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Radiohead 2003: Music and TV
May 13, 2003 3:25 AM   Subscribe

Radiohead TV: Welcome To The Most Gigantic Lying Mouth Of All Time! Yes, fans and detractors - it's that time of the year again. But look before you hear, mind! My favourite band The world's most lyrically evolved band Radiohead is about to unleash, after the wonder that is There, There [Full videoclip here] a new long-playing record and with it, on May 26th, a new television channel [Please scroll down a bit for details]. They're going: "I haven't had this much fun in years". Well, indeed! I wonder how many fans get the dark, gallows humour of Radiohead. And what beautiful songs! I put it to you Thom Yorke is the new Leonard Cohen, another much-funnier-than-he-sounds songwriter and performer.[Windows Media req. Quicktime version of TV channel here; Real version of "There, There" video here. Please go to the website for other details and lower res alternatives..]
posted by MiguelCardoso (54 comments total)

 
Dear Radiohead,

Have you never heard of QuickTime? Why would you post content to your web page, the viewing of which would require me to download Microsoft-made software, or Real's spyware, esepcially when the video and audo quality are this crappy? Allow me to introduce you to MPEG-4. Smaller files, better quality.
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:53 AM on May 13, 2003


Dear Radiohead,

In my last missive, I neglected, in my sarcasm, to make it clear that my "gripe", as the young people say, pertains to the codecs in which the music video "There, There" have been made available. I apologise for the misunderstanding.
posted by eustacescrubb at 4:05 AM on May 13, 2003


Large 'N Live: Select Canadians gets to see Radiohead Live In Concert Via Satellite on the Big Screen on June 5th. Of course, I believe the concert is actually taking place in New York for MTV2.
posted by boost ventilator at 4:34 AM on May 13, 2003


eustacescrubb: Miguel's "new television channel" link goes to a page that mentions a downloadable clip of the "There There" video in QuickTime.
posted by allaboutgeorge at 4:37 AM on May 13, 2003


Dear allaboutgeorge,

Thank you.

Dear Radiohead,

See what you've made us do? Make our own copies of your video from MTV2? Please don't turn us into trees for making a QuickTime of your lovely video.
posted by eustacescrubb at 4:56 AM on May 13, 2003


Only problem: as far as I can tell the sound on the streaming WMV is far, far better quality than the .mpeg.

They cut out all the bass in the downloadable mpeg. WTF?
posted by Ryvar at 5:03 AM on May 13, 2003


The QT movie they put up is a Sorensen codec, not MPEG-4 - if they'd encode their QT movies in MPEG-4, they'd get a much smaller file, and much better sound.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:14 AM on May 13, 2003


Eustacescrubb -- Radiohead released about 20 or so "blips" (30 second music videos) in Quicktime to promote Kid A.

I have about 10 of them if anybody is interested.
posted by jennak at 5:19 AM on May 13, 2003


If you don't ask me out to dinner, I don't eat.
posted by onlyconnect at 5:36 AM on May 13, 2003


Would I be derailing the thread if i commented on what a good song "There, There" is? I mean I'd hate to interrupt all the yapping about codecs.
posted by monkeyman at 5:48 AM on May 13, 2003


You would indeed, monkeyman - but, if you don't mind, I'll add myself to the derailment. :)

Although the video adds Alice-in-Wonderland echoes (which reminded me of John Lennon's fascination with Lewis Carroll) it's a tremendously lyrical beauty of a song. Yet it would be stupid, imo, to say it was "back to tunefulness" - Radiohead were always inquisitively musical. When they do do melody - no one not-derivative or not-retro - can beat' em.

Yorke's plangent, whining voice is often compared here in Portugal to fado singers' - which is why they're so big here.

On the negative side, perhaps the TV thing qualifies for trying a little too hard to counteract the prevailing state of opinion. Record company pressure? The "Have fun, lads!" syndrome? I've seen it before.

A fascinating thing about Radiohead is that, after the Rolling Stones, they're probably the first great middle class band in British history. An anomaly, indeed.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:04 AM on May 13, 2003


A fascinating thing about Radiohead is that, after the Rolling Stones, they're probably the first great middle class band in British history.

I may prove to be wrong here mr Cardoso and no doubt I will be corrected if this is the case but I believe the clash are the product of 'middle england' (I always feel dirty after using that tag, like a daily mail columnist, shudder). Indeed I believe old ziggy himself rose to prominence from the hinterland known as suburbia.
posted by johnnyboy at 6:31 AM on May 13, 2003


I couldn't help but wonder, in the last scene of the There, There video, are they making fun of Creed.
posted by stevengarrity at 7:09 AM on May 13, 2003


I may prove to be wrong here mr Cardoso and no doubt I will be corrected if this is the case but I believe the clash are the product of 'middle england'

And countless other bands, Pink Floyd, Blur, The Smiths etc. etc. The 'middle class' are the ones attending university and getting the time and inclination to join bands, you don't have to be a working class hero to be in a band you know.

