Published Nov 19, 2009Will bashing one of rock's biggest bands and previously unassailable darlings of the press become the thing to do at the close of 2009? First, it was the well-publicized slam of Radiohead by the Fiery Furnaces' Matthew Friedberger, who criticized the band for their disingenuous "branding technique." Now the lampooning comes from none other than Spin.
On the magazine's December issue cover (and currently excerpted online) is the feature "33 Rock Myths Debunked." At the top of the list is the myth "Radiohead can do no wrong" with the debunked reality "Radiohead kinda blow." Writer Chris Norris describes one of the band's festival appearances as "an immersive experience of sound, light, pattern, rhythm and utter, paralyzing boredom." He goes on to call them "an exceptionally well-dressed jam band. That you can't even dance to."
Over at NPR, Eric Garland, founder and CEO of BigChampagne Media Measurement, offers a positive long-term analysis of Radiohead's In Rainbows experiment in online distribution, quoting early detractors of the plan like Manic Street Preachers' Nicky Wire, who said that the offer "demeans music." Despite this and other doomsayers (including Fortune magazine) the album went on to make the group more money online than their previous, commercially distributed releases.
Back at Spin, Norris turns this back on the band as an unnecessary, elitist move to "define a new music language" that would abandon the old model of physical, album-length works. He points out that the band can't even get their own story straight on this count, with conflicting reports by Thom Yorke in The Believer and from guitarist Ed O'Brien about the band's maverick "album/no-album" ways.
So are Radiohead still the biggest, best band in the land or boring smarty pants mopers trying too hard? To the message boards, Kid A.