Thom Yorke has a very distinctive voice. It only takes a few words and you know immediately that you’re listening to Radiohead, a solo effort or, very occasionally, a guest contribution. I reckon, for the most part, his voice is perfect for the songs on which he sings; but just occasionally, whether it’s because he buries the delivery with a near-mumble or, at the other extreme, goes effortlessly into OTT mode that he ends up overpowering the work of his bandmates, he ruins things.
As Radiohead became increasingly popular, he found himself much in demand for vocal contributions – for instance, there were three with PJ Harvey on her album Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea (released in 2000), but just two years earlier he had guested on this, helping to provide a band with their sole chart single:-
mp3 : Drugstore – El President
Drugstore were around for much of the 90s, formed in London but with a Brazilian born singer-songwriter in the shape of Isabel Monteiro. The band were one of those who always made for an interesting opening act and so fans of the likes of Radiohead, Tindersticks, Jeff Buckley and The Jesus and Mary Chain would have had opportunities to catch them.
El President was the first single to be lifted from their second album, White Magic for Lovers. It was written by Monteiro as a tribute to Salvador Allende, whose four decades of political involvement in Chilean politics had seen him become president in 1970 (elected in a run-off by Congress as none of the three candidates has won any overall majority) but just three years later he had committed suicide rather than give in to a military coup. It was a coup supported by the CIA, which in itself was no surprise given that Allende was a committed Marxist and the Cold War was being fought.
I’ll just mention in passing that he was succeeded by General Augusto Pinochet….unarguably one of the worst persecutors of his political opponents in the 20th Century.
Drugstore faded off the scene just after the turn of the century, but had a low-key but critically successful reunion for a few years from 2009 onwards, before the singer relocated to her home city of Sao Paulo in 2015.