Saturday, April 23, 2016

What's Wrong With Radiohead?


Since the War, you know, the big one, Britain's empire has seen the sun set (look it up) and turned its focus to a new kind of imperialism, a new means to conquer the world: rock 'n' roll. The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, Roxy Music, Queen, Bowie, The Clash, The Cure, The Smiths, Joy Division, on and on, even Hendrix for that matter skipped to the right side of the pond to find success.

Funniest Thing About Radiohead- The Artwork
Ever vigilant, the British Press touted every mediocre British Band as the new Beatles (or worse, the new Oasis – AM's choice for most overrated asses ever). Yet Radiohead was different. They weren't over-hyped to start simply because Pablo Honey wasn't that good (in retrospect, though, the AM10 of its era). And when they were anointed the Best Band in the Alternate Universe, somewhere around OK Computer (AM9), they responded not by self-imploding, but by releasing Kid A (AM10), which even snobs who only listen to free jazz and post-rock had to admit was pretty damn good.

The problem that I have with them now is that I've never heard anything that one could even remotely describe as "lighthearted" or "fun." Or funny (at least Morrissey is funny). Radiohead Matters, they're Thoughtful and Complex (mandatory bolded and capitalized letters), but for a band that plays pop music they take themselves awfully seriously. They kick ass live (hard to imagine), but they run through technically demanding songs like classical musicians: accurately, passionately, and with an almost total lack of improvisation or stage banter, i.e. joy. Simply put, they don't look like they're having a very good time. 



That sounds nit-picky, but isn't it important for anyone who gets to do something for a living as self-evidently absurd as playing rock music supposed to have a good time? Radiohead may be enjoying life, and I've read enough interviews with Yorke to know the guy has a sense of humor, but there's no evidence of that in the music or in his lyrics. The Beatles were bigger than Jesus, but they were also a lot more fun (well, not more fun than Jesus); sometimes they just want you to drive their car or hold their hand. The Clash were serious and politically minded, but also had some lighthearted head-bobbing ditties. Talking Heads, who wrote the song Radiohead is named for, had a whole lot of humor in their songs, or at least they did if you got them (“Nothing But Flowers” is hilarious). The Cure had that song about Friday kicking ass over the other days, a level of silliness that would just make Radiohead embarrassed. Heck, even Pink Floyd wrote a few off-kilter love songs once in a while before Syd Barrett lost his brain (probably on a bike he didn't own). 

IDK, maybe I don't get it, but come now. Here's a Radiohead knee slapper: "Reckoner take me with yer." My God, I can't stop laughing.