Friday, August 24, 2007

Who Will Be the Next Radiohead?

Already it's begun. Shameless nights of listening to OK Computer, Kid A, and Amnesiac in all their unfolding chronological glory. Heck, I've even brought out Pablo Honey for a spin. The anticipation of the new Radiohead album has verily got me climbing up the walls.

Yesterday I was reading an article in a recent edition of The Chronicle Review (WAY hipper than it sounds), and I happened upon an article titled, "Where Have All the Rock Stars Gone?" After banishing demons of Paula Cole melodies from my mind, I dug in. Author David Shumway suggests that the emergence of singular cultural icons like Elvis, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, etc. becomes far more unlikely as music divides into so many easily accessible niches. This article got me thinking about Radiohead yet again, simply because they have so much crossover appeal, and because they still hold a lot of clout for both fans and the music industry in general.

Whispers amongst the indie scene have suggested that the Arcade Fire is the new Radiohead. I can attest that AF seem the likeliest contender to carry the torch -- that is, assuming Radiohead is ready to pass it. Might I mention again the impending album?

A journey over to Radiohead fan site At Ease, and you'll find incendiary commentary on the debate. Here the Thom Yorke faithfuls trade barbs such as, "The Arcade Fire are the most overrated band since Teenage Fanclub," "That's precisely what I think of the Arcade Fire. I think of a mountain-sized pile of shit and a single violin sticking up from it," "No one cares that you think they're overrated. Teenage Fanclub are far better at what they do than you'll be at whatever you're best at," and my personal fave, "Go make some more 3 year old discoveries about Coldplay." Might the Arcade Fire/Radiohead comparison be making diehard Radioheads a wee bit uneasy?

What is the formula for Radiohead status? Is it sheer talent, or something more? Perhaps some amount of commercial success -- but not too much? The constant reinvention? A tinge of the political? The "cool" quotient of its members? When I saw Arcade Fire play Lawrence's Jackpot Saloon in '04, Win took his mike stand and smashed it through the ceiling panels. I remember thinking, "That is one cool mothafucka." Reminds me of how I felt watching Thom Yorke waylay on a tambourine.

In time we'll see whether Arcade Fire will have the discography to sustain the Radiohead analogies. I remember when I first started listening to "good" music, someone told me Portishead was "The new Radiohead, but with a chick." I love ya Beth Gibbons and company, but you haven't come close to living up to that initial breathless review. Then again, aren't there rumors about a new Portishead album? Only time will tell.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like that you chose Radiohead as your example, but if you fill in other bands in their stead I think that this is a great question. Who's going to be the next Sonic Youth? The next Yo La Tengo? The next Flaming Lips? Perhaps more importantly, can anyone be the next (insert band here)? In some cases I say yes, Sonic Youth have done great with the few albums in the Velvet Underground catalog, perhaps they were, at one point, the next Velvet Underground? But then again, did anyone ever really replace the Beatles, or Bob Dylan. I don't care how many new-Dylans there have been, were any of them actually the next Bob Dylan.