I have to agree with Salon on Radiohead’s new album. Radiohead has no clothes. Sometime after their perfect album OK Computer, which was the best album of the 1990s as far as I’m concerned, Thom Yorke lost his mind. I have tried and tried and tried to like Kid A, Amnesiac and Hail To The Thief and the meaning behind the albums resonates very well with me, but it’s futile. They’re simply not very good albums musically. And in spite of, or maybe because of, the critical acclaim he received, Thom Yorke suffers from Michael Stipes’ disease from early in his career: he’s not confident in his lyric-writing ability so he “sings” the songs so that the lyrics are indecipherable.
The 56-minute album has some bright spots. I Will, Sail To The Moon and There There are among Radiohead’s best ever. But the rest of the songs are filled with incoherent melodies, barely catchy choruses and songs that just drone on and on and on and on.
2+2=5 starts like it’s the beginning of a masterpiece album with music that made Radiohead great and Thom’s voice carrying the song halfway through where it immediately turns into a mess of bland guitar rock. Sit Down, Stand Up also starts great, but like the first song just falls into the longest minute ever of “The raindrops” repeated over and over with a heavy bass riff filled out with 1950s science fiction sound effects. Sail To The Moon is classic Radiohead guitar with a tinkling piano and Thom’s ethereal voice. Backdrifts sounds like a song played backwards (ever get a headache listening to sounds in reverse?); nothing interesting here at all… for an annoying 5 minutes 22 seconds. Go To Sleep would have been great on their first album, Pablo Honey, but it’s boring 10 years later. We Suck Young Blood is not even worth talking about. If The Gloaming (and its more backwards music) doesn’t make you want to commit suicide that’s probably because they made it one of the shortest songs on the album. There There and I Will are the other two great songs on the album. A Punch Up At A Wedding features drums and piano and Thom singing about a drunk fight at a wedding. Piano, drums are innovative? Then we fall again into a pit of the same old noise-filled monotony with Myxomatosis and the album ends with the uneventful Scatterbrain and A Wolf At The Door. Blah. And I even bought the “Special Edition” version of the CD which contains nothing of interest except a poster for the goth kiddies to stick on their wall to prove to their parents that the world sucks.
Pitchfork Media concluded their review of OK Computer with what is now a prophetic notion: Radiohead only seem to get better as time progresses, but Thom Yorke’s expressed some doubt as to whether or not they can ever top this record. If they can, they’ll have established themselves as one of the most outstanding rock bands the ’90s had to offer. If not, they still came out of the deal with one album of unadulterated genius. Time will tell.
In 20 years, if people are still talking about Radiohead, it will be OK Computer that they are remembered for. Innovation in music is good and badly-needed, but that doesn’t mean that anything innovative is good music. It’d be refreshing if everyone would just admit what I think we all know.