September 24th, 2012 By Blake Hammond | Music | Posted In: Music Commentary

What Is A Radiohead Anyway?

Believe it or not, there are music critics who do not enjoy a certain musical sacred cow

imagesRadiohead sez: "Well, we don't like you either so, 'Nyah' "

I don’t like Radiohead.

Just like that, my budding career as a music journalist is destroyed by one, four-word sentence. I’m sure the pretentious Pitchfork police are on their way to my house right now to take me away.

I can imagine most of you yelling at me through the monitors on your Mac Book Pros, passing judgment on me through the lenses of your dark-rimmed Woody Allen-esque glasses. 

That’s OK.

I assure you, I can’t hear a damn thing you’re saying. So just save your breath and read.

I know why people like Radiohead. They are talented musicians who are constantly expanding their sound. Not to mention, Thom Yorke’s (even though he doesn’t know how to spell his name) vocal range goes for miles, making him one of the most impressive singers in Rock & Roll today. They are like the indie rock version of The Beatles, except The Beatles don’t take an eighth of magical mushrooms to appreciate. (Although I’m sure it makes it better, I wouldn’t dare know about such devilish things.)

Upon numerous occasions during my 23 years, I’ve tried desperately to enjoy this band.

At 16, I would peruse through cute “indie” girl’s MySpace pages, listening to “Karma Police” among various other cuts off of OK Computer. I would force-feed my metalhead mind to try and wrap itself around the ambient tones coming from my speakers. No matter how hard I tried (believe me, I tried; I needed something to trick these girls into liking me) it just never stuck.

A few years later, I made my second attempt. In Rainbows had just been released and it was a hot topic of conversation between my more “hip” friends. They would play the record on an endless loop and, eventually, I really did begin to dig it.

Then I had a revelation.

While I was driving to work one day, I put the album on and quickly realized that I had never listened to this while I was sober. I mean, I know 2007-2008 had pretty much become a blur of various substances, but as the docile sounds of “House of Cards” rang through my car stereo, I said to myself, “Blake, put down the bottle and get your shit together! Also, take off that ridiculous v-neck shirt and skinny jeans. No one wants to see your Teen Wolf-covered man-boobs or your ‘
Basilisk’!” (That’s right, my junk is nicknamed after the giant snake in  Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets; get over it.)

It was as if the smoke had finally cleared (literally and metaphorically) and I came out of this catatonic state of intoxication a new man. That man just still happened to dislike Radiohead.

My final attempt was no more than four months ago. My lovely girlfriend bought me a record player for my birthday and I decided I would give In Rainbows one more shot.

I had grown up quite a bit since the last time I heard this record. Not only was I knee-deep in my journey to becoming a music journalist, but also I wasn’t totally sloshed all the time either.

Plus, if it doesn’t resonate with me on vinyl, it never will.

This last go-around, however, was a futile one.

I always thought, “Maybe I was just too young to get it?” Or “Maybe, I was just too fucked up to understand?”

But as I put the record on, more questions came up, like “Am I too old to get it?” or “Jesus, what’s that drug dealer’s number again?”

As I racked my mind trying to figure out why I’m the only music journalist who isn’t a part of this worldwide circle-jerk over Radiohead, I finally came up with a simple, yet honest explanation.

Radiohead fans can be broken down into two factions. You’re either a Radiohead guy or a “Creep” guy. I’m obviously a member of the latter group.

“Creep” is the anthem for every broken-hearted loser too cowardly to talk to the girl he dreams about every night. It’s the anthem for every outcast kid that roamed their hallways aimlessly; unable to find their place in the proverbial hell that was high school. It’s the anthem for every overweight, underachieving, late-blooming, weirdo band kid that the band chicks didn’t even want to associate with. It’s pretty much my 7-12 grade experience told in three minutes and 56 seconds.

“Creep” just always spoke to me in a way that no other Radiohead song ever had. It was effortless and truthful, yet, real and depressing. I made a connection with that song, a connection which I tried ever so earnestly to do with the rest of their catalog, but failed miserably.  

So to the Radiohead fans out there, keep listening to them.

Do whatever makes you happy, whatever you want. Because truly, you’re so fucking special.

I just wish Radiohead was special, too.

Radiohead then …

Radiohead lately …

09.24.2012 at 11:29 Reply

"But as I put the record on, more questions came up, like “Am I too old to get it?” or “Jesus, what’s that drug dealer’s number again?”

Maybe you'd be better at music journalism if you actively listened to the albums you're critiquing instead of going off on you're own introspective tangents and ignoring the sonic landscapes laid out before you.  Radiohead are, as I'm sure you know as a music journalist, known for their ability to mix their albums with almost infinite depth.


09.24.2012 at 03:55

I would expect as a music journalist Blake has done those things you're asking.  But those things are also very hard to quantify, and would make for a terribly thick read.

maybe as a online commenter, being a jerk is the norm, but it shouldn't be


09.24.2012 at 05:54

I don't think I was being a jerk, and I'm not defending Radiohead.  I could give two *insert plural expletive* about the band.  But, one thing I do care about as an avid fan of music is that critiques are based on the music.  If you're mind is wandering while you're listening to the album you're critiquing, all opinions of the album have more to do with your own personal associations than it does the actual music.  Actively listening involves putting your focus on the music, not what it's making YOU feel.  This is a concept I didn't understand until a few years ago while attending school for music.  So I was just stating what other commenters have stated, this belongs on a personal blog, not an accredited cultural news source.


09.24.2012 at 06:09

It's a personal essay. If this were a review or something of that nature, I would totally support your claims. The real meat of his argument here is: he has tried to like Radiohead several times, listened to their music at various points in his life, but it still never resonated with him. So this piece is exactly what it was made out to be. His personal experience with a band that a lot of people love. Plus, since you are not a journalist, the fact that it's on this website shows that this idea went through people before it was even written then again looked over after the fact. In turn, if you don't like his personal narrative, that sucks. But it wasn't intended to be a critique of their music, but a story of this guys struggle with Radiohead. 


09.24.2012 at 12:10 Reply

Worst article I have read in quite some time.


09.24.2012 at 01:26 Reply

Congrats, you two reacted the same way American Idol fans did when I suggested David Cook wasn't a genius. This was a personal essay, not a disertation of Radiohead's entire body of work. And if it's the worst thing you've read Matthew, you really need to read more. People Magazine has a great music section. Just because people disagree with your tastes doesn't make them idiots.


09.24.2012 at 01:28 Reply

Welcome to the journalistic field of CityBeat music.


I'd like to assume that your premier article is so bold of a statement to let me know that you will be an honest and alternative music critic here in Cincinnati.  There's a lot of pussyfooting in the opinions and it'd be great to see what you're capable of.


If this isn't what you're going for, then your opinion of being defined by what you don't like - rather than what you do - makes me fear another entry of white noise journalism that doesn't encourage a development in music appreciation here in Cincinnati.


You've set yourself up Blake, I'd like to see you knock the next one out of the park.  Best of luck.


09.24.2012 at 01:48 Reply

spoiler alert:

the creature behind the mysterious attacks in the 2nd Harry Potter book is a basilisk.