Song of the Day #843: ‘Nude’ – Radiohead

I have a love/hate relationship with Radiohead.

They are an iffy selection for this week’s theme because I do treasure some of their work — specifically, everything on The Bends and about three quarters of OK Computer. If we’re talking about that stuff, believe the hype.

But following OK Computer, Radiohead either decided to perpetrate some sort of elaborate hoax on music critics, or they got so caught up in their own good press that their heads became permanently lodged inside their asses.

Kid A, Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief were exercises in art-rock masturbation, proof that the right band at the right time can release tuneless garbage and be hailed as revolutionaries.

I believe it was the effusive praise even more than the music that turned me off. How many times can you see a band described as “important” and “ground-breaking” and superior to all those silly groups that persist in releasing old-fashioned songs with silly things like melodies before you want to watch them fall on their faces?

2007’s In Rainbows changed things a bit. While it was mostly hyped for the manner of its release (it was made available on the band’s website for as much or as little money as you decided to pay), it was more notable for Radiohead’s return to actual songcraft.

I don’t consider In Rainbows the equal of The Bends or OK Computer, but it’s in the same ballpark. And maybe I have a soft spot for it because I downloaded it for free.

Don’t get any big ideas
they’re not gonna happen
You paint yourself white
and feel up with noise
but there’ll be something missingNow that you’ve found it, it’s gone
Now that you feel it, you don’t
You’ve gone off the rails

So don’t get any big ideas
they’re not going to happen
You’ll go to hell for what your dirty mind is thinking

 

21 thoughts on “Song of the Day #843: ‘Nude’ – Radiohead

  1. Amy says:

    I hear this band’s name and I cringe, remembering how frightened I was for my poor unborn child’s eardrums when I unwittingly exposed her to a live performance by them. I’m not sure I ever completely forgave R.E.M. for choosing this pretentious mess of noise to accompany them on that tour.

    Yeah, I have nothing nice to say about Radiohead, though I confess I knew none of their music before that incident (nearly 16 years ago!) and have gone out of my way to avoid it since.

    What I find more fascinating, however, is this tricky tightrope walk you’re doing today – and, indeed, all week. How can you “believe the hype” when it comes to two albums but accuse the same enthusiastic critics of having some sort of elaborate hoax pepetrated on them when it comes to the latter albums? How can you be so sure that you didn’t simply also fall for the hoax the first time out before you woke from the spell? OR that you used to be smarter back when you, too, found them important and revolutionary? 😉

    We certainly spend a lot of time on this blog dissecting (or at least Dana TRIES to dissect) why the ear wants what the ear wants. Still, it seems a bit easy and unsatisfying to assume that you alone see the difference between the early brilliance and the later fraud that all the other critics somehow miss. Is is possible that the music is still brilliant but that you just don’t like it? Seems more likely to me.

  2. Amy says:

    By the way, I couldn’t get past the 2:50 mark of today’s song. God awful!

  3. Clay says:

    Well, the difference between their music pre- and post-OK Computer is so pronounced that it might as well be two different bands.

    Incidentally, you had a lot of praise for the two other (early) Radiohead songs I’ve posted on the blog: Fake Paastic Trees and Just.

    I suspect you might enjoy a lot of their early work and I’m sure you’d dismiss the later stuff.

  4. Dana says:

    Well, I’m just pleased to see Clay admit that some intrinsic or extrinsic factor, in this case critical praise or excessive praise, might have an influence on his perceptions or appreciations of a song, album or artist, since he steadfastly rejects any notion that cultural/familial influences (in the case of favoring white vs. black voices) or attraction (in the case of female singers) could.

    Since I rarely read music critics’ reviews, they are rarely an influence on my taste or impressions of an artist, album or song for better or worse. With Radiohead, though, I have to admit that, perhaps even through you, I had caught wind that they were a critic’s darling, much like U2, and I further admit that hearing such things does tend to have a negative impression on me. Maybe that’s perverse and exceedingly cynical, but there it is. So, yes, when I then hear Radiohead as an opening act to REM (who I love much of the time, but also think at times have been effusively praised no matter what they recorded) and they sound awful, it obviously just reinforces my predisposed negative feelings.

    Now, I do recall liking (or at least not actively disliking) a few songs you have featured from Radiohead on this blog, and I’m sure you are right that if I were willing to overcome my bias, I might like (or even love) some of what you find so compelling. This SOTD, however, ain’t it (and I suspect you intended it to not be it?). And speaking of voices I don’t like, this guy’s voice qualifies.

  5. Clay says:

    I definitely get annoyed by effusive critical praise of something I don’t like, whether it’s on CD or onscreen. I dislike the movie In the Bedroom all the more because critics wet their pants over it.

    But you seem to be suggesting that you hold critical praise against a musical artist you haven’t even heard? I don’t get that. Good reviews are one of the principal means I have of discovering new music.

    Also, you don’t seem to feel the same way about movies. You generally use the Tomato ranking as your decision maker on a Friday night. Why the difference?

  6. Clay says:

    And I’ll take the bait on the first part of your comment. I absolutely believe extrinsic factors play a role in how I hear and appreciate music, whether it’s the critical reception, where I was when I first heard a song, seeing somebody live and so on.

    In fact, I think external associations can be one of the most powerful connections we have to the music we love. One of the reasons I consider U2’s The Joshua Tree such a special album is that hearing it places me right back in a time and place in my teenage years that I remember fondly.

    But believing that extrinsic factors play a role does NOT mean that I have to subscribe to every wild theory you throw out there as to why you think I do or don’t like an artist! “You don’t like black voices” or “You don’t find Barbra Streisand hot enough” simply don’t rate as factors for me.

  7. pegclifton says:

    I liked “In the Bedroom”

  8. Dana says:

    Okay, let me just clarify once again, though you never seem to get (or want to get) my point, and you instead re characterize it in nonsensical extremes. It is NOT that you “don’t like black voices” It IS that you like white voices better. The proof is in your top 20 list of favorite voices. (really top 22 since you admit Lovett and Simon should have been included) And it is NOT that you “don’t find Barbra Streisand hot enough” It IS that you may give some bonus points to a singer whom you also find attractive and, conversely, take away some points from someone you don’t. Again, your top 10 female artists reflects a bevy of nice looking women, with the likes of a Bonnie Raitt, as one example, conspicuously absent.

    Incidentally, I am not alone in my theory, at least as to the attraction issue, as Amy and your Mom both seem to agree with me. Oh, and by the way, the attraction of which I speak may not be limited to physical looks. It may also include personality (Streisand perhaps seeming off putting while Tift charms you) or even the sexiness of the voice.

    And while I appreciate that you are now acknowledging at least some extrinsic influences on your taste, how about acknowledging intrinsic influences (or as you like to dismissively call it the “psychoanalyzing” that I tend to do that so ruffles your feathers)? Have you ever really thought about what it is about your composition, your personality, your internal biases, etc… that might influence what you like and don’t like? Amy had an interesting observation the other day as to whether you picked singers (or at least female singers) who were the ying to your yang personality-wise. I believe you found that theory interesting and it was nice to see you admit that there might be something inside of you other than just “taste” and “I like what I like” to explain your preferences. Curious to know, however, what other intrinsic factors you think might influence you. Hey, maybe that’s a good theme week in the making! “This week features songs I like because of the type of person I am,” Cue Stewart Smalley music.:)

    Anyway, in response to your question about critics, you are right that I have a different practice with music and movies, but I think it is largely because, with movies, I more readily access a site like Rotten Tomatoes, to obtain that general consensus. On the other hand, I rarely if ever will see a movie based on a single review (from the Herald for example) or even from a handful of reviews. With music, it seems to me that there are only a few sources out there that dominate the review landscape, the primary one being Rolling Stone magazine and I usually find their critics so conspicuously infatuated with certain artists (like Radiohead, U2, etc) that I basically discount them. Now, I think you go to certain sites that are the music equivalent to RT, and I suppose if I did that and found that the vast majority of critics from around the country all felt an album was really great, then that would tend to have a positive rather than negative impact on me.

