Choose a book from the Continuum 33/3 series about an artist or group who have played an important or influential role in the history of popular music. Analyse the way in which it contributes to an understanding of their music and their career. When bands are asked to list their influences, there is always one name they include: Radiohead. This is no surprise, with their incredible amount of sub genres present in their songs. In 1992, Radiohead’s career took a huge lunge forward with their hit song ‘Creep’. Many expected that it was as far as Radiohead may go.
Their first lbum ‘Pablo Honey did not receive particular attention and also received mixed reviews. There second album however proved they were not Just a English Nirvana, a reference I’m sure Radiohead were thrilled to get rid of. It seemed Radiohead had the right formula into writing a hit record, with their third album ‘0K Computer’ blowing critics away and gaining them a wider fan base. Their fourth album Kid A took a rather radical change of pace, introducing dark electronica with Thom yorke’s vocals entering a “far stranger and more disturbing territory than 0K Computer” (Tate 2005 p xviii).
This electronica influence progressed with every album, making them the Grammy award winning band they are today. It can be very hard analysing a band in written form. Writing down the meaning of their songs, the structures and why they were written in the first place can prove quite a task. But as anyone can imagine- with their deep fascinating nature- Radiohead are even more of a challenge. In Dai Griffiths 33 1/3 book on Radiohead’s ‘0K Computer’, we are introduced with the line “What interests me least about Radiohead are the lives of five people, and I promise no fresh revelation or insights… (Griffiths 2008 p ‘x). We are aware from the beginning that this book will be written upon the point of view of the author. He gives his own opinion on the personal lives of the band members, stating they do not interest him. This may be a bad thing for those seeking insights into the band members. But for those who seek the knowledge and meaning of their actual music, it is a good thing. We are given a promising introduction packed with personal opinions with a base of light humour. Yet this comes toa sudden halt. From page 1 to 31, we are told almost nothing about Radiohead.
This would be acceptable if these 31 pages seem to nterlink with Radiohead later in the book. It does no such thing. It seems we are given a pointless lesson into the history of music itself, ranging from the invention of sound recording to the positives and negatives of cassettes, CD’s and vinyl’s and the standard way in which bands record and release an album. When you finally make it to Page 31, you are introduced with the chapter title “0K Computer against the background of discussion so far” (Griffiths 2008 p 31). This title is very effective.
It tells us that Radiohead do not follow these standard ways which are discussed in the first 31 pages. It portrays Radiohead as a unique band that have avoided the traditional ways throughout their career. There are many lists that are presented tnrougnout tne 000K. I ne Tlrst one Is snown on page 33, glvlng us a clear outline of each song on the album ‘0K Computer’, the song durations and the speed. This came as a bit of a surprise, as the rest of the book is written in a Journalistic form, yet these lists seem almost academic. Page 43 presents us with another list.
This one includes each band member’s early favourite bands and albums. This list is very affective as it gives us a great insight into the different elements that may have ave Radiohead their individual sound. On the other hand, there are many lists that appear almost pointless and not understandable. On page 92, we are presented with a list of each song and their key signatures on the album 0k Computer. For academic reasons this may be beneficial, but for those who have no musical knowledge or are Just looking for a casual read about their favourite band, this seems almost pointless.
On page 36, we are presented with another list. This one was written to “show how much each track conveys its information through language and ideas and how much is left to music without words” (Griffiths 2008 35). For the reader, this does not make much sense and the list itself is scattered throughout four pages. Throughout the book, we are given small statements describing particular songs. “Airbag seduces and dazzles; it felt on first hearing, and still does, like a boxer coming out at the bell on full attack” . Griffiths 2008 p48). This simile paints a great picture of what to expect from this song. In an academic book, short statements of Radiohead’s songs can be more complex. “Fitter Happier’ and its catalog-like litany of mundane self-help advice, there intervenes a chilling ine meant to have a conventional cinematic visual layering effect” (Tate 2005 p3). This does not give such a clear understanding as Dai Griffiths quote, showing the benefits of Griffiths less complex and more conversational writing.
Biographical texts are also written similarly to Griffiths writing, but can sometimes talk up the artist, leaving the reader with information that may be slightly biased. “One thing Radiohead have in common with all great composers or song writers is their dedication to constantly breaking new barriers and creating new work” (2009 orbes p92) On page 82, Griffiths shows his opinion on Thom Yorkes lyrics within the album 0K Computer. “For what it’s worth, I don’t consider that the words have quite a significance or neatness… (Griffiths 2008 p82). Griffiths is very honest with his opinions throughout the book, which gives more of an honest and conversational feel to it, making it easier to engage with. Throughout the book, he also pulls apart the lyrics and explains what each song may mean. “Characteristic words: ‘Job’, ‘bruises’, ‘bring down the government’, ‘carbon monoxide’, the pretty garden’ and ‘surprise’ are eferences to polity and science… ” (Griffiths 2008 p62). Radiohead themselves believe their lyrics should be perceived differently by each listener.
This is also why Radiohead are so popular, as their music can have such a personal effect on the listener. Not only does he explain the meaning of the songs rather badly, he explains them in an almost mechanical way, which does not fit well with such a complex band such as Radiohead. Griffiths sums up his book very well with a short five line conclusion. “In conclusion, I’ll prealct, no less, tnat 0K computer In tlme wlll De a Tocus point Tor nlstorlans 0T IITe t the close of the twentieth century… You want to know what 1997 felt like? 0K Computer: track six-eight. Despite being such a short conclusion, this sums up the book perfectly. It portrays Radiohead as a timeless band that not only had an impact on their fans, but music lovers throughout the world. It shows that Radiohead’s 0K Computer is not Just an album, but rather a bookmark of the twentieth century that will not be forgotten. The book finishes with a list of the NME’s and Melody makers album of the year starting from 1990 to 2003. This is very factual and interesting. It gives a great nsight into how Radiohead grew over the years, and how well each album was received.
Griffiths does a good Job giving an understanding of Radiohead’s music and career, but falls short in a few areas. Throughout the book, Griffiths seems almost distracted from the main aim of the book, although it seems he is aware of this “Oh yes, 0K Computer, remember that? ” (Griffiths 2008 p31). Even if attentional, it causes the book be less engaging and adds multiple pages that seem almost pointless. Many of his lists presented throughout the book are very difficult to understand or prove to be rather pointless as well.
Despite this, Griffiths still does a good Job providing useful and interesting information that he explains very well. It cannot be easy writing about such a complex band like Radiohead. Therefore, we can say Dai Griffiths book is a good attempt. Woro count: 1 Bibliography Forbes, B. (2009) Radiohead and Philosophy, Retrieved October 29th 2013 from http://books. google. co. uk/books? +philosiphy=BQ5F_lHNLV=cx2wigBoMYOEOFqLdFHBc22Ediw#v=onepage=r adiohead%20and%20philosiphy=false Griffiths, D. (2008) 33 1/3 0K Computer, Canada, Continuum Books Tate,J. (2005) The Music and Art of Radiohead, Aldershot, Ashgate Publishing Limited