If they are such geniuses, why can't they make listenable music?
You know that one friend who is REALLY into Radiohead? Like, the person who takes the day off from work to wait for Radiohead tickets to go on sale? You ever notice how that friend isn’t really into many other bands besides Radiohead? That’s because it takes so much effort to understand what is good about Radiohead that it’s impossible to have time to discover any new music.
Radiohead fans are the type of people who feel perfectly comfortable dropping a hundred bucks on some rare Japanese import single and then shrink wrapping it, putting it on a meticulously organized shelf (alphabetical, then chronological), and never touching it again. And they have no problem with spending that kind of cash on a record they will never listen to because they’ve all got steady jobs as computer programmers and they sure as hell ain’t losing money on romantic evenings out on the town with women. (Yes, I just generalized that all Radiohead fans are guys, but let’s be real here.) No date has ever ended in sex which started with some nerd’s dinner conversation about how Kid A foreshadowed 9/11 (which is a real thing that Radiohead supernerd Chuck Klosterman believes). Or the Radiohead binary theory which hypothesizes that their 1997 album OK Computer and their 2007 album In Rainbows form together perfectly to create a decade-spanning mega-album. Wow! What are the odds that one album full of computer noise bullshit would vaguely sound like another album full of computer noise bullshit? What geniuses!
That’s sort of the M.O. for Radiohead fans—desperately grasping at straws to believe that a band who dicks around with a bunch of computer wires and passes it off as a concept album are some sort of brilliant visionaries whose records are works of art. Maybe it’s overcompensation for the fact that they have to spend 10% of their time listening to Radiohead albums and 90% trying to convince themselves that they understand what the fuck they’re about. But yeah, Thom Yorke is totally an alien or Jesus or whatever you want to believe to make your shitty taste in music more acceptable.
Sure, in the grand scheme of things, it’s much better to have musicians out there like Thom Yorke than a shameless cash-hungry scumbag like Gene Simmons or the throat-tatted douchebags who play the Warped Tour every year. Yorke seems like a nice guy and all, but come on. He’s not the musical lord and savior, he’s not from another planet. He’s just a strange little British man who dances like a spider monkey. For a prime example of his musical mediocrity, look no further than Atoms For Peace, his side project which makes Radiohead look like Slayer. And it’s not like Yorke's singing voice is saving him. The guy sounds like what happens when you give a toddler a toy microphone and let him go nuts. If you gave a 5-year-old a Moog synthesizer, recorded him dicking around for an hour, and released it as a new Radiohead album called Moon Princes, nine out of ten fans wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. “Five stars, their most complex, ambitious work to date.” - some schmo at Rolling Stone.
Radiohead, back when they were at least listenably boring.
At least in their Bends era, Radiohead made music that non-robots might want to listen to. Sure, it was whiny and boring but if nothing else, you could tell it was being made by a real band with real instruments and not an electrician trying to fix a DVD player that got a copy of Tron stuck in it. In their nearly 30 years as a band (yes, 30), they’ve journeyed from mediocre alterna-rock into who-the-fuck-knows-what-genre. Ask any casual music fan to name a Radiohead song. The most common answer you’re gonna get is “Creep.” The second most common answer: a blank stare, because who the fuck knows the name of the 800 songs that go “beep blorp bop beep boop 010101?” No one. “Creep” is fun to do at karaoke. Any other Radiohead song would clear the place out because it’d sound like someone doing an impression of a stroke victim.
If you’re a Radiohead fan reading this, first of all, congrats on being way, way smarter than the rest of us simpletons who just want to listen to a song with a goddamn hook or a beat that isn’t in some weirdo 179/4.26 time signature. Secondly, try a real band on for size. If 5-minute looping cyborg farts that don’t go anywhere blow your mind, wait till you hear a ripping guitar riff! Or a chorus! Or even just substitute “Radio” for “Motör” and you’re on the right track.
It’s time to look down, take a good hard look at that fading Amnesiac European tour shirt, and face the truth: Radiohead is just boring nerd-rock for nerds. Wait, Radiohead fans, let me rephrase that so that you can understand: Loading file: attempt_to_give_a_crap_about_radiohead.exe [error 404: file not found]
Follow Dan on Twitter: @danozzi