A Reminder – (3:51) – ★★★★☆
5. Polyethylene, Pts. 1 & 2 – (4:22) – ★★★★★
6. Melatonin – (2:09) – ★★★★☆
7. Palo Alto – (3:43) – ★★★★☆

Overall: ★★★★☆

1To the Internet we go!

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