Son of a b*tch. Listen to 'Creep' and tell me how we got to this point. I always used The Beatles as the prime example for how far a band's sound can progress. I would say, "Listen to 'P.S. I Love You' then listen to 'Happiness is a Warm Gun'". So tell me, how did we get from 'Creep' to 'Everything in It’s Right Place' or 'Idioteque'? A f*cking mystery. But thank God we got there.
Radiohead have carved out a very unique sound, a sound which I dub 21st Century Cocaine Music. It's electronic, it's frantic, and it's incoherent, like you're speeding down a long tunnel at 2 A.M. in a black Mercedes and two people you just met at the nightclub are doing lines and screwing in the backseat. And yet, for all it's manic anxiety, the core of their sound is numb, like all of this is being broadcasted by a man in a coma, and I say that with all the love in the world. Kid A especially takes on and embraces this tone. It's an album of contradiction and duality, it's electronic yet organic, elusive and fragmented yet precise in the emotion and meanings it evokes.
'Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon. There are two colors in my head.'
That's the sort of fragmented, detached images we are given right at the start of the album. This album is lyrically populated by the sort of lines that stands on the fence between heavily symbolic and perhaps that joking Dylanesque throwaway that makes the songwriter grin as dipsh*t reviewers like me try and dissect them and find a hidden meaning. The sorts of lines that while being interviewed the songwriter goes 'I don't know where that came from. Your guess is as good as mine.' This is a subconscious album. The purpose of it's lyrics are not to give you concrete meanings but phantom tones and images that evoke whatever feeling that happens to be associated with it. For each listener it's different and that's what makes it so special. And that's also what makes it so frustratingly elusive.
I love the image of the carnival. The symbolism. It's such a bittersweet and perverse sort of atmosphere, it looks flashy and great on the surface but dig deeper and you'll find a rotten underbelly populated by maggots. A carnival is confusing. A carnival is the perfect symbol for a decade of decadence, that's what the 2000s were and right now we're feeling the start of that hangover. We're in the same category as the 20s and the 80s. The last song on this album sounds like a carnival winding down. It's tragic sounding, somehow it sounds whimsical at the same time, and always, numb. It's the greatest song on the album and helps support my little pet theory that this album is a mosaic of the entire decade, prophetically released right at the start of it.
I think you're crazy...maybe
I think you're crazy... maybe
Radiohead fit so uniquely in our decade because they embody that decadence yet they distance themselves from it, and somehow make it beautiful in a tragic sort of way. Think of a Great Gatsby sort of beautiful decadence.
How the f*ck did we get to this point? How did we get to a point where the government we thought would be our salvation is a giant beast gasping for life smashing things up trying to solve an unsolvable problem and probably just making it worse? How did we get to a point of such moral bankruptcy and excessive shallowness, where the highest rated TV shows show graphic murders, and flashy reality shows where we see broken celebrities humiliate themselves for us like those monkeys with a little hat and cymbals, and they desperately cling to the hope that they can get on top again, yet, as we watch them, we all know that isn't gonna happen...I ask you, how did we get to this point?
I don't know, and Radiohead doesn't know either. But I guarantee you they will make beautiful music about it, asking that very same question.
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