Miguel my prolific Portugese friend, that really was the wrongest wrong thing I remember you posting on here. An achievement, indeed.
posted by Markb at 7:22 AM on May 13, 2003


I've got the fold-out-map-promotional-thingy of »Hail To The Thief« sitting on my desk here at work. Worship me!

;)
posted by soundofsuburbia at 7:24 AM on May 13, 2003


A fascinating thing about Radiohead is that, after the Rolling Stones, they're probably the first great middle class band in British history.

Uh, XTC? (without whom there'd be no Radiohead et al)
posted by neustile at 7:56 AM on May 13, 2003


Not to mention Genesis, as another "Middle England" band. Hell, Genesis even came from the same town, Oxford. There's just a little bit of Peter Gabriel in Thom Yorke...

Nevermind the codecs, though, I'm just annoyed because the album will probably be Copy Controlled in Australia. (EMI/Capitol haven't tried that bullshit in the US yet, though they're planning to, as far as I know.)
posted by GrahamVM at 8:19 AM on May 13, 2003


I also agree that it's terrible a band would release some free content in a format that may require me to download Microsoft-made free software or Real's free "spyware"**

**The statement "Real Player is spyware" is based on popular belief that "Real Player is spyware".

If only certain people's posts were encoded in MPEG-pissing-4 then maybe they'd look and sound better.
posted by ed\26h at 8:25 AM on May 13, 2003


Great song, and great video too. It'll air on MTV what, like twice? I wonder if bands are realizing that it's getting to the point where the web can pick up the ball that Music Television dropped.
posted by GriffX at 8:35 AM on May 13, 2003


ugh.
posted by Satapher at 9:02 AM on May 13, 2003


Radiohead: 3 albums of musical perfection followed by 3 albums of electronic farting noises and esoteric mumblings. Talk about losing the plot. Am I bitter that I keep hoping to get something new that's as good as The Bends or OK Computer and keep getting reheated Kraftwerk? YES. I've heard the 'unfinished' cut of Thief...believe me, its as finished as I needed to hear...another gloomy electronic stinker from the former heroes of rock. Yay.
posted by rrtek at 9:12 AM on May 13, 2003


jennak: do you have the one with the little bear walking toward another little bear?
posted by signal at 9:32 AM on May 13, 2003


Oh, rrtek...that's so sad that you can't see the genius and beauty in their latter albums.

I love all of Radiohead's albums. And I believe that all genius artists/bands evolve. If they're true to their craft, they must. They could keep churning out OK Computers again and again and it'd be good, but it wouldn't be great -- because it wouldn't be inspired since they'd be doing it for demand.

Where were you in 1994? 1996? What were you listening to? Haven't your tastes altered a bit? Haven't you become a bit more sophisticated? Maybe discovered a new genre?

It's music, and it's good. But perhaps you and Radiohead's evolving music on two different vectors moving away from each other.
posted by jennak at 9:34 AM on May 13, 2003


I put it to you Thom Yorke is the new Leonard Cohen, another much-funnier-than-he-sounds songwriter and performer.

I'd put 20 other songwriters ahead of him in that sentence, unless "much funnier than he sounds" is your only criteria for comparison.

And jennak, your post is pretty condescending. "Haven't you become a bit more sophisticated?"; "It's music, and it's good." Eesh. Thanks for making up my mind for me.

Music is subjective (as you hint at in your last sentence)--there's no need to insult because someone's tastes differ from your own. Personally, I think Radiohead are boring and middle of the road, not to mention one of the most overrated bands of the last decade. But at least I'm willing to admit that's opinion, not fact.
posted by dobbs at 9:41 AM on May 13, 2003


"the genius and beauty in their latter albums" Hmmm, yes I must have missed that. Kid A was certainly original, but that doesn't change the fact that it only had one listenable song on it. As for 'Radiohead's evoloving music', I'm sorry, but Kid A, Kid B (amnesiac) and Kid lite (Thief) all sound pretty much the same to me. I'm all for an artist evolving, but I also need for an artist to maintain something of their original sound for me to remain interested. Example: U2 with All that you Can't Leave Behind. Note to radiohead: put the keyboards and synthesizers away for a while and bust out the guitars again. Try to make some happy music.
posted by rrtek at 9:48 AM on May 13, 2003


RadioHead - The 90's answer to KC and the Sunshine Band. Rock on, you silly boys.

