Fake Plastic Trees
In a Nutshell
In recent years, Radiohead has often been hailed as the greatest band of its generation, its genre-redefining albums OK Computer
and Kid A
lauded as commercially successful pop that nonetheless represented true art. But the band didn’t always get such positive press. Its more conventional-sounding first album, Pablo Honey
(1993), was dismissed by critics as "corporate-funded Nirvana-lite." Even this song, "Fake Plastic Trees" (1995), got ripped in the movie Clueless
as "the maudlin music of the university station, waah waah waah." Maudlin though it may be, "Fake Plastic Trees" remains especially interesting today because we now know it marked the turning point in the band's evolution from generic alterna-rockers to pathbreaking musical innovators. And – harsh Clueless
verdict notwithstanding – it's just a great song.
About the Song
||Musician(s)||Thom Yorke (vocals, guitar), Johnny Greenwood (guitar, organ), Phil Selway (drums), Colin Greenwood (bass), John Matthias (violin, viola), Carolyn Lavelle (cello).
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
This is a song about alienation in the modern world, about the emptiness of a life in which superficial appearances and disposable commercial products seem to matter more than real and authentic human emotions.
Hmmmm, why does this all sound vaguely familiar? Maybe because these same themes run through much of our great literature. Could we imagine "Fake Plastic Trees" as a kind of soundtrack to Aldous Huxley's Brave New World
, or Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
, or even Henry David Thoreau's Walden
? Maybe… although we understand Thoreau had a strict "No iPod" policy in effect at his cabin.
On the Charts
"Fake Plastic Trees" debuted on the US Billboard charts on May 20, 1995; on June 6, about three weeks later, it peaked at No. 11 on the Modern Rock charts.
The album The Bends
, upon which "Fake Plastic Trees" appears, peaked at #88 in the Billboard 200 in 1996.
The album also hit #23 in Australia, #8 in Belgium, and #4 in the UK.