Category Archives: One-Quarter Lame

The Question Concerning Radiohead

Seth and Lizzy invited me to join them for an episode of SETH AND LIZZY TALK ABOUT MUSIC (which was a blast) and one part of Lizzy’s prep advice was “Think about Radiohead because I want to get you and Seth to argue about it.” I came up with an analogy that I thought would be funny and useful for conversation.

You can hear what I had to say on the podcast but I wanted to write a little more on it and clean it up:

How Quentin Tarantino and Radiohead are alike

1) They each started with two high-quality, personal works that were twists on a specific popular genre: Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Pablo Honey, The Bends.

2) They followed those initial successes with a critically lauded postmodern-pastiche (that I think is a bloated, useless formalist exercise): Jackie Brown, OK Computer.

3) Those triumphs gave them the freedom to start making sprawling, derivative, incoherent spectacles that are progressively more about the artistic process and other people’s work (and yet are adored by fans): e.g. Death Proof, Django Unchained, Kid A, King of Limbs.

And in both cases I wouldn’t care nearly as much as I do if it weren’t for the incredibly high praise they each receive for the formalist exercise (in particular) and the oeuvre (in general), and they each are huge influences on artists I really, really enjoy. Now I’m going to go listen to some TV on the Radio, then watch True Romance.

Song Exploder

The podcast Song Exploder is great in every way — well-produced, interesting, fun, inspiring, and taste-expanding. The first few episodes made me think that I would be listening to this podcast despite the music it focused on; of the first ten episodes, only two have songs that are to my taste and at least two are about songs that I would never, ever care to hear for pleasure.

I think, however, that this might be the best quality of the podcast for me now. I started listening to Song Exploder on the recommendation of a friend who co-hosts her own podcast about music, and her taste and mine don’t exactly match up, either. (Her co-host and I have fundamentally different opinions on Radiohead, and that will be the subject of another post, another day.) I like that I’m hearing the careful explanation of how songs that sound uninteresting to me were created — it’s an ear-opener to hear the choices that the artists made and the constituent pieces of their songs. And as a bonus, the two that were about songs I liked seemed like the best ever.

I encourage you to check out Song Exploder and to start from the beginning, even if there are some artists you don’t care for. Here’s the first episode: