Rebellious Jukebox: Radiohead

Radiohead
Radiohead
House Of Cards the new video Radiohead have to be one of the most adventurous of the mainstream bands operating at the level they work at. They take risks not only artistically but also in the way that they market their products and distribute them. I discovered them via a Canadian music show called New Music because they broke in the States before they did in the UK. Creep for a while was something of an albatross around their necks, as anything that rises to that level of popularity will surely become. Radiohead though have always had something about them that has spoken of an unwillingness to be pigeonholed or to abide by people’s expectations. They released The Bends and that became the critics favourite, and whenever critics have a favourite they start writing off the band as far as the future goes. How can they possibly top what they have already done? How can they push the boundaries creatively any more than they already have? Being a critic is a reactive thing and not an active thing like being in a band, of course they aren’t going to second guess the bands they are writing about. OK Computer brought something new to the mix and while there were some who celebrated it, it had its detractors (those who had wanted The Bends 2). For me it signalled that they might have the potential to reinvigorate themselves on each album in the same that REM attempt to do; that mentally they already felt free enough to throw away the rulebook. But the expansiveness and experimentalism on display on this album was only a foretaste of what was to come. It is an important album not purely because of the music it contains but also because of the growth it represents in the band that made it. Kid A and Amnesiac kind of blew a lot of people out of the water – they were expecting something more straight up and rock like after the experimentation. Perhaps they thought that Radiohead were playing around in the same way that U2 toyed with irony as an attempt to rebrand themselves. Thankfully it wasn’t that simple and they didn’t prove to be that superficial. Hail To The Thief was again trumpeted potentially as ‘a return to form’ by the traditional rock press; more guitars and less electronic glitches. But they were wrong and some of them were somewhat disappointed. Where were the Radiohead that they all wanted? The Radiohead of The Bends and if they couldn’t have that, then they would settle for the band that gave them OK Computer. The decisions they were making were being treated as if they were Dylan going electric — they were somehow betraying the establishment they were part of. It’s odd that in an area where bands are coagulating into one homogeneous lump of blandness that where someone who is trying to do something new, and not just for novelty’s sake, that they don’t have more people behind them. There seems to be a begrudging attitude in a lot of the reviews — an acknowledgment that what the band is doing is popular but that it is not what is wanted in a critical sense. With In Rainbows I think Radiohead are changing the way the machinery works for selling music though, and that such an important and influential group are leading the way is inspiring. That the music is as good as it is is more than just a cherry on top — it means the movement will have heart and brains and quality product to go with the theories. I could listen to all of Radiohead’s music on a constant loop and not get bored, be occasionally stunned by the beauty and enervated by energy contained within it that it transmits to me every time I listen to it. Check out the link above for House Of Cards, their latest video and glory in a band that is truly being creative.

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