antiMUSIC is pleased to welcome aboard Trent McMartin who not only has been filing special news reports but now will give you the "lowdown" on various music related topics! 

As always the views expressed by the writer do not neccessarily reflect the views of antiMUSIC or the iconoclast entertainment group

The Radiohead Backlash

Some people just don’t get it. Being a Radiohead fan is the equivalent to being a rock and roll snob. Their music is a critic’s dream, with each subsequent listen bringing further analysis and dissection. Genius. Brilliance. Pioneers. These are all words that have been used to describe British rock band Radiohead and their hesitation to fit into anything deemed mainstream. 

A rock and roll experiment, run amuck amidst a legion of safe, reliable and dependable artists insured to make a return for record company stock holders. Radiohead is all things scary and unadulterated. Illustrating what music should be, especially music that encourages individuality and exceptionality. But it’s not for everyone as is exemplified by radio and television’s unwillingness to play their music. 

Blessed with the ability to write guitar heavy rock songs ("Creep") and mournful ballads ("Fake Plastic Trees"), Radiohead exploded onto the scene in the early and mid nineties releasing a handful of records that gained international acclaim and commercial success that would unknowingly set the blueprint for many British acts to follow over the next decade.

Bored and dissatisfied with their achievements, the band set to experiment and cover new territory with the critically hailed 1997 album OK Computer. All Music Guide calls OK Computer, “the album that establishes Radiohead as one of the most inventive and rewarding guitar rock bands of the '90s.” The record recently topped a poll in Britain that asked Channel 4 viewers what they’re all-time favorite album is. U2 came second with their 1987 effort The Joshua Tree, while Nirvana's landmark 1991 album Nevermind was third.

All these accolades are in direct contrast to the ever-growing legion of Radiohead detractors that are voicing their opinion in the media, the Internet and your local tavern. In an October 2003 edition of the New York Post, journalist Maxine Shen wrote an article titled “It’s Radiohead” reporting on the rising amount of non believers who view Radiohead as nothing more than a group of whiny, overachieving lads from across the Atlantic. 

According to the article, a study was conducted in San Lleandro, California, where fifth graders were exposed to Radiohead and were asked to draw their reactions to the music. One child drew a graveyard scene with tombstones, a man who hanged himself and a booth offering “Free Suicides.” Another drew a picture of a child standing on the mountain saying, ‘I hate my life.” Shocking? Yes. It’s kind of unbelievable when a rock band is credited in stirring all these emotions with a bunch of ten year olds. 

Some blame the band themselves for the backlash while others direct their detestation to the music industry and the imitators for ruining their Radiohead experience. “After the release of the Bends (Radiohead’s 1995 album), there started a flood of Radiohead type bands into the music world with the same type of sound, same tone of vocals, same mixtures of sound,” said fan Darren Nobrega of Edmonton, Canada. “I lost interest in Radiohead due to the music industries saturation of their sound. Too many followers making music that sounded just like Radiohead. Leave it to the music industry to exploit a popular sound to the point of destroying its effect, “Nobrega explained. 

The public is not alone in their distaste for Radiohead. Some musicians share the same feelings asking what all the fuss is about. In a 2003 issue of Q Magazine, Kid Rock was quoted as saying, “I don't hate them, I just don't understand them. I've listened to their music and it does nothing for me. If I have a party on tour I'm not going to grab for the Radiohead CD to get the party started.” Kid Rock than joked it might be funny to tour together saying, “They can go out and be sad and I'll pick ‘em up.”

But for every detractor of Radiohead, there are five supporters. Jason Manning, Music Director for Edmonton’s modern rock radio station Sonic 102.9 FM proclaimed, “Radiohead are one of the most talented groups in the world right now. They are creative and cool.  And they have put out some of the coolest albums out in the last few years.” 

Fellow musicians, who long to emulate Radiohead but know they cannot match their ambition and originality, look to Radiohead as beacons of inspiration. In the recent “Immortals” edition of Rolling Stone, Dave Matthews said, “Every time I buy a Radiohead album, I have a moment where I say to myself, maybe this is the one that will suck. But it never does, “ Matthews says. “ I wonder if it's even possible for them to be bad on record.” 

In a recent Newsweek article, Coldplay front man Chris Martin explained his inferiority complex to label mates Radiohead. “We’re like an eager dog just yapping around their heels, and they're trying to kick us away,” he joked. “It's like unrequited love. I'm in love with a lot of things. Some of those things love me back. And some of them don't -- and one of them is Radiohead.”

As time passes and Radiohead sinks evermore into their own musical cocoon, the divisiveness grows. A recent report surfaced on Radiohead fan site www.greenplastic.com adding to the rumours that the band was back in the studio record the follow-up to 2003’s Hail to the Thief.  The record is expected to be released by February or March of next year.

This is little consolation to many fans weaned on their 90’s work. A new album offers little hope to a return of the Radiohead of old. “Within soft acoustic guitar melodies, Radiohead would mix heavy electric riffs lead by a very distinct voice,” said fan Darren Nobrega. “Combined, these sounds created a powerful effect of mood.  Music that gave you no choice but to get ‘into it’.  The type of music that certain sounds, smells and moments would trigger the memory of the exact moment you were listening to those albums.”

“I appreciate Radiohead, for the albums in which I first fell in love with, and for their ability to be pioneers in what could be classed as new genres of music,” said Nobrega.  "But I like rock and I like music belted out by well skilled musicians. The potential of the guitar, and the person behind it can never be replaced by the hard drive of a computer.”

Trent McMartin. 

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