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Stress Position: I hate Radiohead’s OK Computer

on April 22, 2013, 12:00am
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Welcome to another installment of Stress Position, where we test a writer’s patience and insanity by forcing them to listen to an album they hate for 12 hours straight.

Let the carnage begin.

For the debut of this column, I chose metal, which was #1 on my musical black list. Technically, that’s accurate from the standpoint of specific genres. But for my true musical bane, which makes my (now slightly diminished) hatred of metal look like the romance between Jackie O and JFK, I have to go with…

Radiohead.

For those of you who haven’t already rage-quit your browser, I have a totally valid reason for my distaste in what many people have deemed the single most important rock band of the late 20th/early 21st century. And it has nothing to do with that time I got the stomach flu after I first listened to Kid A.

Radiohead are a fine rock band. Evocative, forward-thinking, and generally the kind of dudes who work toward greater musical and cultural truths and stuff. But then everyone sees them as the second coming of Christ, as if everything they do, whether it’s playing a packed UK stadium or blowing their noses, has a massive effect on the entire music industry. 

Now, I’ve experienced a disconnect before, where lots of people get a band and I simply don’t. It usually doesn’t faze me beyond, “Well, I guess they’re just not for me.” But this disconnect is so grand and so sweeping that the more I try to understand it, the angrier it just makes me feel. It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, not finding that weird corner piece, and just deciding to toss the whole thing off the coffee table.

In recent months, my hatred’s grown particularly nasty. In the first Stress Position, I recognized my aging and I wanna let go of my hate and see if it makes me happier or healthier. But I have come to realize I enjoy my hatred of Radiohead like a child enjoys playing with loose baby teeth. It’s this sort of biological component that makes me feel unique, as if no one else can do it, and I bring it out whenever I can. If you mention anything Radiohead-related, I am bound to let loose a stream of baseless insults and then tell you my stomach flu story.

So, as much as I want to hold on to my hatred, it seemed the perfect construct to test against the emotional torture chamber that is Stress Position. From Thursday, March 7th to Saturday, March 16th, I was traveling for work (Savannah Stopover right into SXSW). And though I had plenty of shows to see, I spent my alone time and the hours in airports and taxis listening to nothing but perhaps the band’s most seminal album to date, 1997’s OK Computer.

OKComputercover

Band: Radiohead
Album: OK Computer
Release: May 21st, 1997
Label: Capitol Records
History: I’m going to just defer to the OK Computer Wikipedia page. It’s well-written, insightful, and packed with more info than even the most rabid of fan would want.

In the past, any instance of listening to Radiohead is pretty much out-and-out torture for me: sitting around a record player with a beer, hanging out with a group of friends, even if I were sitting in my gold-plated mansion with Jessica Alba and my robot butler. Although, I could handle just about anything in that last scenario.

One thing I respect about Radiohead is that they demand your full attention. They pull and tug at you with so many sound collages and empty spaces. No matter what it is you seem to be doing, when a Radiohead album’s on, there’s just no denying its presence. Love them or hate them, the band is among a select group of artists who don’t fade into the background, making every spin a thoroughly active, sometimes grueling, experience. Normally, if I hear them at a party or a bar, I can escape by leaving that space. But stuck in some metal tube flying 35,000 above the ground for three hours, all options (save for turning off the damn record) are eliminated, and my own sense of professionalism and ceaseless guilt prevents me from even doing that.

But why this particular form of musical waterboarding was so perfect for travelling has everything to do with the very state of travel itself.

I can’t avoid the inevitable hatred of Radiohead followers in the same way I couldn’t go into the Smithsonian, blow my nose on a Thomas Jefferson coat, and ask everyone to just be cool. But I can avoid the whole idea that I’m a whiny little ingrate. I am ever appreciative to have this job and to be flown places, for free, and enjoy live music.

But I am not sure I really enjoy the parts where I actually have to go to places. I’m a homebody who abhors most change, but more than that, I don’t think I have the temperament to travel. For many, the standard headaches of travel (long lines, delayed flights, $36 airport coffee, TSA agents that seem to be deliberately plotting ways to cop a feel) are tiny pin pricks, nothing but a minor irritation on the glossy skin that is a vacation. But for whatever reasons, those pricks feel like tiny stabs of misery and discomfort, each one ruining my day if and when they occur.

As a coping mechanism, I turn to music. Whenever I feel disconnected while I am away, I slip on my headphones and instinctively listen to some old album I haven’t heard in months or some relatively new favorite. It’s my direct connection back to a more familiar emotional status, a safety net as I fly above skies that look strange and menacing. Not to get all New Age-y, but music is a center for me, and without it I can’t help but think the wounds and scars I’d have to deal with while on the road. Plus, no one talks to the guy wearing the Sennheisers.

Continued on page two.

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40 comments
jorge macias guzman
May 1, 2013 at 5:28 pm

It’s not supposed to be ”badass”, shithead.

Guest
April 29, 2013 at 2:56 am

you gotta be kidding me with these criticisms….
all I have to say is, you don’t get it, and you don’t seem to be looking in the right direction. In order to understand Radiohead, you need to tune into a particular frequency. dig a bit deeper, this isn’t about travel. what an ignorant article.

– “Paranoid Android” is like 150 seconds too long.
do I even have to say why this is a dumb criticism??

– The album could do without “Climbing Up the Walls”, or at least having it come earlier in the LP.
This is probably my favorite Ok Computer song, so I guess I’m just a bit confused. and maybe a bit offended.

– “Fitter Happier” may be the worst interlude ever invented.
This is a very important piece of the album, pay attention. You weren’t paying attention before you were too busy thinking of ways to be fitter, happier, more productive, etc. You are a Pig in a Cage on Antibiotics.

– Why isn’t there more badass output like “Electioneering”?
You used the word “badass” to describe what you think good music sounds like. Thats how I know your opinion sucks. Easily my least favorite track on the album because they didn’t get too creative with it like all their other songs.

– Would a hook actually make “Exit Music (For a Film)” a little livelier?
This statement further proves you like standard music, with hooks, guitars and other predictable forms of music. Just because you watch and like bands who don’t really know what they’re doing some of the time, doesn’t mean you have some sort of rare musical taste. Same for not liking Radiohead. You are one of those delusional guys who thinks he listens to music unlike anyone else.

– In “Subterranean Homesick Alien”, Yorke shouldn’t try to fit in the part “finally lost it completely”; it’s jumbled and awkward. Just say “think I’ve lost it” or something, man.
Is this a legitimate argument as to why this band/album isn’t great? Come on, man.
It sounds terribile the way you put it by the way.
“I’d tell all my friends but they’d never believe me
They’d think that I’ve lost it” ……no flow
I think Thom writes better songs than you, man.

– Is “Karma Police” perhaps a new kind of intellectual’s Britpop?

People like you like to put labels on everything. It’s your ignorant perception, your ego. This is a HUGE reason why you don’t get Radiohead. They confuse you because you have no label for them. Your ego gets pissed, and your thinking mind rejects everything Radiohead because it can’t comprehend anything without a label. All you hear are beeps and bops because you aren’t tuned into the right radio station in your head. Your ego is distracting you from giving up the ghost. Their music will show you if you let it.

Alex Cho
April 28, 2013 at 12:47 am

I was actually hoping for more on what you thought of the album after subjecting yourself to repeat listens. My bad – there it was on page 2.

Didntmeantobesothengthy
April 27, 2013 at 6:38 am

Gotta admit, I’m a fan. Seen em live six times. I thought they were pretty good before my first show, but that first concert raised my level of appreciation. I think it was 2003, hail to theif tour, maybe? My second show was bonnaroo 06. Legendary show accompanied by my first bonnaroo experience and first camping festival experience. Life hasn’t been the same since. In 2008, I saw them in Atlanta and two weeks later in houston. It rained just a little before both of those shows, but in Houston, there was a rainbow over the pavilion right before the show. This was the in rainbows tour, and the energy in that crowd was amazing. I saw them again in Houston and at bonnaroo last year, and it was great to hear the new songs live. I just don’t know if the experiences of 06 bonnaroo and 08 Houston will ever be recreated for me. What this article said about radiohead possibly being the best at taking you to a different time or place upon listening is spot on, but then you dismiss that so quickly. It may be highly orchestrated, even though I would think the writing process is not. However, the ability to provoke varying emotions through individual interpretation is one of the main goals of art, is it not. While you mention bands that are spontaneous or unpredictable, I would think Radiohead’s process is just that, but the end result is something that will last and hold, what I call, a universality, when it comes to contemporar, near future, or distant future interpretation of the beholder. If you felt like reading, an analysis of an ode to a Grecian urn, my point would be more eloquently delivered. But I am biased, there are moments of my life when every radiohead album has been a soundtrack, crutch, or release.

ubanni36
April 26, 2013 at 4:36 am

You don’t like OK computer. You are a f u cking idi0t. Next time your at a party, just put on some good old Nickelback and enjoy your can of beer.

lilhammie87
April 24, 2013 at 10:35 pm

really enjoyed this thoughtful article.

Landon Donivan
April 24, 2013 at 5:11 pm

a fun read but i still dont understand why you aren’t in radiohead or maybe you are now, its a bit confusing, i like a lot of music but the only band/artist i can say i truly love, as in i may even cry if they broke up, is radiohead. there is just something they have that no other band on the planet has, the sense that they can’t release a bad album and always have a potential masterpiece up their sleeves. its a weird feeling but they are the only band i truly connect with emotionally, from thom vocals to the beautiful sounds created by jonny greenwood.

however, im glad that you dont like radiohead and others don’t cause i would hate everyone to like them cause it wouldnt be the same. the universe must be balanced and that means that some people must hate radiohead, although i do feel for the poor souls.

even if you don’t like them, i don’t see there is any justified reason why you cant consider them the best band on the planet and even in history, there is no other band in the world that you can put forward a stronger case for for this title and maybe even the beatles are the only ones who could compete (i don’t like the beatles by the way but can see the why people consider them great). i would still say radiohead are greater as they are much better musicians technically and i think they will have longer staying power simple because they are more open to change and influences from the latest sounds and styles.

the other thing i like about radiohead is that i know they don’t care if people don’t like them, they make music for themselves, for their own enjoyment, we just come along for the ride.

Rory Biller
April 24, 2013 at 12:21 am

Though I disagree with most everything you had to say, I did enjoy the read.

Jake Lucas
April 23, 2013 at 5:49 pm

I may not agree with you, but this was funny to read and I respect your opinon. At least you can support your opinion with valid reasons of disliking the album (and band) rather than “they’re so gay and shitty, rofl”. Bravo sir.

SP_Disqus
April 23, 2013 at 11:31 am

Last year when Radiohead closed their Bonnaroo set with Paranoid Android and it totally destroyed the fest, I was definitely like, “Man, I wish I could have 150 seconds less of that.”

The guy who wants that job
April 23, 2013 at 11:22 am

I would do anything to have you’re job. Stop complaining bitch.

no name
April 23, 2013 at 10:46 am

u lost me at r kelly.

Ryan Lawrence
April 22, 2013 at 11:16 pm

You guys know you’re just getting trolled right? This whole article is essentially a really long youtube comment.

Matias De La Maza
April 22, 2013 at 10:03 pm

I’m a huge Radiohead and “OK Computer” fan, and i actually LOVED this. It’s great to read some deep analysis like this on the internet. The part about how certain music means something special on certain moments of your life makes a lot of sense. Great Job.

Riot Nrrrd™
April 22, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Well Chris, you haven’t met me, and I hate Radiohead.

