May 14, 2016 — Day 35: Radiohead and Not Caring
I used to be obsessed with Radiohead, as were many of my peers. Right around 2006–2008, when many of us were just starting out in college, Radiohead was immensely popular. This partially coincided with the release of their album In Rainbows, which was a terrific album. In Rainbows was only part of the story though — its release came at a strange time in the music industry. There really weren’t streaming services besides Pandora at the time and albums on iTunes were prohibitively expensive, especially for college students. So many of us had to resort to other methods to get our hands on new music. In Rainbows and Radiohead in general were different though. Radiohead charged “whatever you want to pay” for that album.
There was something exciting about a band embracing the freedom of internet distribution at that time. I think that excitement is at least part of why so many of us were enamored with Radiohead at the time. There were other reasons I think the band resonated so much with 18–20 year old boys though. Radiohead music is traditionally dour and can often be very dense, as it is on my favorite album of theirs, Kid A). That sort of music, expressing a disappointment with the world — being frustrated with the question “is this all there is?”, is like catnip for moody teens.
Radiohead’s music is still very dark and moody today, with the only “recent” exception being a few songs on 2007’s In Rainbows. While their music can still be interesting, I’ve moved on from being so interested in gloominess as my go to musical choice. Gloomy music can still be done well, (https://itun.es/us/kZOmcb), but I don’t think Radiohead’s latest efforts have been interesting or varied enough to justify sitting through their newer albums multiple times. A Moon Shaped Pool also has the problem of sounding so highly manufactured, it sounds like the platonic ideal of music that gets played on college Indie radio stations. There just isn’t any edge to it, and the band themselves sound pretty bored.
I just can’t muster any love for the last few Radiohead albums — In Rainbows was a classic, but they haven’t come anywhere close to matching that album in the intervening decade. Someday maybe they will mix things up and change up their sound, as they have done before, but for now I would prefer they stick to doing movie scores (the best example of their movie score work is what Johnny Greenwood did for There Will Be Blood). The last month has felt like a never-ending progression of amazing albums — each week seems to bring something else fascinating to listen to, but unfortunately A Moon Shaped Pool is just not one of those.