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Wednesday, 18 August 2010 14:55

Radiohead: Honesty without Preservatives Added

It's the quintessential debate in the music media: what is the best rock band in the world? (See Poll)

Every now and then, the specialty media release lists and comparisons between bands that made their place in the music industry, deciding with a higher or lower degree of consensus the so-called “best band” in the world. The contenders seem to be always the same: U2 (1976- ), Coldplay (1997- ), The Beatles (1960-1970) vs. The Rolling Stones (1962- ), Oasis (1991- ), Blur (1989-2003; 2008- )... and Radiohead (1986- ).

To some extent, and considering any of the above's qualities and hard-work, Radiohead beats them all by far in terms of honesty when choosing a band that really has left its mark in the rock and roll panorama. Where U2 and Coldplay have become too big, or where Oasis sang the pride of being a hooligan (and being a Beatles fan!), Radiohead has cemented a career that began in 1986.

The band has done so by expressing teenage angst and adult frustrations, being able to create a new “coolness” in having low self-esteem as the band’s first single in 1992, “Creep” openly attests. Thom Yorke and bandmates have been putting out for the world to listen to the feelings and the lives of those who don't fit in society and somehow wish they could. It's not punk, in the sense that Radiohead's rage is contained; it's not depression since it boasts an inner acceptance of one's inadequacy; it becomes musical and lyrical poetry when it voices thoughts that we can't seem to express easily (or even admit to) for fear of ridicule. This is music that bleeds for its listener without hemorrhaging.

If back in 1993, with the release of Pablo Honey, until 1997's OK Computer, this contemporary frustration has been backed with strong guitars, and Thom Yorke has alternated between soft-singing and angry shouts in key-moments. Kid A breaks the mold of what could be considered the typical “Radiohead style”. While the band drops the traditional guitar/bass/drums/voice combo and goes electronic, the initial premise remains through Kid A: Yorke's words and voice mirror with even more intensity the inability to cope and the need to live in one's own head for protection.

Kid A marks then the turn in the band's course, splitting fans' hearts over Radiohead's “sin” of turning to electronic landscapes. This aspect of the band's sound is reconciled with their rock background in the follow-up albums Amnesiac, Hail to The Thief and In Rainbows, showing a more mature and settled Radiohead, finally with a personal signature many other contemporary rock bands lack. With the latter, they disrupted the “business as usual” aspect of the music industry with the pioneering idea of choice in payment price for their album on their website. This release of In Rainbows only solidifies the band’s honesty by allowing the consumer the ability to decide what their music is worth to them.

Radiohead may not be one of the easiest indie rock bands to listen to, or to understand, especially if picking them up right now from scratch. However, their ability to be creative, to overcome labels and to surprise even the most hardcore fan, allied with their lyrical honesty and coherence, makes them, in my book, if not the best band in the world, at least the most honest.

Whether the band plays sold-out stadiums or small club venues, Radiohead bleeds openly. They are who they are and very much like any of us, without preservatives added.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 September 2010 08:06
 
(UK)

Newsflash Archive

In April, following the expiry of its contract with Geffen Records, Weezer announced plans for a deluxe, expanded edition of its 1996 sophomore album Pinkerton. Yesterday, Weezer revealed the details of the Pinkerton reissue, which is due to be released on November 2nd.

"We're always planning and scheming something," bassist Scott Shriner said in the original announcement. Reported by Reuters news agency, he added that the group was also assembling an "Odds and Ends" collection of rarities. "It's a ton of B-sides from a big period of time," Shriner said. "Rivers [Cuomo] has been mostly in charge of picking which songs are gonna be on that." He continued, "There's so many cool things that we've recorded for records that never made the [albums], I think they had to get out there. Finally it's going to happen." At the time, the impression was that this was going to be a separate release.

Even better news is that the two-disc deluxe reissue of cult classic Pinkerton includes many B-sides, rariites, and never-before-released material, as Weezer continues to stoke nostalgia hot-on-the-heels of recent announcements of dates for their Memories (previously known as Blinkerton) tour. Beginning at the end of November, the band is due to play their landmark 1994 debut album, The Blue Album, as well as Pinkerton in back-to-back shows.

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