I put it to you Thom Yorke is the new Leonard Cohen, another much-funnier-than-he-sounds songwriter and performer.

You're a friggin' communist, that's what you are.
posted by bradth27 at 10:01 AM on May 13, 2003


I am extremely curious and in need of a little perspective.
So Dobbs, if Radiohead is one of the most overrated bands of the last decade, who are some of the most underrated ??
posted by repoman at 10:05 AM on May 13, 2003


repoman, I guess that depends on who you turn to for reviews/critiques/etc. I haven't listened to the radio in a decade and a half though I am an avid music fan. With that in mind, my idea of overrated probably comes from a different stream than others (and maybe yours). What I meant was, from sources I respect, Radiohead is one of the most overrated bands of the past decade. I'll not list the bands that I consider underrated as that will no doubt completely derail the thread and wasn't the point of my post. If you're interested for the sake of interest, email me and I'll gladly send you a list of bands I consider more worthy of the tremendous press that Radiohead get.
posted by dobbs at 10:19 AM on May 13, 2003


I disliked Amnesiac and Kid A when they came out... I really thought they were a disappointment.

Then I accidentally listened to them years later and checked my playlist to see what it was that I was listening to, and saw it was Kid A. Turned out I loved the music when I wasn't expecting something from it.

Music is a strange experience that way.
posted by mosch at 10:21 AM on May 13, 2003


I'm not condescending, dobbs, but inspired. And secondly, I think that I can acknowledge when a band is good, but not my style.

I think everyone becomes more sophisticated as they age. And I didn't say "you are more sophisticated, therefore you must like Radiohead." Tastes evolve. It's a fact.
posted by jennak at 10:24 AM on May 13, 2003


YOUR FAVORITE BAND SUCKS
posted by Satapher at 10:29 AM on May 13, 2003


I've had the supposedly unmastered mp3s of Hail to the Theif for about 3 weeks now and I am liking it. Not as "electronic" as the last two albums, much more mellow. I would say it sounds the same at all. It's enough to make me want to buy the album when it actually comes out.
posted by Hackworth at 11:02 AM on May 13, 2003


I also agree that it's terrible a band would release some free content in a format that may require me to download Microsoft-made free software or Real's free "spyware"

Eh. But Windows Media Player is clunky and slow and sucks in general, never mind the proprietary format. Same with Real, only it's also spyware.

If only certain people's posts were encoded in MPEG-pissing-4 then maybe they'd look and sound better.

Ummm? What's that supposed to mean exactly? I should be posting my comments in video? How does a text-only post "sound", anyway?

dobbs,

I didn't understand jennak to be saying "sophisticated people like new Radiohead" but rather she seemed to be appealing to a truism ("most people become more sophisticated listeners as time goes on") as part of her larger argument about the evolution of a band's "style." Broken down it came across like this:

Bands who are interested in honing thier craft evolve.
That it is natural for bands to evolove is evidenced by the corrollary fact that listeners who listen for the same reasons that bands like Radiohead make music find that their tastes evolve.

One way to solve the problem of bands being "over" or "under" rated is to eschew reading metaliterature about rock music and to just buy stuff you like to listen to. I could give two shits whether Radiohead is accurately "rated", but I sure do like thier stuff, and I like thier new stuff better than their old stuff. Who cares if they're geniuses or not? It like, so doesn't matter.
posted by eustacescrubb at 11:14 AM on May 13, 2003


I've really put my foot in it this time, MarkB, you're quite right. Disentanglement is impossible.

Blur, Genesis and XTC are middle class but not great. XTC are "great" in the sense that it's great listening to them. Pink Floyd and The Clash are great and middle class. Morrissey is undoubtedly great but not middle class.

Middle class I'd roughly define as having at least one parent who went to university, a well-off childhood, lots of toys, books, broadsheet newspapers in the home.

Impossible! Bigmouth strikes again, apologies all round.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:34 AM on May 13, 2003


Not only did Radiohead release those 30-second Quicktime blips, but Apple also profiled them in 2001 for the band's use of Macs in the studio as well as in video production.
posted by emelenjr at 12:02 PM on May 13, 2003


Example: U2 with All that you Can't Leave Behind.

Bloody hell, you could pick a better example than that cowardly piece of shit, which threw away everything decent that the band had done in the 1990s with a grand, flatulent, mediocre flourish.

