That is the theory that’s being advanced by the incredibly brave Chris Norris of Spin magazine, who we imagine will be spending the next few weeks sequestered in a safe house far away from the hordes of angry hipsters and former record-store clerks who will no doubt be looking to smash limited-edition vinyl copies of Amnesiac over his head. The crux of his argument draws largely from his experiences listening to the band at last year’s All Points West festival, a performance which led him to draw the conclusion that they’ve become little more than “an exceptionally well-dressed jam band” and that lead singer Thom Yorke is “so far up his own formalist ass we might as well have not even been there.” So, does he have a point?
Well, dramatic lede aside, Norris doesn’t actually insist that Radiohead start churning out candy-coated Top 40 songs to compete with the likes of Miley Cyrus or the Jonas Brothers. As he himself puts it, “no one is suggesting Radiohead play the Super Bowl or release OK Computer 2: The Legend of Curly’s Gold.” While we here at Vulture actually wouldn’t mind hearing the band compose a sonic rock opera about the late great Jack Palance, there is a part of us (and, we imagine, a part in a good chunk of the loyal Vulture readership) that yearns for Radiohead to churn out a few supersonic Britrock anthems on par with the material that appeared on The Bends.
However, the thing that we’ve always appreciated about Radiohead is the same thing that sometimes confounds us about them: Namely that, as artists, they’re like sharks in that they’re always moving forward, lest they die (or, in their case, become fat and old). And as long as Radiohead still has new ideas that keep them interested in experimenting and turning out new material, they’ll be able to stave off the fate of the formerly exceptional and experimental band the Pixies. Because, let’s face it, no one wants to see Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, and the rest of the band pack on 40 pounds and lifelessly go on tour playing nothing but Pablo Honey from start to finish.
But what say you? Does Radiohead “kinda blow”? Would you prefer them to churn out three-and-a-half minute pop ditties instead of seven minutes worth of blips, bleeps, and bloops? Or do you enjoy actually listening to music that the mainstream considers to be confounding?