100 Greatest Artists

73

Radiohead

Illustration by Andrea Ventura

By Dave Matthews

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. I wonder if it's even possible for them to be bad on record.

It belittles Radiohead to describe their music as having "hooks." Their music talks to you, in a real way. It can take you down a quiet street before it drops a beautiful musical bomb on you. It can build to where you think the whole thing will crumble beneath its own weight — and then Thom Yorke will sing some melody that just cuts your heart out of your chest. There's a point on the album Kid A where I start feeling claustrophobic, stuck in a barbed-wire jungle — and then I suddenly fall out and I'm sitting by a pool with birds singing. Radiohead can do all of these things in a moment, and it drives me fucking crazy.

My reaction to Radiohead isn't as simple as jealousy. Jealousy just burns; Radiohead infuriate me. But if it were only that, I wouldn't go back and listen to those records again and again. Listening to Radiohead makes me feel like I'm a Salieri to their Mozart. Yorke's lyrics make me want to give up. I could never in my wildest dreams find something as beautiful as they find for a single song — let alone album after album. And every time, they raise their finger to the press and the critics and say, "Nothing we do is for you!" They followed their most critically acclaimed record, OK Computer, with their most radical change, Kid A. It's not that they're indifferent — it's that the strength of character in their music is beyond their control.

Seeing them perform makes me even angrier. No matter how much they let go in their shows, they never lose their clarity. There's no point where Jonny Greenwood or Ed O'Brien will suddenly look up and say, "Where the fuck are we?" There are no train wrecks in Radiohead; every album and performance is wrenching. God, these guys have suffered, or they can fake it like nobody else.

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