Anyway, the 'middle class' thing with Radiohead is a bit strange, because Oxford is meant to be one of those cities where you can grow up middle class, go to grammar school, and still feel looked-down-upon, because -- as Thom has said -- the university locks Oxford residents out of much of their own city, and fills those spaces with students who think they own the place.
posted by riviera at 12:21 PM on May 13, 2003


Your fantasies are unlikely, but beautiful.
posted by onlyconnect at 12:36 PM on May 13, 2003


Radiohead makes me sad. The Bends was erratic but very promising. OK Computer was brilliant, the best example of an album in every sense of the word -- themes that ran through different songs, both lyrical and musical, perfect pacing, etc.

I saw Radiohead live at Radio City Music Hall during the end of the OK Computer tour. Amazing show.

Kid A and Amnesiac were disappointing to me. I heard a version of "Thief," sighed, and put away my headphones. I just don't like the electronic stuff... and, unlike the example above, have not taken them out and re-listened and liked.

I found flashes of the evolution of OK Computer on Coldplay's "Rush of Blood to the Head," tho that's clearly derivative. I'm also enjoying the new Cardigans LP, "Long Gone Before Daylight," which has been utterly ignored in the U.S. But I'm afraid I won't be buying Radiohead any more... they've evolved a little too much for my taste.
posted by krewson at 12:36 PM on May 13, 2003


I love Kid A and Amnesiac, with a wild, untamable, passionate love. They're grand, big, ambitious works, and I think that they are both just wunderbar. But, as they saying goes, ymmv. There's no one on the face of this earth who could convince me of the greatness of (for example) Iggy Pop, but people love his work just as much as I love Radiohead's, and think that it's just as important.

I just thought I'd say that, for now particular reason.

Thanks so much for the links Miguel. The new video is fantastic (in all sense of the word) too.
posted by jokeefe at 12:40 PM on May 13, 2003


Middle class I'd roughly define as having at least one parent who went to university, a well-off childhood, lots of toys, books, broadsheet newspapers in the home.

I mean this with the greatest of respect: Miguel, I have never been more aware of the fact that you are European than I am in reading this. What a lovely definition of middle class; in North America university educated parents, and a house full of books and newspapers makes you, more often than not, a "liberal", with all the baggage that this implies (in America). Middle class means you own a house, not that you believe in culture, or cultivation, or education.
posted by jokeefe at 12:46 PM on May 13, 2003


Listening to the downloaded new one as I write (yes, I gave in). Most of the time I'm left cold by songs that are decentred (I can't think of any other way to put it - that don't have a powerful motive force, a hook, a traditional structure or compelling chord changes), but this is fabulous stuff. I haven't had it on full-time (when I got OK Computer and Kid A I listened to them on repeat for several days), but each listening yields something else. Decentring the songs means that the puncta of the songs are less expected, more difficult to find - suddenly something will shine out of the darkness. They are the only thing approaching a Big Rock Band producing material I find interesting at the moment.

For the record, my favourite wannabe-Radiohead album is Regeneration by The Divine Comedy, which has the added bonus that if you listen very hard it's also a Divine Comedy album.

And yes, of course I'm buying the "real" version when it comes out.
posted by Grangousier at 1:40 PM on May 13, 2003


Bloody hell, you could pick a better example than that cowardly piece of shit, which threw away everything decent that the band had done in the 1990s with a grand, flatulent, mediocre flourish.

Word. I love that record, but I can't help but feel like they gave up when they made it. To think that only a few years earlier they'd done something as brave and beautiful as Passengers.
posted by eustacescrubb at 1:47 PM on May 13, 2003


Decentring the songs means that the puncta of the songs are less expected, more difficult to find - suddenly something will shine out of the darkness

To me this is what's great about Radiohead, this is what gives their music repeat-listening power. The fact that much of the music takes many listens to truly grasp (you have to figure out how to really listen to albums like Kid A and Amnesiac in my opinion), and that even after you think you know a song well, there's still something you haven't noticed in there waiting to be found. I find most instantly-accessible music to be more or less disposable.
posted by biscotti at 2:06 PM on May 13, 2003


And of course then the album becomes much more easily assimilable. Ah, well, I knew what I meant.

And Oxford is even more complicated than Riviera suggested, with the proximity to Cowley (big car factory, or at least it was, perhaps it's all shut down since I lived there, in which case much unemployment) and class tensions within the student body, largely between the state school derived students and the private school ones (and within the private school group there are tensions between pukka public school types and those merely from fee paying schools. Actually I think the Public school types are usually blissfully unaware of the tension, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist).

It's a good place to learn about the English class system red in tooth and claw.
posted by Grangousier at 2:13 PM on May 13, 2003


Bah. You people suck at worshipping me! I'm gonna take my promo-kit and find a place where I'm appreciated!

