Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Great Divide

As you may know, Radiohead is my favorite band. Oh sure, I may have, in the past, dabbled with others, but I always seem to come back to Radiohead in the end.

In the summer of 1999, I purchased OK Computer, which was, and is, acclaimed in every way possible. I had heard Radiohead before, but only a few songs. Thus, I was quite impressed with what I heard, and became hooked. The reason for this being a unique situation was because I was neck deep in my "punk" phase. The fact that I had purchased a non-punk album was, in itself, a rare occurance. The fact that it made such an impression on me at that time in my life is, in retrospect, surprising. From that point on, I was a certified Radiohead fan. Along with everyone else with a pulse, I looked forward to their next album.

2000's Kid A was among the most highly anticipated releases I can remember. The band played everything low key, not releasing any singles or videos from the album. When the album was released, it was a dividing point for many fans. Their tried and true, guitar driven style was dropped in favor of electronic and synth driven sounds. Sure, it jarred me upon first listen; I don't think there was a person in the world that wasn't shocked when they first heard it. But the album proved to be a grower. In fact, I think you could define the word using Kid A as an example. What sounded at first listen to be a cold and distant record evolved into something calculated, yet organic.

Many people hated this album, and never gave it much of a chance after their bad first impression of it. The band remained stubbornly defiant, playing sets revolving mostly around their new material in concert. Meanwhile, I quietly enjoyed the album on my own, as my friends were also neck deep in their punk phases, and for the most part refused to open up to the unfamiliar. I had many "moments" with Kid A, including one experience sitting in a Detroit airport terminal waiting out a layover that might be my most memorable music "moment" ever. Like the album itself, this moment was subtle, with nothing standing out to make it spectacular, yet for whatever reason, it stands out in my mind.

I guess the reason I feel compelled to write this is because it just dawned on me that Kid A was a turning point of sorts for me. I could have done what many other people did, and turned away from Radiohead and never looked back. Now that I look back on it, I was probably much more likely to do that than to give them the chance I did. I realize that this was my first experience with an album that wasn't immediately gratifying. I've had many similar experiences since then, where I have to force myself through a few uncomfortable listens before I feel ready to make a judgement on the album. I've found that, in some instances, these albums develop into some of my favorites (two prime examples being Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and The Shins' Wincing The Night Away). I'm quite happy to be at a point where I can digest music gradually instead of making snap judgements like so many people seem to do.

How To Disappear Completely

1 comment:

Miguel said...

Very well stated. I like the music "moment" you described. I also think a lot of incredible music out there needs time to process in order to fully comprehend as well as appreciate it's depth.