Trying To Get To You

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Great (Internal) Radiohead Discussion

Ben: So you’ve listened to the Radiohead album three times. It seems like everyone is raving about it. What do you think?

Lazar: I think basically the same thing that I always think. It’s “good.” It’s well-crafted. It’s very modern and of the moment. It's intelligently arranged. I don’t think there are any particularly great songs on it. I can listen to it and derive a little pleasure from it. But it doesn’t do much for me.

Ben: You’ve never been a fan.

Lazar: Well, I’ve tried a bunch. Shit, I’ve listened to Ok Computer about 100 times, trying to hear what the hell everyone else hears in it. And I actually like Kid A a lot; I love “Morning Bell.” I think that song is actually soulful. But deep down, I suspect they’re really a bunch of pretentious British art school wankers. Hipsters fall for that sort of thing like evangelicals fall for Bush.

Ben: Didn’t you heckle them once?

Lazar: Yes, I heckled them at MSG in the summer of 2001. Everyone was rapturously into the show and I thought it was self-indulgent bullshit. I even booed them. I got a couple of nasty looks, but no one said anything. A couple of people came up to me after the show and told me they agreed with me – they didn't think it was that great either. My friend who got me tickets to the show wasn’t so thrilled with me. But she enjoys telling the story to people when she’s making fun of me.

Ben: What is it about them that makes you so crazy?

Lazar: The make me feel profoundly alienated. I’ve never been the guy who seeks to set myself apart through music. When I was really young and felt completely alienated from my peers, music was the means through which I could actually communicate with people and be my fully expressed self. I love that music can be the means through which I can make a connection with someone that transcends boundaries of race, class, geography, etc. So I look to music as a tool to face down the coldness of the world, which is probably why I love the heat (and community) of soul music (and Springsteen) so passionately. When I listen to Radiohead, I hear a fetishization of alienation – and the fact that so many people love it and think that it’s of such a high artistic quality makes me a little sad. Also, I have to admit that they’re one of those bands that always make me question myself: “Am I missing something?” “What am I not hearing?” “Do I need to spend more time with it?” It’s annoying.

Ben: You sure make this mean a lot. They’re just a band.

Lazar: Welcome to my brain. It’s not always a fun place to be.

Ben: Maybe you just don't get it.

Lazar: (snarling) Yeah. And maybe everyone's taste is up their...


-tom said...

I find it pretty amazing myself that the whole concept of "our disc is going to leak anyway, let's do it ourselves and make some money on it" gets translated into "here comes the new messiah of the record industry."

More high profile yes, but Radiohead certainly isn't the first band to give their music away and won't be the last.

Anonymous said...

You know what's sad? I agree with almost everything you write about, except that your style is just as pretentious as Radiohead. How can you garner support for your opinions when you are so off-putting, so often? Your "internal" conversation is just as alienating as Radiohead's last 4 albums of non-songs.

Also, just like I don't expect a fair review from Ben Ratliff on a new Bad Brains album, I can't respect your opinions on Radiohead when all your about is soul.

You need to lighten so many ways. I like your blog and your taste in music, but your attack is painfully naive.

Anonymous said...

I'm primarily a The Bends through Kid A fan, and I really enjoy the new album. It lacks the impact and brooding nature of those albums, especially OK, but the production gives it a more live, organic feel.

Although I have yet to really explore the lyrics (and to be honest I rarely pay much attention to Radiohead lyrics; for me it's more of a sonic experience), In Rainbows sounds like a band still concerned with the problems of the world, but more at peace with it. Almost like they realized songs like "Electioneering" weren't going to change the state of the world, so they just got back to the joy of making music.

Eh, maybe one day Radiohead will make sense to you, but fortunately there are tons of other great bands to worry about.

Jon Ford said...


Love the internal conversation, and I'm right with you. Don't think I'd go to a concert and heckle a band, though (that's a little weak, dude.)

Like me, you figure that if so many critics and people are really passionate about Radiohead then there must be something there. And I'm sure there is. But hey, not all music connects with all people.

As for the fetishization of alienation bit - so many bands have worked the alienation vein, I suppose it shouldn't surprise anyone that Radiohead takes it to a new level and finds a following because of it. Better that alienation finds a musical outlet and connection through Radiohead than a violent or really destructive manifestation elsewhere.

Unknown said...

I agree with what Ad said. Not all music resonates will people the same way. I believe the most beautiful thing about music is it's ability to take us to a place of transcendence, much outside our brains and into a more spiritual awareness of the deeper matters of the soul. Radiohead just happens to be a band that takes me to that place. It's not about jumping on their band wagon (I might interject here that I am not a hipster but do love Radiohead, while I am an Evangelical of sorts and do not flock to Bush), rather it's about identifying with some aspect of the melody and/or lyrics that helps you understand more of who you are spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally. If Radiohead in particular does the opposite for you, making you feel alienated, then by all means don't listen to the album for the 101st time. You haven't missed Radiohead's greatness, it's just simply not great for you. And that's okay. I encourage you to engage with music that functions for you as music should.

Unknown said...

Ah hey guys, I'm new to this and I'm not sure whether this is an appropriate place to ask this question but I would like to know whether the in rainbows album is usable for educational/non-profitable use?

I downloaded the album while it wasn't licensed under a record company from the in rainbows site so I was wandering whether it is legal for me to use a track from their album.

I intend to create a music visualization of some sort which animates according to the sounds of a song as a part of a university degree project. The final piece will be displayed within uni campus for my class's degree exhibition so it will be viewable by the public.

Just wandering whether this is ok/right/legal? Again, it is for a university project so it's for educational purposes and no profit will be made from it because of that.

would like to know asap, thanks in advance.