On Radiohead and Writing

I’ve never considered myself a music guy. Growing up, I didn’t live or die by the likes of MC Hammer, Madonna, Snoop Dog, Dr. Dre., or any other music icon that so many of my friends adored. I was too busy hounding over the countless new experiences at Blockbuster, discovering the likes of John Woo, Joel and Ethan Coen, Jim Jarmusch…you get the picture. Then college and the proverbial musical right of passage; Classic Rock. Does everyone go through Led Zeppelin, Creedance, and Hendrix during these impressionable years? But still, not a music guy. Then two different roommates from different years of University (both of whom turned out to be lifelong friends), introduced me to Radiohead. Hook, line, and sinker, I was a music guy. Or at the very least, a Radiohead guy. The music spoke to me in a way no other artist had, creating a visual world out of thin air, concocting one haunting line after another. I can’t remember how many times I’ve written film papers on Terrence Malick, Godard, and others listening to The Bends or Kid A. Their music seemed to propel me toward creativity, toward a sense of confidant analysis I’d never felt. I could see the songs, Black Star, Iron Lung, Airbag, Subterranean HomeSick Alien, Optimistic, rage through my finger tips like some hidden nightmare streamlining itself onto the page. Great music, I’ve since learned, is a personal reckoning in opinion. Maybe it’s because of the duration, being short bursts of longing and love which make an immediate impact on the most instinctual part of your mind. So flash forward – Radiohead’s newest album, In Rainbows, was released last year over the Internet as a “name your own price” bundle of wonder. It’s since been released on CD, and after listening to it countless times, and writing even more papers doing so, I feel reborn yet again. It’s slow build through the heartbreaking narrative of loss and need make for an overall hypnotic experience. Listen again and you’ll hear something different. Radiohead has always felt cinematic to me, a long tracking shot of emotion waiting to reveal something unimaginable. It’s a shame more filmmakers haven’t utilized this quality (the only two I can think of are Cameron Crowe’s stunning opening shot in Vanilla Sky and Tran Anh Hung’s dreamy bar scene in Cyclo). I might not be a music nut (I’m glad movies chose me!), but Radiohead’s piercing sounds have shown me I don’t have to be. With this band, types, categories, and absolutes just don’t matter.

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