It is time for honesty and it is time to come clean. Recently, I was asked to name the biggest musical disappointment of 2007. My answer was Radiohead's In Rainbows. Now before you throw your computer to the floor or do a Google image search of me in order to use my face as an office dartboard... before you begin composing a vitriolic comment that will take you the entire day to write, allow me to save you some time, and please, let me explain.
For one, I respect Radiohead. I admire the fact that In Rainbows was released via the Internet and that they allowed their fans to determine the value of the songs by paying whatever they wanted. Second, I love complexity: music that hurts your head as much as it does your heart, takes twenty listens to make sense of, and that stretches into irregular beauty as much as it coheres to its more traditional forms.
I think my disappointment in Radiohead is really just a disappointment in myself. Another Radiohead album means yet another year I've let myself down. (That's a total of seven years, but who's counting, right?) I feel like the only one yet to embrace them, but that can't possibly be true. Yet each coffee shop I enter is playing In Rainbows and I hear Radiohead songs in the static bleed of nearly every headphone mix in my vicinity.
When I listen to Radiohead I feel like I've just heard the sonic version of Don Delillo's White Noise. It's eerie, cold, and foreboding. There is a blankness I find difficult to move beyond. I know their music is supposed to capture an ennui, to explain our fragmented selves or our disconnect from the world. But I can't find my way into the songs. I'm not asking for an easy path; in fact, I appreciate an arduous one just as much. Maybe what I'm looking for is a reason why I should clear the way so that the music can find me.
I wish someone could write out in a few words (not a phD dissertation, not a book) why Radiohead should stab me in the heart, and why I should lighten up and let them in.