The Route Via Radiohead

It’s a cliché, isn’t it, that you have to listen to Radiohead. All you’d need to do is head over to the Drowned in Sound music forum, one I frequent regularly, and see that not only is making a Radiohead thread a meme in it’s self, it’s also a legitimate topic of discussion. It’s a strange dual-purpose kinda of thing, and not many topics can straddle both parody and be thought-provoking. I can admit, happily, that I like Radiohead, but I fall into the latter-day Radiohead career camp finding their early grungey material not to my taste. (Caveat: I have no time for any type of grunge. I bypassed Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and the rest entirely. No offence to any fans of grunge.) Instead, I love their post-OK Computer career, with  Kid A being a personal favourite. However, I don’t often go back to Radiohead’s music anymore, partly because I played it to utter death, but also for another very important reason, and this one is probably the most common one – their albums opened my eyes to electronic music.

Before I’d stumbled upon Kid A myself, a friend at school mentioned it in passing. I can tell you where -  it was on the steps leading from the science block to the Westfield building, both of which are now long-demolished. He said that the new album, then Amnesiac, was “rubbish” and that he’d taken it back to HMV for a refund. I didn’t really know what to say to this, as he was seen by myself as an authority on music of a kind. His bigger brother had been quite the taste, being a few years older, and at university, and had quite the collection of music back when a collection was a range of CD racks and not a 80Gb hard drive. A lot of the bands and music I remember seeing on his desk are now in my own collection, for example. It didn’t mean I dismissed Radiohead because of this glib remark, but it has something that has been ingrained in my head, for some reason.

Obviously, upon discovering the wealth of the back catalogue in my university years, and falling in love with their strange sound, I had my eyes opened up to a massive amount of new music. Suddenly, that genre that was normally seen only in adverts for Ibiza Annual compilations was a viable option, but I found it hard to fumble on because none of my close friends at the time were into the music. I felt like a pioneer, of sorts, and I had to find my self blindly. When I finally discovered Board of Canada, I knew I’d found something more than just a new folly, but instead my future passion. Today, electronic music is my bread and butter, shying away from “indie” and “rock” regularly, and with glee. In the same way in my youth was met with the devouring of past-releases from artists, my early adulthood has been essentially ruled by the all-in-one devouring of genres and new artists like they were bowls of Ricicles and Ice Cold Milk™.

The memories of my sudden infatuation and eye opening towards electronic music have been recently brought back into my mind because my sister, a long sufferer of my recommendations, is going to see Radiohead in a few weeks and is being “educated” in them by her boyfriend. I have my own opinions on his own musical taste and musical affections, but you never know – the might just surprise you. I warned my sister that I could lead her down a path, if she so wished, to a world of music like nothing else. I can only imagine the discoveries that could await her, and with mouth-foaming jealousy at listening to some “IDM”, or ambient, or even minimal for the first time and having the music click.

But then, maybe it won’t happen. Maybe that’s not the route us all have to take – maybe Radiohead’s experiments in sound are enough for some. They weren’t for me, and now I barely would cite them as a source because of the diversity of music I am now in love with. From drone, to ambient, via minimal, bleeps, and then back to IDM (which is a term I despise) I could wax on for hours and hours about it, but I won’t Instead, I’ll direct you to thislong winded post about how amazing Boards of Canada are.

This post has been partly adapted from an original post on Tones of Town written by myself. Read the original here