NPF: WHY ED HATES RADIOHEAD, AND MANY OTHER THINGS

Posted in No Politics Friday on May 14th, 2010 by Ed

Americans in my age group and thereabouts love them some Radiohead. Hence I am always hesitant to point out that I hate those callow Englishmen. I did two weeks ago. The backlash was immediate, albeit not as strong as I expected:

Well, you're a drummer in a metal band, so your music taste is understandably crippled. I suppose I can give you a pass.

Snap. On the other hand, anyone who would describe my former band as "metal" has just the kind of saccharine tastes that lead one to exalt Radiohead. Oh, it's on now.

Seriously though, I get this a lot. So let me explain.

Honestly, there's nothing objectionable about Radiohead. They are a perfectly average group of musicians making perfectly dull, inoffensive music. There is nothing wrong with them. I find it nearly impossible to imagine someone responding to Radiohead with "Oh God, I can't listen to this horrible racket!" It's the kind of thing young people can listen to while in a car with their parents without offending either.

My first objection, then, is a simple matter of personal taste. I tend to hate things that fit the preceding description. One could say that I am deeply offended by inoffensiveness. I don't hate their music; I hate that they are so boring, so unoriginal, and so predictable. If you are a Rock Musician and the parents of your fans "get" your music – or perhaps even like it – you are doing something wrong. Take a risk. Piss someone off. Hurt someone's ears. Challenge people. Don't just keep churning out boilerplate that makes people say "Oh, how nice." Bands that everyone can find a way to like are, by definition, forgettable.

"But Ed," the script reads, "that is your personal taste. Many people feel quite strongly about Radiohead and consider their music to be profound, not to mention exciting and groundbreaking." Which brings me to the second point: it bugs the hell out of me when people (including professional "critics" who, in an ideal world, would know better) go apeshit for mediocrity.

This is not Radiohead's fault, per se. They cannot control the way people react to them. But imagine listening to someone breathlessly tell you that Good Will Hunting is not only their favorite film but quite possibly one of the greatest films of all time. Can you imagine anything sadder? Good Will Hunting is just a sappy, mediocre pile of cliches destined to be a staple of the in-flight movie circuit. To think that someone would have such terrible taste and watch so much garbage that Good Will Hunting would look like an amazing work of art in comparison is depressing. This is how I feel when I read or hear someone go on and on about the greatness of Radiohead. And sweet merciful christ do you people (that's a royal You) love to go on and on about the greatness of Radiohead.

In my mind it is a damning commentary on the state of music today – at least the mainstream kind – that Radiohead is "great" or "innovative" or "revolutionary" or any of the other terms obsequiously heaped upon them by fans and critics alike. Compared to Puddle of Mudd or Grizzly Bear, yes, Radiohead is amazing. Compared to anything above the lowest common denominator they are not. If Radiohead blows your mind, you have done a particularly poor job of exposing yourself to music that does not appear on FM radio. To me, being amazed by Kid A is merely an indication that a person has never listened to Brainiac.

So that's my beef with Radiohead. Their music is perfectly adequate, and hence I have no interest in it. Though it's not the band's fault, I am powerfully turned off by seeing and hearing people crap their pants over something so predictable and unremarkable. No offense if you love them; I just think that with a little effort you could avail yourself of things that make Radiohead sound pedestrian in comparison. I feel this way about a lot of things and it's not a popular viewpoint. But if all of my viewpoints were popular – perhaps inoffensive – you wouldn't have much interest in reading, would you?