Sunday, October 7, 2007

Radiohead - Meeting in the Aisle

Radiohead - "Meeting in the Aisle"

I've been pretty busy lately, kind of stressed -- no time to bother updating this, so while this entry is dated October 7, it's really October 10-- and it all got to be a little too much today, so I called in and took the day off. No, I wasn't staying home so I could devote the day to listening to In Rainbows, though I did download it this morning. And there it's sat, queued up in my Winamp player ever since. I don't know if I'm dreading the first listen, or holding out until I feel well enough to actually enjoy it, or if it's a little of both that's holding me back from giving it a listen. They're one of my favorite bands, but I have to admit that the past ten days have been a little too much for me to deal with, and I almost wish that there was some way I could distance myself from the album for a little while before playing it for the first time, if that makes any sense.

It's not that I've been on edge about it for the past ten days, it's just that the uproar over the sudden release, what it means, what it might sound like, whether or not it's going to be good, etc., has reached the point where most of my favorite websites and forums are so cluttered with discussion about it as to be almost otherwise unreadable. And it's not even discussion about the album; no one has anything to share about it other than hopes and expectations, so in the meantime, we get a lot of bitching about Radiohead fans, about Pitchfork, about "the industry," and so on. And it's all so boring and predictable, and lead by people who're only just starting to come around to where the band and all of these other factors were three or four years ago. And lots of awful meta-commentary, shots at Radiohead fans ("They could fart into a bag and their fans would still give it a 9.6!") and lots of awful, meaningless insight into how much people should be paying for the download or thediscbox. So instead of genuine enthusiasm or optimism, it's just been a lot of Radiohead fans acting like what they think Radiohead fans act like --or would act like if they were (really) retarded -- maybe as some kind of defensive device. No one wants anyone to think they're a fanboy, after all.

I went running the other day for the first time in a year. My legs are still sore, and I think I picked up a stomach virus or something because I've felt sick all day, plus I have a headache that's stayed with me since I woke up this morning. I really do want to listen to this album, but then I remember just how much their last album has made me feel sick. I listened to Hail To the Thief for the first time in almost a year the other day, and it was a wholly nauseating experience. I'm not saying it's a bad album, but even some of the best songs on it have a particularly sick quality to them that makes me dizzy and almost physically ill to listen to. It's not the brutal experience that Twin Infinitives is, but I have to wonder if it's working on the same level. I know that having it on my Minidisc player during countless summer evening strolls in past years wasn't an unpleasant experience -- I lost my MD-compatible USB cable, so that's out of the question now -- but something's changed for me since then, and I almost can't listen to it anymore without those feelings creeping up on me again.

"I think people feel sick when they hear OK Computer," Thom Yorke said in a 1998 interview. "Nausea was part of what we were trying to create. The Bends was a record of consolation. But this one was sad. And I didn't know why." There are more than a few songs on OK Computer that have that effect on me, though it wouldn't be until Amnesiac that they'd start to pile on to a debilitating degree: "Pyramid Song," "Knives Out," "Morning Bell/Amnesiac," and "Hunting Bears" demand my full attention whenever I listen, or they really mess with my head if I try to enjoy them as mere background music. Do I really "enjoy" these songs, anyway?

It's not an album track, but I've always liked "Meeting in the Aisle." At one point I had it on a mix that I'd made for myself, when I blew out my tire driving over a pothole in front of my friend's house about four years ago. I'd always wanted to make a mix out of all the songs that I'd been listening to during blowouts, fender benders, and traffic tickets. It would be like a chronicle of automotive frustration, or at least that was always my intention, until I saw that exact phrase show up in some book that I'd read and hated: I want to say it was White Noise or A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, but I really can't say for sure now.

Forget downloading, I'd love to just head out and buy a CD of In Rainbows, at least so I'd be able to listen to it anywhere other than in my apartment, but that won't be out for months, it appears. Lately I've been down to buying just one CD per month, usually at Borders, where I usually go once every week to study while having a
coffee. Sometimes I get in a productive few hours, other days I'm driven to distraction by other customers, always talking with their cell phones and appeasing their babies' irrational and shrill cries for attention. Near the entryway is a display of children's books, and the one with the raccoons on it always catches my eye. I don't know why, I just feel incredibly sad every time I look at it. It's usually on my way out the door going to work, so that probably explains everything.

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