Radiohead has headed back into the studio to work on their new album, confirming the rumors sparked by Thom Yorke’s cryptic (a.k.a. arty, a.k.a. pretentious) announcement on their message boards.
At what point did Radiohead buy into their own hype? I guess when enough people tell you that you’re the avant garde and savior of rock and roll you eventually lose touch with reality and believe them. Not that I’m not still a fan of the band, but I guess I’ve grown weary of hearing about Thom’s tortured soul and how he’s too fragile to deal with the weight of stardom. Is this for real? Then why clamor for attention by announcing things on a message board? It seems like a far cry from their No Singles, No Video, No Touring campaign for Kid A.
Here’s the part where I join that club where everyone bitches about how said band don’t sound like they used to and how we wish they would just keep making the same music forever. Not really, I’ve enjoyed every one of their albums post-OK Comupter. There’s some absolutely brilliant stuff there. It’s just watered down when I have to skip over the ambient skwaks and bleeps. There are traces in the albums, but mostly evident in their live shows, that when these guys stop trying to fuck around, they can still be the best rock band in the world.
OK Computer and the Bends, like the Beatles’ Rubber Soul and Revolver (and in my personal opinion Gomez’s Bring It On and Liquid Skin) sparked huge debates over which one was better, but reality was that both were bloody brilliant from start to finish. Every second was packed with lush, beauty sounds. They were albums that if they got fused into the CD tray in my player, I wouldn’t be complaining. But I don’t find that true with their later albums.
The beauty of OK Computer was that the band found ways to stretch the instruments they had into new sonic territories. The guitars in Subterranean Homesick Alien still seduce me today. It’s the closest thing I can think of to relate to what people thought of when they heard the distortion coming out of Hendrix’s guitar. Now they just throw in crazy machines because they make different sounds.
I’m not proclaiming the banishing of synthesizers or other instruments. Or even weird sounds. I love the boops that count off Paranoid Android, and I’m currently obsessing over the Fiery Furnaces’ Blueberry Boat.
Bottom line is that I just want Radiohead to stop justifying that different is better. If they want to insert a strange noise then make sure it’s there for a reason. Even if they don’t strap on guitars again, I’ll give them the benefit of hearing it. But don’t expect me to stick around just because people think it’s cool and progressive if I understand the latest offering from Radiohead.