You, dear reader, have the best taste in music. With that compliment, do you feel sufficiently prepared for me to express my dislike for your favorite bands? Since you’re so nice (a no obligation compliment), I’ll commence a very brief insult period:
That’s it. That’s the worst I have to say about them. They are, to be sure, excellent bands with devoted following and well-deserved reputation … except to me. To me, they are one hit wonders where that song, that one single song of theirs, is so transcendent that it’s almost inconceivable that I don’t like the rest of their music. Almost.
First up: Radiohead. I don’t dislike Radiohead. I won’t run screaming if I hear the creative product of Masters Yorke, Greenwood, Greenwood, O’Brien, and Selway. I actually respect them a lot for their independence and their desire to pursue creativity over popularity. As a bonus, they’ve actually earned real popularity. My complaint is that I find their music alienating. I’m certainly not opposed to alienating music, but their particular flavor sounds to me like the alienation a ghost must feel, just after death, but before settling in to ghostdom. It’s the moments when you wake up but aren’t quite sure you’ve woken up. In the roller coaster world, it might be the first moment just after reaching the top of the first hill. You see, I don’t like that kind of where-am-I-going alienation. I much prefer, and am much more experienced at, alienation-as-rebellion. That said, I love love love Radiohead’s “The National Anthem” from Kid A. The driving pulsing bass repetition is impossible to ignore and impossible to disengage from. If the song were nothing but that, it would still be a great song. But, on top of that perfect bass, is a rotating cast of structured energy and chaotic abandon. It’s music that is about to fall apart, almost, but doesn’t. The bass glues it together, keeping it just barely on rails.
Number 2: My Bloody Valentine. As music, I do dislike My Bloody Valentine, but as creativity, I respect it a lot. As music, I can find very little to grab on to and, barring that, I don’t trust it enough to let go and enjoy the ride. Water parks are full of these kinds of fluid-laden washes without trustworthy handles. But water parks have boundaries beyond which landlubber physics work predictably. In a water park, I know that, eventually, I will return to dry (dripping?) land. I don’t get that from My Bloody Valentine. I feel as if I’m being musically flushed down the world’s noisiest never-ending toilet. Fluid metaphors aside, the band deserves respect not necessarily for it’s obsessive pursuit of perfection, but for it’s ability to show subtlety inside vast washes of noise. I am not good enough to hear and enjoy that subtlety, but I think it’s an excellent goal that they apparently achieve admirably. Despite my indifference about MBV, I am fantastically in love with “Only Shallow“. The way the song alternates between the kind of ethereal parts with incomprehensible female vocals and the driving rhythmic guitar screaming that opens the song leaves me feeling the thrilling possibility of indistinct noise. The distinct noise contrasts wonderfully with the more washed out sections of the song, giving rails to the water park ride, boundaries that comfort me.
If I wanted to be accepted by the cool kids, I suppose I’d just rave about these songs and hope they never challenge me on my love for the bands themselves. But I can’t pretend. So, while the cool kids talk about the merits of The King of Limbs or mbv, I’ll take a quick trip to the vending machines. Can I get anything for you while I’m there?