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Nightmare Fuel / Radiohead

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Radiohead: Masters of scaring the hell out of people.

The Bends:

OK Computer:

  • "Climbing Up the Walls" is the most well-known example. It's a song about people living next to an insane asylum being unable to sleep at night for fear of someone coming in the house, sung entirely in a slurred, unintelligible tone over a musical duel between screechy strings, noisy electronics, heavy drumming and loud guitars. About it, Thom has said:
    This is about the unspeakable. Literally skull-crushing. I used to work in a mental hospital around the time that Care in the Community started, and we all just knew what was going to happen. And it's one of the scariest things to happen in this country, because a lot of them weren't just harmless... It was hailing violently when we recorded this. It seemed to add to the mood. Some people can't sleep with the curtains open in case they see the eyes they imagine in their heads every night burning through the glass. Lots of people have panic buttons fitted in their bedrooms so they can reach over and set the alarm off without disturbing the intruder. This song is about the cupboard monster.
    • Thom's tortured scream at the end adds to the effect.
    • The last 25 seconds of eerie noises, which sound like something from Krzystof Penderecki's early orchestral pieces (themselves Nightmare Fuel).
  • "Fitter Happier" is a list of random, vaguely authoritarian slogans set to a minimalist soundscape and an out-of-tune piano. The list itself is spoken by a computer.
  • The video for "Karma Police" can be horribly unsettling sometimes, especially when the camera shifts to Thom's unreadable face or the terrified hunted man. The ending is probably the creepiest part; the hunted man finds that the car chasing him has a gas leak, so he lights it with a match. The car eventually catches fire, and the driver frantically looks around before slowly turning back to look at Thom in the backseat. The backseat is empty.
    • The distorted "sirens" at the end are also pretty disconcerting.
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  • The meaning behind "Paranoid Android."
    paranoid android. in a bar in hollywood* the centre of the western universe, standing at the bar (social drinking) after doing the talk show bit. do you want to know this? this is what we aspire to is it? it is dark, there is a woman opposite me o is as sociably anorexic as her poodle, she looks desolate in her make up and lost eyes, next to her her husband boyfriend is persuading a younger fleshed half his age stewardess to come back to the hills to their mansion to sample his wine. she looks t him like he's a character in a hammer house horror. one of our friends spills a glass of wine over a vacuum packed gucci outfit complete with matching white hand bag. the witch goes crazy, we think it is fuunny. until we see the evil in her eyes. m friend is asked to leave. the gucci creature is the closest thing i have seen to the devil. the woman is possessed. i cannot sleep that night asking what we've got our selves into. voices talking like fax machines, hissing and spitting like demons, this is the master race. and now im part of it. anyway you didnt want to know that.
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  • During the final reprise freak out of "Paranoid Android," mixed quite low in the background, there are blasts of what sounds like White Noise on normal speakers, but on headphones you can hear that it's (presumably) Thom screaming his lungs out and babbling incoherently.
  • Paranoid Android's official music video, especially the part where the fat evil businessman strips himself completely naked in the middle of an open public road (prompting the black guy standing next to him to regretfully take a sip from his flask for every weird/ridiculous thing that he sees the businessman do, naturally) and starts trying to chop down a metal light pole with his axe, before finally accidentally cutting all four of his limbs off and sinking to the bottom of the ocean, where he is picked up by freakishly large-titted mermaids who then proceed to wrap him up in a blanket as if he were a baby and plant him in a nearby tree.
  • The music video for "No Surprises" is probably not for anyone with a fear of drowning. It depicts Thom Yorke singing "No Surprises" in close-up while wearing a dome over his head like an astronaut. As he sings, the dome begins to fill with water. When it is completely full, Thom goes limp and motionless for almost a full minute. The dome drains, and he gets out alive. He was never in any actual danger — they Over Cranked the film in order to make it appear he was motionless. He actually only had to hold his breath for a few seconds. The kicker? The video took several takes to film, and each time Thom grew more and more stressed out and agitated. Horribly, eye-wateringly claustrophobic.
    • "No Surprises" is actually quite horrifying to listen to if you pay attention to the lyrics, especially during the ending, where it sounds like someone is yelling "GET ME OUT OF HERE" in the background.

Kid A:

