I have a friend who only listens to Radiohead.  By @AlyRadia93

By Alysha Radia


I have a friend who only listens to Radiohead. 

I’ll call him Rolf (he asked ‘not to be identified’, as if this SCAB would somehow go viral) and we have absolutely nothing in common beyond an equally idiotic sense of humour. He lives on the other side of the country, so we mainly talk over the internet about nothing, those things that lie in the surprisingly entertaining void between the things that we separately enjoy. Memes, stupid abbreviations (‘abbrevs’), trite complaints and reminiscings on our days at university up in Scotland. When it comes to matters of music or culture, we mock each other for our individual tastes and rarely ever agree.

Recently we both agreed to engage in a sort of ‘cultural exchange’, where each of us would listen to albums of the other’s choosing, and report back on our thoughts. He’s pretty much only into guitar driven indie music, whilst I will happily listen to basically every other genre. I’m a sucker for a bit of crowd-pleasing Hip Hop and House Music, whilst he listens to music that lends itself to contemplating guitar chord progressions, analysing individual words and charting the musical trajectory of culty bands alone in his room (or so I imagine…). My ultimate musical heroine (pun intended) is Lorde, who manages to weave together complex sonic tapestries of synths and beats, with the most relatable yet poetic lyrics I have ever heard sung, to create music that truly speaks to me, with an immense clarity and immediacy. His biggest obsession is Radiohead, a band that, probably unfairly, I’ve always associated with miserable, malnourished, white men that sit in their parents basements playing PS4 in sweaty zip up hoodies. He correspondingly thinks my music taste is ‘overly poppy’, and dismisses any proclamations of Kanye’s genius (he is one). 

So, we did the modern equivalent of swapping CDs (i.e. we told each other to search for and stream an album on Spotify) , with me set on a mission to listen to OK Computer by Radiohead, and he, Pure Heroine by Lorde. 

On my first listen I was pleasantly surprised. I set to work organising my recipe books and cut outs, and put the album on on the background. I was expecting overly dramatic wailing vocals and sighing guitars that would distract me from the task at hand, but I found myself able to concentrate and zone in, even with a head-bop here and there, all whilst clutching my scissors. I noted the potency of the guitar riffs and the emotiveness of the vocals. There was a distinct melancholic flavour to the music, even when in a major key, which they changed between frequently, and an angst that was classically ‘emo’ and turbulent, especially in songs like ‘Paranoid Android’. I particularly enjoyed the more subtle and melodic portions of the album, which felt rawer, and more real, such as in ‘No Surpises’.  

Before I knew it, the task was done and album had played through twice. It made for pleasant background music, and I understood its musical credibility, for sure. But this was hardly what my friend had intended for me to get out of an album that he thought would, and I quote, “improve my IQ exponentially”. So I persisted, and listened again, much closer to the lyrics this time, which were cryptic and abstract . Black Mirror esque themes of technological alienation from each other and ourselves permeate and came through more strongly during this listen. I guess at the time of writing such themes would have been considered quite forward thinking and edgy, but now they currently illicit little more than an eye-roll from me. Yeah, some solid tunes, a solid listen. 7/10.

Rolf and I discussed what I thought of the album earlier today. I told him that I enjoyed it, but that I didn’t quite get it. I didn’t quite get what was quite so profound and genius, and why many consider it to be the best album of all time. He suggested that I maybe needed to explore the themes further, to delve deeper into the lyrics. I said, perhaps if I did this I would ‘get’ whatever ‘it’ is, but my view on music is that for music to be truly great, it has to transmit its message without such knowledge, for music is an immediate, time based media, that does not statically linger like art or literature does, giving time for analytical rumination. If it doesn’t speak to me just through its basic medium, whether thats to tell me that the music is great up in the club, or something more emotionally profound, then its failing as a form of communication. Rolf agreed, and said “Well, it does that for me”. 

I think therein lies the crux of it, the reason why he is a Radiohead fan and I am not. We are individuals and certain things speak to some and not to others. And that’s ok. I’m waiting to hear what he thinks of Pure Heroine, however, I will continue to listen to Ok Computer, perhaps next time I am, I don’t know, peeling some vegetables or writing my next scab.


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