Sunday, March 15, 2015

Hail to the thief Radiohead

Over at Stereogum, it's Radiohead Week - presumably in honour of the twentieth anniversary of the release of The Bends. For one of the most interesting features, they've asked 33 musicians to choose and discuss their favourite Radiohead song. Among the respondents are Ed Droste (Grizzly Bear), J Mascis, Skrillex, Robin Pecknold (Fleet Foxes), Patrick Carney (The Black Keys), Mark Smith (Explosions In The Sky), Scott Hutchison (Frightened Rabbit) and Trevor Powers (Youth Lagoon).

There's a lot of love for 'Pyramid Song' and 'All I Need', but it's a bit of a surprise (to me, at least) that only one person, Lydia Ainsworth, agrees with my choice of 'Exit Music (For A Film)'.

For some respondents, their chosen song conjures up specific memories - some special, some less so. Wayne Coyne chooses 'There There' and describes Radiohead's 2003 headline set at Glastonbury, immediately after The Flaming Lips, as "literally one of the greatest shows we've seen". (It's a bit of an exaggeration, but he's not far wrong - it was the first and, I wish, only, time I've seen them.) Talking about 'We Suck Young Blood', Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz recalls: "In college a few years later, some kids across the hall from me taped pubic hair to my door for overplaying that same song". Meanwhile, 'Weird Fishes/Arpeggi' inspires a bizarre hallucinatory vision for My Morning Jacket's Jim James.

It's also fascinating what different musicians value in Radiohead's oeuvre. Merrill Garbus, perhaps predictably, celebrates the dazzling originality of 'Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors', whereas Kathleen Hanna is unapologetic in her reasons for choosing 'Creep': "I don’t sit around listening to Radiohead really because they went so esoteric and spacey which isn’t my jam". It certainly isn't Noel Gallagher's "jam" either, the monobrowed one selecting 'Fake Plastic Trees' (like Marissa Nadler and Kip Berman of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart) and commenting: "I only wish they’d write more songs like it". He has a more articulate ally in Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard, who admits: "If I’ve had any kind of issues with Radiohead post-Kid A, I feel like the traditional songwriting has been stripped almost out of what they do".

While several musicians complain about having to make a choice but nevertheless comply, Nikolai Fraiture of The Strokes refuses to pick: "Radiohead are one of the last bands I can remember that have been able to create a journey. From Pablo Honey to The King Of Limbs, there are only a few musical tropes and faint traces that these are the same individuals still making music together after 18 years". I guess that evolution - generally gradual from album to album, but dramatic over the course of their career - is partly why there is so little consensus on a favourite song.

Other Radiohead Week features on Stereogum have included Meredith Graves of Perfect Pussy (an avowed Radiohead disliker) interviewing her dad (who's lukewarm on them) and Ryan Leas' defence of The King Of Limbs, which he admits is partly an attempt to convince himself of the album's merits but which does just enough to persuade me that it might be worth one more sympathetic listen.

(Thanks to Del for the first link.)

No comments: