If you converted all the critical plaudits Radiohead has gotten over the past fifteen years or so into liquid form, and poured them into all the world’s supertankers, then an awful lot of supertanker crews would be frantically bailing their overloaded vessels out to keep the keels off the harbor floors.
Now, I’ve been around music a long time. I’ve listened to a lot of it. I’m about as openminded as it gets. I dig music on two levels; on the one hand, there’s music that grabs me in the liver, that connects with me emotionally right where I live and breathe. It’s the stuff I wear on my sleeve in this blog – stuff like Springsteen and Tchaikowski and Emmylou Harris and Richard Thompson and Prince and the Clash and Gustav Mahler and Sam and Dave and piobaireachd and Iris Dement and the Iron City Houserockers and middle-period Public Enemy and the Black Watch Pipes and Drums, and all kinds of stuff in between. Stuff that grabs me in the soul.
And then there’s stuff that misses my soul to one degree or another, but which I admire from a technical perspective as a musician, much like a programmer might admire good code or an engineer a perfect gusset plate, as great technique for its own sake. Stuff like Yngwie Malmsteen or or Alban Berg or Rush or Bela Fleck or Miles Davis or Charles Mingus or Rimsky-Korsakoff – stuff whose pure technical excellence I admire and enjoy to a degree, but which doesn’t grab me by the liver and say “this explains a key part of what life is about!”.
And at the juncture of neither of these avenues lies Radiohead.
Now, if you’ve followed this “Thing I Like/Things I Don’t” series over the past few months, you’ll know this is the point where I launch into a detailed explication of why, even though I know I should like something, and indeed find things in his or her or their body of work that I do appreciate, there is a paradoxical hitch that keeps me from liking it, or interferes with my appreciation.
But not here.
Because while I’ve tried, and King Banaian (as Radiohead-y of a Radiohead fan as exists) has tried, and other ‘head fans have tried, I can’t honestly say I care about them on either level.
And as with most of these love/hate articles, it’s not that I couldn’t or won’t be converted. And I’ll cop to the fact that the period from the band’s major-league debut up through what their fans call their “creative peak” (whatever that was – and if you get five Radiohead fans in a room, you’ll get seven answers to that question) happened at a time when I didn’t listen to much music at all, so it never really had a chance to get ingrained in my head, one way or the other.
It’s just that in a decade and change of (sorta) trying, nothing has pushed me in one direction or the other.
OK. Not much of an article. Sorry. I’m a creep and I don’t belong here…