Some Thoughts On Radiohead

The other week, I was listening to a live Radiohead show from Seville. A number of thoughts struck me. The first was that, on form, they are an astonishing live band. To be able to replicate intricate, neo-jazz-dub-funk-rock numbers like “15-Step” live, and to do it well, shows that they are superlative musicians.

Second, that people who talk during rock shows should be shot.

But the main, overriding thought about them was, “I wish they would stop thinking they are Autechre meets Pink Floyd”. Because, since OK Computer, I’ve found them a hard band to love. And I know that this just isn’t the agreed alt-rock opinion, but frankly very little they have done since then has been great music. Sure, it’s been interesting, fascinating, and sometimes bewildering, but it’s not music that sits in your head. There’s precious little emotion, except of the We-Are-All-Doomed variety. When they do get back to their guitar roots, such as during “There There” or “Wolf At The Door”, they suddenly make sense again, and you remember what made them the greatest rock band of the 90’s.

I Did Rather Like This Bit

I Did Rather Like This Bit

And it seems like I’m right up against those arbiters of indiedom, Pitchfork. In their Top Albums of the 2000’s list, Radiohead’s “Kid A” comes top1. What, better than Yankee Hotel Foxtrot? Or You Forgot It In People? Yellow House? It’s not that I’m against established rock bands experimenting, far from it. And I’m certainly not against bands being different – albums such as Boredom’s “Vision Creation Newsun” and Tortoise’s “Standards” are two of my top records of the Naughties – but there’s something about Radiohead’s last four albums that don’t just work for me.

It’s immensely frustrating watching a brave, hugely talented band trying something different and finding that it doesn’t quite work. Even more frustrating to find most other people praising them to high heaven, rather than looking back and going “Hold on, this sounds just like something Aphex Twin would reject for not being good enough”. Maybe it’s just me being cloth-eared. Who knows?

Back When They Were Good*

Back When They Were Good*

Ok, so maybe I’ll have a Damascene conversion one day, scales dropping from my eyes as I declare “Kid A” to be the Eighth Wonder Of The World, but somehow I doubt it. In the meantime I’ll be that moany bloke in the corner who says “Ooh, why don’t they play their guitars a bit more these days? These electronic beats is making my ears hurt” whilst everyone else is enjoying themselves to “I Will”2.

Top live band, though.

*Of course, they are still pretty good now. I’m just messing with you.

1 Which brings me to another point – The Avalanches at number 10? Seriously? I liked them as much as the next man back in 2000, but let’s just say they got old quick and really haven’t recovered.

2 I wonder if anyone has ever enjoyed themselves to that song? No, me neither. Gosh, I’m a miserable sod today. It’s the drizzle. Always brings out the maudlin in me.

MP3: 15 Step by Radiohead (Live From Seville 2009)

MP3: There There by Radiohead (Live From Seville 2009)

MP3: A Wolf At The Door by Radiohead (Live From Seville 2009)

MP3: These Are My Twisted Words by Radiohead (Live From Seville 2009)

Buy “Kid A [2CD & DVD]” (If You Have To)

Buy “Radiohead Limited Edition 7 CD Album Box Set” (Pretty Good Value For £30)

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