  9. Amy says:

    I would also suggest that it has something to do with frequency. When you are likely going to see a movie every Friday night, you care more about whether you choose (and spend money on) one you are going to appreciate or enjoy. We might opt to see Due Date despite the fact that it doesn’t get a great critical reception because we anticipate that we will enjoy it (cue Dana’s intrinsic adoration for Robert Downey Jr.), while we will certainly wait to know that critics believe 127 hours is worth the anguish it will undoubtedly cause the viewer.

    With albums, that’s just not the case. We don’t buy “new” music. Regardless of what any critic might say, we’ll buy the new Lyle Lovett or Elvis Costello album. Otherwise, we’re waiting for the next birthday when you can be counted on to gift the new music you imagine we are most likely to enjoy. So what difference does a critic make? Now, if, once in long while, critical reception and limited exposure of an artist is so intriguing that it causes us to change that pattern, so be it. One example comes to mind – Amy Winehouse. AFTER she won a bunch of awards and I saw her on some show or another (SNL, maybe?), I decided I wanted to buy that album. How many years ago was that?

  10. Clay says:

    Bonnie Raitt is sitting somewhere saying “Why are you dragging me into this, and calling me ugly on top of it?!”

    I’m sorry if you don’t like me categorizing some of your theories as absurd, but this is another example. You’re suggesting that Bonnie Raitt isn’t on my list because she’s unattractive. Never mind that I don’t listen to any of Bonnie Raitt’s music and don’t find her voice any more or less appealing than the voices of countless other female singers.

    At least half the women on my list of singers aren’t what I’d call attractive (at least in the sense that I’m attracted to them… women in the arts tend to be conventionally attractive to at least some degree… and yes, that includes Bonnie Raitt and Barbra Streisand).

    But I don’t want to continue that argument because, yes, I do find it absurd.

    You should try MetaCritic for CD reviews (and movie reviews).

  11. Dana says:

    Perhaps Bonnie Raitt isn’t on your list because she’s just not on your radar, which is truly a shame because she is truly wonderful and has a great voice as well. Nick of Time is a must own in my view, one of the best albums recorded in the 80’s. Do you seriously not own that?

    Anyway, dismiss my arguments as absurd all you want, but I’m still waiting for you to look at the intrinsic reasons why you like what you like and don’t like what you don’t like, and why you do not have a single black voice in your top 20 (or 22 or perhaps even top 30, 40 or 50?). As Jodie Foster said in Silence of the Lambs: “Are you strong enough to point that high-powered perception at yourself? What about it? Why don’t you – why don’t you look at yourself and write down what you see? Or maybe you’re afraid to.”

  12. Clay says:

    First, I’m willing to bet I have more black artists in my CD collection than you do, regardless of how good or bad their voices are. Narrowing this down to voices is silly.

    Second, you have one black woman on your list and because I have one fewer than that I’m in need of the Hannibal Lecter treatment?

    Third, why are we rehashing last week’s argument anyway?

    I don’t own Nick of Time. I believe I own Luck of the Draw, though.

  13. Clay says:

    To go back to the discussion of extrinsic factors, I do think there is a lot to explore there. In my experience the most powerful extrinsic factors are emotional connections and nostalgia.

    I have great fondness for songs that return me to a time and place, especially a happy time and place.

    Also, I have great fondness for songs that I associate with loved ones. For example, Neko Case is a favorite of mine in large part because I listened to her album every day for a year with my daughters on the way to school. I associate that album with my girls.

    I bet you appreciate Taylor Swift far more because of your own daughter’s reaction to her.

  14. Amy says:

    Yup 🙂 And Darren Criss, too!

  15. Dana says:

    First, you probably do have more black artists, but you also have a far more expansive collection overall. Also, you are the one who chose to do theme weeks highlighting your favorite voices without including a single black artist. If there is, as you seem to now be suggesting by this last comment, no distinction between a recording artist generally and a vocalist, then why make the list? (I’m sure you have been asking yourself that very question:))

    Second, I have two black females on my list (Aretha and Chapman) and three black males. Do me a favor–google “best female singers” and look at any list that comes up. You will find that, on virtually every list, black artists dominate, generally making up about half or more of the top ten. I know it pains you to discuss why you omitted any black singers, male or female, but given how black singers comprise at least half of the US music industry, a fair amount of your collection and most other critics’ and bloggers’ lists, I think it is perfectly fair and legitimate to discuss the conspicuous omission. While you have distorted, knocked down and dismissed as absurd every theory I have proffered, you have yet to come up with one of your own beyond “back off — it’s my taste.”