Sorry kids but maybe if the lead singer was different. I can’t listen to Thom Yorke’s whiny/whingey voice for more than a minute. For example I love Ultraísta, but put Nigel and Joey together with Thom in Atoms For Peace and I just can’t listen to it. I suspect Radiohead with a different frontman (and thus different music) would be much more palatable to my ears. Sorry Thom.

Elizabeth Crowther
April 22, 2013 at 9:05 pm

This article is drivel and I could not get through it. Even just skimming – reading first and last sentence of each paragraph was unbearable. It went on about 150 words too long, could have done without the tedious details about your transportation (would have said “traveling”, but no, that might have been interesting, but this was about actual airports, which everyone hates), every sentence is awkward and jumbled and just no, NO. It sucks. So who are you to talk? Please write better then maybe then you can have something critical to say about Radiohead.

Robert Stribley
April 22, 2013 at 9:03 pm

So far, I’ve read the entire first page of this article and there’s not a sentence devoted to explicit criticism of OK Computer.

C.h. Smith
April 22, 2013 at 8:21 pm

why would I want to read about someone who hates OK Computer. It’s like wasting my time listening to someone who doesn’t like puppies or sunsets…

Arthur Campbell
April 25, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Because they have a different opinion than yours. He even mentions this in the article – differing opinions are good, because they lead to conversation on the subject and deeper dissection and understanding of the subject. I decided to click on this article because I love Radiohead – I wanted to see what someone else thought and why they would think this.

disqus_jc4kLKNbuH
April 22, 2013 at 4:52 pm

It sounds like your article title should be “Stress Position: I hate people who worship Radiohead and have either

1. extremely vague criticism
“There is not a space left blank accidentally nor a musical explosion not thoroughly crafted…But after a while, it seems as if all of their plotting and planning isn’t enough.”

The first part would probably describe most music ever recorded by far. Also, the vast majority of classical music would fall into this category. “After a while” it “seems” as if their plotting and planning “isn’t enough”? This extremely vague comment does not answer the questions it raises such as “How long is a while?”, “Does it only seem to be that way or is it actually that way?”, and “How is it not enough and what would make it enough?”.

“Paranoid Android” is like 150 seconds too long. (Why not 149 or 151 seconds too long? Which part in particular do you think should be cut?)

– The album could do without “Climbing Up the Walls”, or at least having it come earlier in the LP. (Why? Did you feel that it was not as quality of a song as the others or that it didn’t fit the vibe of a certain part of the album? I get the sense that you were grasping at things for your article due to how ridiculously vague this is.

– “Fitter Happier” may be the worst interlude ever invented. (Why may it be the worst?)

– Why isn’t there more badass output like “Electioneering”? (Insanely vague. What makes this song badass output versus others and what would make them more badass? Also, could you not come up with a more descriptive word than badass?)

– Would a hook actually make “Exit Music (For a Film)” a little livelier? (I don’t know. Would it? Why even write this down?)

– In “Subterranean Homesick Alien”, Yorke shouldn’t try to fit in the
part “finally lost it completely”; it’s jumbled and awkward. Just say
“think I’ve lost it” or something, man.

(If that is seriously something that you consider to be an album nuance that bothered you, then it would seem to me you are just trying very hard to find SOMETHING negative to say.)

– Is “Karma Police” perhaps a new kind of intellectual’s Britpop?
(What? Is it? If so, how does that make it better or worse?)

Maybe the article should be titled “Stress Position: I write sloppy music journalism”

Collin Tyler Buchanan
April 22, 2013 at 3:31 pm

“Why isn’t there more badass output like “Electioneering”?”

………………….

……………

……

Adam Marks
April 22, 2013 at 11:54 am

What trips people up on Radiohead is the band’s obvious melancholy. I’ve found that people with less tragedy in their lives have a harder time listening and understanding it. As most music goes, there is a time and place to listen to it. If you’re riding your bike on a sunny day….probably not.

Radiohead is also all about introspection, which is why I find it weird that people describe them as “the best live concert”. But I guess I’ve yet to see them live myself.

MapleLaugher
April 22, 2013 at 11:38 am

This is a wornderful concept(easy for me to say), I’ve read sports blogs who do “forced watching” on the crappiest games of the week and aside from stepping it up to attending horrible live shows this is an excellent musical equivelant. In the one blog it’s two guys who place a bet weekly, with the loser forced to watch and report on a hockey game of the winners choice. Can you do the next one on Mumford and Sons? I really want someone to report on 12 hrs of what takes me 12 seconds to want to stab my own eye with the feather from my douche hat. O wait I don’t wear one of those.

bryan76
April 22, 2013 at 11:28 am

It’s “faze” not “phase,” mate.

Chris Coplan
April 22, 2013 at 11:35 am

Corrected. Thank you!

M M
April 22, 2013 at 11:02 am

DIE DIE DIE!

#GoogleMyAss
April 22, 2013 at 9:42 am

Metal? LOLOLOLOLOLOOLOLOLOLOL!

Radiohead Hater
April 22, 2013 at 9:28 am

The Bends is a fantastic album, maybe one of my all-time favourites, and Pablo Honey’s got some killer moments too. After that it all went wrong for the band. To quote Noel Gallagher, they made “OK Computer”, then decided to remix the album over and over again for the next 16 years. The Bends works because it’s fucking human, you’ve got genuine highs and lows of emotion running through the album. Everything after that has been a jumbled scramble of beeps and bops that the “cool kids” eat all up

Adam Hearsey
April 22, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Mani from The Stone Roses summed it up for me: “No offence to people that like Radiohead, but I want the music? that I’m listening to, to be immediate, right in my my face”. (Referring to Oasis’ “Definitely Maybe” and albums like that). However, it is all about taste and the people that influence your record collection whether that be family, friends or other.. And I’m more for “Electioneering” as well!

Adam Hearsey
April 22, 2013 at 9:31 pm

And I can’t believe for a second that a Radiohead song has ever been played at a party, nor has anyone I’ve ever met (or review I’ve read previously), referred to RH as a “rock’n’roll band”. Love The Bends though, one of my fave albums…

Cristian B
April 22, 2013 at 2:56 am

I am in line with this article. Although I respect OK Computer I never fully loved this album. It never grew on me, as other Radiohead albums have. Except for a few songs I feel the rest to be pretentious filler. I much prefer the Kid A/Amnesiac period or the first part of TKOL. At least there are some decent hooks and experimental moments. I’ve seen them live twice and when they played these songs I really got bored. Along side the newer songs, which they can more easily twist and bend in their live sets, these sound a bit dusted. Even the Bends songs sound better. Like them or not, at least those have big hooks that you can grab on to.

Franco Franus
April 22, 2013 at 12:50 am

: “I enjoy my hatred of Radiohead”
oooooh, you’re so alt and counter culture!

Nathan Gross
April 22, 2013 at 12:38 am

This is a really good article. That is all.

Ronnie Evans
April 22, 2013 at 12:27 am

I loved this. I help run a rival music site (we’ll call it Pitchfork, because it’s obviously not that), and over the past few years serving as the sort of face of our Indie section, I’ve had to nut up on my distaste for these guys. I hate Karma Police. Like. A lot. But I do really enjoy their weirder stuff, and I mean, REALLY enjoy it. Anyway, I could rant all day in a fashion less put together and equally as personal as this article (this is just a comment, after all), but I’ll leave it at this: If you don’t like Radiohead, you will eventually like something or another about them, even if it’s as simple as watching Yorke’s infamous seizure-dancing at every performance, just for the giggles. Radiohead is terribly talented, widely appealing, infinitely odd and heavily overrated (imo). You hit the random, vague nail that is creative op/eds on the head with this. Bravo Chris.

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