Having started as an electronic trip-hop band in the early ’90s, no one could have predicted the critical success that UNKLE would see with their debut record Psyence Fiction in 1998. Having recruited famed producer DJ Shadow who had just two years prior released his magnum opus, Endtroducing….., the group were basically set for major heights with their unique brand of sampling and original compositions.
While their fame didn’t exactly reach the heights that it should, their debut record did indeed include a number of memorable tracks, the best-known being their collaboration with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, ‘Rabbit In Your Headlights’. While the song performed rather well as a single, its downtempo nature meant that it wasn’t really going to work that well as a radio-friendly track. As a result, the track became best known for its famous music video, directed by Jonathan Glazer, which I highly recommend as one of my favourite music videos, as well.
The track itself is a sample-driven number, featuring sparse piano, brilliant vocals from Yorke, and a sample from the film Jacob’s Ladder, from which the track’s title is borrowed from. Yorke’s lyrics paint the picture of suburban paranoia and isolation, a theme heavily investigated upon Radiohead’s OK Computer, released a year prior.
While the track stands alone as a brilliant piece of sample-based downtempo trip-hop, something that would see heightened popularity a couple of years later with The Avalanches debut record, the track’s music video helps to bring forward the idea of the track. While it would be best not to spoil the theme of the video for those who are yet to view it, the almost unsubtle theme of being continuously knocked down is illustrated perfectly thanks to the video, giving a human element to the pained lyrics from Yorke.