;)
posted by soundofsuburbia at 2:41 PM on May 13, 2003


I knew what I meant.

I think I knew what you meant as well, I was agreeing with you. I could easily be wrong, though.
posted by biscotti at 3:13 PM on May 13, 2003


You know... I can't help but notice that all the people that love Kid A and Amnesiac are the same people that are surprised when I've got some "IDM" on the stereo. It is as if their faces are saying, Wait a minute, these are scary new sounds! Yet strangely familiar! If only they could be watered down for me and mumbled over, they could be great. That's it, I'll go get Moby!
posted by kevspace at 6:44 PM on May 13, 2003


I'm gonna take my promo-kit and find a place where I'm appreciated!

eBay?
posted by inpHilltr8r at 8:16 PM on May 13, 2003


Intelligent Dance Music. What an oxymoron. IDM is aimed at the wrong part of the body, IMHO.
posted by black8 at 2:32 AM on May 14, 2003


If you dislike late-period Radiohead, try listening to some of it again after reading Last Plane to Jakarta's song-by-song analysis of Amnesiac. It's one of the few pieces of music criticism I've read that completely changed my opinion of an album I'd already heard.
posted by rory at 6:03 AM on May 14, 2003


Evolved music, my ass. We're all homosapiens here -- get over yourselves. It's just music. (Which isn't a bad thing.)
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:40 AM on May 14, 2003


(Don't call it) IDM: My intelligence, such as it is, likes to dance, too.

Which is why I like Radiohead. I'd gone a lot further afield in electronica before Kid A, so it was happy-making to see them catching up.

I know people who dislike electronic music on principle. I also know people who won't buy a computer.

In any case, Thom Yorke's voice (particularly when he does a duet with Björk or PJ Harvey) makes me want to sing myself.
posted by divrsional at 9:11 AM on May 14, 2003


Belated sorry to Biscotti - I didn't see your note when I posted mine.

I mentioned this thread to a friend of mine who listens to lots of electronica (fwiw, he doesn't much like the term, but vastly prefers it to IDM, which he thinks is a bit arch, and I agree with him) and likes Radiohead. We both used to listen to Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle and The Residents and the like over twenty years ago. We are well versed in scary noises. *

We agreed that the point about what Radiohead are doing isn't that they've embraced electronica, but that they are using such resources to continue what they were doing anyway. They obviously pay a lot of attention to what they are doing, from the sounds that are used to the way that they albums are structured (for example the delicious bit where There There kicks in). But they are still essentially engaged in traditional structures (and there's nothing wrong with that).

From our discussion (continued via email):
Songs include voices and commonly (and very importantly) words. They also have a basic (and well understood) grammar in which the song is broken up into large scale bits (choruses, verses, middle-eights, bridges, etc). All these bits are able to get related to one another in terms of the similarities and differences of the codes they contain (both on their dennotative surface and as connotation). In short, song get to do narrative stuff and dialectical stuff.

This song is about xxxxx. This is the sad bit. This is the bit that sounds happy but the words are sad. This is the middle-eight that is gentle but the rest of the song is loud. This is the chorus where the singer contradicts what he's just sung in the verse. This is the bit where the words are the same but the music makes them mean something different. I could go on (and on (and on)).

Don't tell me that those kind of things are key to Electronica. I don't believe that its producers are really interested in that stuff - I mean if they were, they would rapidly end up making what you and I call "songs" anyway - that's one of the things songs are. (actually some producers do "borrow" from the rock idiom, but no-one gets hot under the collar about that...) That's not to say that Electronica doesn't do loads of interesting stuff. Part of the reason I got interested in it was because it was music that worked with a very high level of abstraction in form that functioned simultaneously on gut level.
The centre of interest on a Radiohead track is the voice (in many ways more than the words the voice is mouthing), everything flows from that. Electronicists might use voice on their tracks, but the way in which it's positioned in the music is different. Comparing the two directly is sort of missing the point.

*Incidentally, what the most radical and way-out electronica producers are making often sounds a bit conservative and cosy compared to what people like Stockhausen were doing thirty years ago. Just saying.
posted by Grangousier at 5:18 AM on May 18, 2003


Was just listening to "I Might Be Wrong -- Live" again after a very long time. And it rocked so hard that "Airbag/How Am I Driving" from 1998 promptly followed it, with Polyethylene and raucous Palo Alto. OK Computer is going in next. God I love this band and their ability to bring back rock opera through sheer force of will. Why isn't Hail to the Thief in stores yet?

Authorities here are alert.
posted by onlyconnect at 8:50 PM on June 2, 2003


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