Monday, February 21, 2011

Radiohead, Won't You Let Me Back In Your Heart

Do you ever feel like sometimes you are just not in on the joke? The way I loved Radiohead's "OK Computer" is not unlike having that best friend that you shadowed 24-7. The friend you wanted to do everything with, and go everywhere with. Then one day, he just wants no part of you. You ask him why, but he just laughs and makes you look the fool. (See "Hail To The Thief,""Amnesiac, "Kid A," and "In Rainbows.")

I admit there are moments on Radiohead's last release, "In Rainbows" that don't make me want to punch them, but I don't think I'd be unreasonable if I asked them, "What did I ever do to you? I was your friend."

Even more frustrating is the continued loyalty from both critics and fans over music, that for the last ten years has become less and less accessible, and more like some selfish experiments gone awry.

As one friend put it, when finding out Radiohead was about to release "The King Of Limbs":
"I love the way they've made their own world and they live it in."
I agree and completely admire the band for doing what they want, both on the business end of matters and with the music. But what about that music?

"The King Of Limbs," continues to travel on that same convoluted path of blips, squeaks, textures, drones and gibberish that has made one of the great bands of all time seem more like a bunch of pretentious wankers taking the piss on everyone in their way.

I've listened to "King Of Limbs" three times, uninterrupted. And like each of the aformentioned post-"Ok Computer" records, I find myself straining to find melody, or something small to hang onto for any period of time. I want to love this record. Hell, I'd be happy to not mind this record. But again, Radiohead has handed us a collection of songs that sound like outtakes or b-sides.

Songs like "Bloom" and "Feral" are the type of nerve-shredders Brian Eno used to compose in his sleep, only underneath the random sounds of chaos, Eno also offered a melody, that on its own, would usually break your heart. I am also tired of the programmed drumming that sounds like a drunken Amtrak train. Even when the band stumbles onto something worthwhile like "Lotus Flower" or "Separator," the songs are immediately sabotaged by arrangements that draw more attention to the fact that just maybe this band has run out of songwriting gas.

And please, for all of you Radiohead fans who want to disagree with me, or show me a thing or two, or tell me what I'm not hearing, I ask that you please refrain from one thing. Find something other than the hackneyed "you're living in the past" excuse. I loved this band. There's nothing wrong with wanting songs on a new album.


Gene Oberto said...

Sal, I'm with you except, thinking back, I'm not even sure I liked "OK Computer" save for the fact it's been the only one I have been able to remotely connect to.

It seems that that your friend's comment, "...they've made their own world and they live in it" is the only solution I can think of for the onslaught of noise that they seem to think is art.

We laughed at Lou Reed and now I can dismiss Radiohead for this kind of "music."

As to being the critic's darling, no one writes about the music of this band. The MSM can only comment on how they operate completely outside the normal label structure and succeed.

There are two reasons for that, I think. The first is that as messed up as the labels are, I can't see ANY A6R guy signing off on this stuff and second, as any grifter will tell you, there's one born every minute.

Sal Nunziato said...

If you haven't heard "The Bends," the record prior to "OK Computer," I strongly suggest acquainting yourself with it. It's a brilliant record, with songs and melodies, and real heart. It also makes the transition to "OK Computer" more sensible. What followed is what I have a problem with.

My friend also had this to say, which I like a lot:

"Each new record since Kid A, (which I fucking love) I keep expecting them to make another leap forward. It's like if the Beatles made 4 Sgt. Pepper-style records. I want Radiohead to make a "White Album."

I don't like anything after "OK Computer." Not only are they not making a leap forward, it all sounds like they stuck on ice, wheels spinning and spinning, getting absolutely nowhere.

Albert said...

OK...Kid A boasts 2 cuts that match up with the older stuff....Amnesiac and InRainbows are downright good albums, in my arrogant opinion...but none I mean none of it comes close to The Bends nor OK Computer...dried up?..yep...stretching the obsessives' patience and still have them claim how great Radiohead big middle-finger to the artist/end-user relationship...rather listen to the Monkees...THEY at least make me smile...

cmealha said...

I have the same problem. I want to like them. There's something there but you can't call them songs. I don't find myself listening to them too much but I've seen the live performance that's been showing on DirecTV a number of times and the video for "lotus Flower" is mesmerizing. I have this feeling that he's trying to lead us somewhere new and we just haven't caught up. I'm also not sure if I'm ready to follow.

Chris Swartout said...

I totally agree with you Sal. I will get the new record and then wonder why I bothered. I have to say I'm much more interested in the new Ron Sexsmith record.

cmealha said...

Chris, Thanks for the heads up on Ron Sexsmith. Based on the 3 tracks on his MySpace page I'm very interested as well.

Anything Should Happen said...

Personally, I think you are living in the past Sal!

Anything Should Happen said...

I'd make two personal points and one you partially mention.

I stick with bands through thick and thin, always hoping that the next one will be it.

I've got the new one, I'm not overstruck, but I'll buy the next one too.

For me, The Bends is a better album than OK Computer. As an album it flows better and at it's best, it is outstanding.

There are three or four better songs on OK Computer, but as an album The Bends is always it for me and gets far more play time in ASH Towers than OK ever does.