Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek
benpeek

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Radiohead (or, Wherein I Talk Vaguely About Music, Once Again)

I have been listening to Radiohead's In Rainbows over the weekend and I've decided it's a fine background album. I like it, but it doesn't force me to focus on it, and I can play it in the background while I do whatever. A lot of music serves a lot of different needs, so i'm good with that.

But I've been thinking about Radiohead's albums, and I've realised that as they've gone on, they've become a band that descends into background noise. An ambient bubbling of sounds that I don't have to pay attention to. But here's the question: did I ever have to listen?

As albums go, Hail to the Thief and Amnesiac bordered on being tediously unlistenable, and Pablo Honey was tediously unlistenable, outside the track 'Creep'. So, where does that leave me? With three studio albums, I think: The Bends, OK Computer, and Kid A. There's a couple of live albums floating around, and a few other things, perhaps, but I'm not that much of a fan that I can be bothered with those. From the remaining studio albums, however, it's The Bends that I find the most listenable as an album, not because I think it's the most interesting, but because I find it the most catchy, and I've always had a soft spot for 'My Iron Lung', but truthfully, I dig the whole thing. I can't say the same for OK Computer, because it has that irritating moment where it uses the Stephen Hawking voice box for, I believe, 'Fitter Happier', which I always skip, until I put it on my ipod and did not upload that track. Otherwise, I like the album, though maybe I've been OD'd on it from the saturation of people who played it around me at one stage, because I can only really handle it in the odd track popping up now then.

Play the whole thing?

I last a couple of tracks before I go looking for another album.

Kid A, of course, is the album that began the band's slide from pop into ambient background noise, but I must admit, it's probably my favourite of their albums. Everything that I would say borders on becoming a hindrance for the band is there: the repetitive lyrics--almost as if Yorke is chanting--the ambiance, the fact that the band has stopped being about any kind of interesting lyrical moment, and more about a wave of sound. It's the kind of album you can turn out late into the evening and it soaks into the darkness with you. Of course, it is, rather like the subsequent albums, an album that can slip into the background, and since I was, as has been noted, absolutely sick of OK Computer and the people who kept calling it brilliant, I was really quite pleased with Kid A when it came out. Especially when those same people hated it.

In fact, I'm listening to it as a type this. Yes, still the album I like the most. It's got a nice, diverse, rich sound that when I tune into it, I dig, but which when I wish to tune into the background to focus on something else, I can.

I suppose when you look at this post, you won't be able to see any kind of ringing endorsement for Radiohead, and truth is, I'm not real fanatic about them, but their albums serve a purpose for me, and I dig that, and I think I respond most strongly to their albums when the serve the purpose that I want, which is most typified by my appreciation of Kid A. So there you go--if you're curious, by the way, I also quite like Thom Yorke's solo album, which I think is a nice mix of the Bends and Kid A, and which, despite its more interesting lyrics, I can slot in and out of the background much in the way I do with Kid A.
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