  • Nearly any of the promotional 'blips' that were made. Downright creepy scenes and imagery, and incredibly apocalyptic and futuristic.
  • The song "Kid A" is initially only kind of unsettling. It gets creepier when you figure out the lyrics ("standing in the shadows at the end of my bed...") and the fact that to Thom they represent something so horrible he distorted his voice in the song to distance himself from it. The speculation regarding what exactly that is doesn't help (the creepy pied piper imagery suggests pedophilia, while Thom has hinted it's about cloning or mind control). Then you look up its pages in the maze section of the Radiohead website, one of which is a picture of a man with his eyes sewn shut. And then you look up the lyrical outtakes, made by Thom's usual semi-comprehensible stream of consciousness to seem like they were written by a lunatic:
    I am the bloody pied piper rats and children follow me out of town a scarecrow that dont scare the crows nowadays i get panicked i have ceased to exist my words you know are out of ink. drooling looney tunes moving room to room did you lie to us tony? we thought you were different but now were not so sure now you know were not so sure. we can blow a hole in anything thatchers children see you on the way back down. kill the enemy within unhinged cowboys and indians moving statues yur safe until you look away. i would like to change back now please to the shadow of my former self. iam the bloody pied piper. & the rats and the children will follow me around so you hade better make it worth my while. please allow me the suspension of your disbelief the benefit of the doubt.
    never say anything
    be instrumental
  • Stanley Donwood's artwork is naturally kind of creepy, but the Kid A art deserves special mention.
  • While the title track may be the strongest example, the entire album is creepy and offputting, though never outright scary (in general, it just sounds.... wrong). Here are some of the more unsettling qualities, track by track:
    • "Everything in Its Right Place's" strange synths and Thom's distorted voice, combined with its constant build up.
    • "The National Anthem," when the instruments drop out and we're left with distorted samples of dialogue and an orchestra at the end.
    • "How to Disappear Completely's" calm but dissonant string arrangement.
    • "Treefingers" is comparatively soft, but is still empty and cold.
    • "In Limbo" is hazy, off-balance, and ends with what sounds like a siren wailing through a snowstorm.
    • "Idioteque" is an extremely anxious and paranoid dance song. Its rhythmic energy doesn't make it lighter, but instead more desperate. The song ends on another distorted sample, this time of wailing, atonal strings.
    • "Morning Bell" comes in on Idioteque's Last Note Nightmare.
    • "Motion Picture Soundtrack" is an ironic example. The harp samples are so sweet as to be sickly and seem to have deliberately invoked Disney soundtracks, but the lyrics are still cold, distant, and offputting, especially with its references to the afterlife.
  • The album's hidden booklet, especially the caricature of Tony Blair with a Slasher Smile, as well as the liberal doses of Word-Salad Horror.


  • "Like Spinning Plates" is extremely unsettling, from the distorted vocals in the first few lines to the fact that the music itself is another song played backwards.
    • The music video (which uses "Pulk / Pull Revolving Doors" as an intro to the song) may be one of the most disturbing things Radiohead has put out. Most of the video centers on a bizarre machine that pulses and flickers, and it's only toward the end of the video that the viewer sees the crying babies inside the machine. We would call them Siamese twins, but that's a bit of an oversimplified description. The babies' upper torsos are joined from opposite ends in some horrific CatDog-esque procedure, and their legs jut out from their sides. The video ends with the babies' chests rising like a chestburster is about to come out, and their entire ribcage is ripped out of them. Yeah.
      • The way the machine moves so gracefully takes on a disturbing quality once you realise it's basically a centrifuge, and the CGI look of the machine mixed with how clean it is and how white the room it's in is gives off an uncomfortably sterile atmosphere.
  • "Pulk / Pull Revolving Doors." Not much of a melody to speak of, a hellish-sounding rhythm and sparse, ominous lyrics:
    There are doors that let you in and out \ But never open \ But they are trapdoors \ That you can't come back from.
  • There's something extremely unsettling about B-Side "The Amazing Sounds Of Orgy". The weird synths, the pulsing percussion, and Thom's eerily sexual singing.
    Cease this endless chattering \ Like everything is fine

Hail to the Thief

  • The conclusion of "Where I End and You Begin."
  • The eerie Madness Mantra that is "The Gloaming (Softly Open Our Mouths in the Cold)."
  • The music video for "There There." The amount of purely surreal stuff in the video isn't all that scary, but it's the equally surreal ending that sells it. Basically, the moral of that story is "Don't wear clothes you find in the woods or crows will attack you, then you'll turn into a tree."
  • "I Will" is equal parts sad and disturbing, really, since it's an anti-war song dealing with how children can be war's casualties and resources. Reportedly, the lyrics of the song were inspired by a horrific scene on the news depicting a bomb shelter full of children and families being destroyed during the first Gulf War.
  • "Myxomatosis." Heavily distorted lead synth and guitar that constantly seems off-key? Check. Screeching organ in the background? Check. Vaguely ominous and brutal lyrics containing such lovely phrases like: "the mongrel cat came home holding half a head," "don't know why I feel so skinned alive," and "twitching and salivating like with myxomatosis?" Check. An unnatural rhythm that defies any time signature? Check. And then you find out myxomatosis is a disease that gives rabbits huge skin tumors before killing them. Nice.
  • "A Wolf at the Door:"
    Steal all my children
    If I don't pay the ransom
    But I'll never see them again
    If I squeal to the cops

In Rainbows:

  • The music video to "House of Cards" is used entirely 3D plotting technologies, and heavily features Thom singing with his face processed into a 3D figure. The results are...odd, to say the least.

The King of Limbs:

  • The album cover for The King of Limbs.
    • In general, TKOL had some pretty freaky art.

A Moon Shaped Pool:


  • "Bloom (Mark Pritchard RMX)" and "Separator (Anstam RMX pt ii)" are both quite dark and ominous.
  • A lot of weird stream-of-consciousness-style text (in addition to the exceedingly morbid and surreal art) can be found in their aptly-titled book Dead Children Playing which pretty much showcases all of Donwood/Yorke's artwork from OKC to HTTT. A little snippet:
    ''Just a million mobiles and modems squawking and sputtering and hissing like piss on a fire like a million gallons of piss on an inferno just think of it, ok? Just think of that. Vertebrae being sewn apart sounds like this.


  • There's something disturbing about the quiet, traumatized-sounding, gratuitously panned backing vocal in "Pearly*" contrasted against the aggressive 'rawk' lead vocals — it sounds like there's one Thom wailing away onstage and another one right behind you. The fact that the song is about a group of Japanese girls who prostituted themselves to get tickets to a Radiohead concert (much to Thom's horror) just makes it even more unsettling.
  • Some may find Thom's video for "Brain in a Bottle" to be highly disorienting and even unnerving, considering how close he is to the camera.

we've got heads on sticks... and you've got ventriloquists... standing in the shadows at the end of my bed...

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