Critics Corner: Thom Yorke + Jonny Greenwood and DOOM - Retarded Fren (2011 Single)

Critics corner returns with the track "Retarded Fren", which sees Radiohead's Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood and DOOM collaborate. We have two AU reviewers here to give us their feedback on the track, which was quite divided. Have a listen to it yourself to make up your own mind!

Review by James O'Doherty:

“Retarded Fren” marks the second time Thom Yorke and DOOM have worked together (after Yorke’s remix of DOOM’s “Gazzillion Ear” a few years back). This time, with Jonny Greenwood in the mix, the unusual blend between hip-hop and signature Yorke/Greenwood works far better in the setting of a completely tailor-made track.

Beyond DOOM’s initially clunkly delivery of “Honest day’s work / for an honest day’s pay,” the light staccato beats and carnivale-esque refrains from the two Radiohead producers compliment the casual, atonal rhymes of the New York rapper.

Repeating machinist grinding backgrounds the whole track, in classic DOOM apocalyptic, villainous style. However, his lyrical vignettes are, by and large, reminiscent of Gazzillion Ear - and not in a particularly good way. It seems one has to go back to MM.. Food? or his Madvilliany collaboration with Madlib for anything extending the DOOM canon.

It’s good to see genre-mashups which would otherwise be incompatible – and no-one quite does it better than Yorke and dark hip hop. The sampling of Greenwood’s “Proven Lands” from There Will Be Blood is also a nice touch.

Review Score: 7/10

Review by Jeremy Stevens:

Pairing hip-hop legend DOOM with Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood might seem a little odd at first glance. Although it's worth noting that Yorke is certainly no stranger to collaborative efforts - working alongside artists like Flying Lotus and Modeselektor in recent years.

Lending their compositional talents to DOOM's track sees Yorke and Greenwood bring in clicky, textural percussion over a solidifying beat. For all of its syncopation and eccentricity (would you expect anything less?), when the track gets wrapped up in DOOM’s verses, the instrumentation gets put on the backburner. Which is ultimately what the duo have shown themselves capable of doing - creating sensations that define a song without being constantly in your face. It's an intriguing sound, and one that sets the tone of the piece well.

Yorke and Greenwood give DOOM space to move, but his rapping, for all his critical acclaim, feels a bit flat and uninspired, leaving little to be remembered. Which is a shame. Collaborations like this provide an opportunity for something really special to be made, but they also provide plenty of opportunity for things to fall flat too.

While it’s interesting, and will probably please diehard DOOM fans, “Retarded Fren” feels like it misses the mark here.

Review Score: 4/10