    Incidentally, even though I listed some black singers, I, unlike you, will readily concede that, had I grown up in a household where more soul and R&B were playing, I would have very likely listed a number of other singers as favorites. I certainly know singers like Gladys Knight and Dionne Warwick, who you will find on almost any top ten list out there, but I never had enough exposure, either in my childhood or even adult life, to put them in the forefront of my mind when considering my favorite vocalists. These omissions don’t make me any more of a “musical racist” than it makes you–but I think at least one explanation is that my background and social circles (i.e. those extrinsic forces) did not expose me to a sufficient diet of these artists.

    Third, we are rehashing this discussion because that’s how we (or maybe I) roll, baby!:)

    Luck of the Draw is also a very good album, though not as well received as Nick of Time. And, if you do own that album, why did you say you don’t listen to Raitt or know enough of her to evaluate her voice? For my money, she has one of the best blues voices (by a white girl:)) of all time!

  16. Clay says:

    I own Luck of the Draw but I haven’t listened to it in years.

    I agree with you that had I grown up with a steady diet of Motown and R&B records, I’d probably hold those artists more dear than I do. If that’s your whole point, I readily concede (and wish I’d done so 40 posts ago!).

    My main issue with this discussion is the idea of a “black voice” — as if one’s color somehow dictates one’s singing voice. If you were to say that I don’t generally gravitate toward “R&B voices” that would make more sense, and be less icky.

    I hate the music of Celine Dion, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey for pretty much the same reason… and only 1 1/2 of them are black. 🙂

    Interestingly, the black artists I do listen to on a regular basis don’t really perform the sort of music you’d probably associate with a “black voice.” I’m thinking of people like Stew, M.I.A., Santogold, V.V. Brown, TV On the Radio.

    And ironically, the one traditional black R&B singer I listen to frequently is Rihanna who (as you are the first to admit) doesn’t have a very strong voice.

  17. Dana says:

    I get that referring to a voice as a “black voice” may seem icky given our society’s general oversensitivity to discussing race and racial attributes, though I don’t think it should be. Obviously, every race and national origin has a distinct dialect, accent, tone and timbre in speaking voices, and also in singing voices. Now, as we previously discussed (what haven’t we discussed?), there are exceptions. There are Asian, Black, Hispanic, etc… people who have no discernible traces of their origin when speaking or singing. And yes, by and large, singing generally disguises many of those attributes due to the tonal structure of the music, the beat, the phrasing within the tone and beat, etc…

    Still, there can be no denying that R&B and blues singing originated with and remains substantially dominated by black artists, and so, yes, to that extent, I am generally identifying the “black voice” as the soul voice, the R&B voice.

    Interestingly, I just heard a black producer on Howard Stern talking about how Gladys Knight was/is the best singer out there, even though she doesn’t always get the acclaim. In describing his initial meeting with her, he mentioned how his first question was in what church did she sing. When she responded a baptist church, he said that was all he needed to know to understand how her voice became as strong and good as it was. So certainly, at least with Gladys Knight, her race, her origin, her background and her cultural experiences growing up infused her with the “black voice” to which I am referring..

    Oh, and don’t even get me started on why you tend to primarily like black artists who sing “white” (as in non-R&B.soul) 🙂

  18. pegclifton says:

    Frankly, those are the only black artists I like to listen to. Please keep the soul and gospel far away from me 🙂

  19. pegclifton says:

    I don’t recall agreeing with you Dana on the “attraction issue” When and what did I say, just wondering???

  20. Dana says:

    Oh, I recall you talking about Elvis and Sinatra and finding Elvis attractive, etc…Sorry, if I mistakenly bootstrapped you into supporting my theories:)

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