Metamusician: Don’t Throw The Baby Out With The Bath Water

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Metamusician: Don’t Throw The Baby Out With The Bath Water

Samuel Graziano

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When I write about how we should approach music, I worry that it comes across as pretentious. I’m just some college kid and I write about how we, as a culture, should appreciate music in a certain way. All of the statements I make about a better way to interact with music comes from my own experiences. I love appreciating the awe-inspiring and learning from the regrettable. This column is a way for me to do just that.

While there have been mail-in or local fan clubs of bands in the past, the internet has amplified the presence and reach of these communities like it has for everything else. Fanbases can be extremely welcoming to outsiders and help them appreciate what brings them together. Other fanbases, however, will push you away the second they hear a differing opinion. For the longest time, this kept me away from getting into certain bands.

For example, I didn’t listen to Radiohead for years because of my interactions with fans online. While I knew some of their major popular success, I hadn’t done a deep dive into their discography. On various Facebook groups or subreddits, I would write posts asking about what else I should listen to if I liked songs like “Karma Police,” “Just,” or the infamous “Creep.” The response from fans was uninviting, to say the least. They seemed like pretentious gatekeepers who liked segregating themselves off so that they could feel superior. It was really unattractive to me, so I just went along looking for other music.

Last summer I decided to give the band a shot. After looking to see what had been labeled masterpieces by the fanbase I listened to a few of their records. In about two days’ time I listened to Ok Computer, In Rainbows, Kid A, Hail to the Thief, and A Moon Shaped Pool. I know how often I call going to a concert or listen to an album life-changing. I worry that the phrase is losing its meaning. However, it cannot be stressed enough how groundbreaking listening to these records was. There were so many moments that just shattered all of my prior notions of what music could be. It felt like seeing a new color or becoming aware of a new dimension for the first time. I can so vividly remember hearing songs like “Daydreaming” or “Climbing Up the Walls” and being so absolutely amazed- I didn’t know these were musical possibilities. Of course, they were but it had never crossed my mind.

Since hearing these works, Radiohead has become one of my favorite bands of all time. I’m sure in the future I will write more about how and why they are so amazing to me. To put it very briefly, I believe their work exists perfectly between two approaches to writing music. Their songs can be very to the point and economic, but they can also go on these really odd tangents. They can write good songs with just a voice and a piano or a guitar that feels rich and fully actualized. They can also have songs with eight different musical ideas going on at once and yet it doesn’t feel cluttered or unorganized or overdone. While every musical act will always exist between these two worlds, Radiohead seems to walk this tight rope with perfect balance.

I understand that they are not for everyone. Some think they are too whiny or pretentious, while others may not have the time to sit and listen to one of their albums front to back. I absolutely love them, and I will work to get you naysayers to give them a try. I didn’t listen to this band for years because my interaction with their fanbase was uncomfortable. After hearing their work, I can’t believe I was holding myself back for so long. If there is any band that you’ve been avoiding because they have a cringey gatekeeping subreddit, I understand the urge to just look elsewhere for content. However, I urge you to give the artist’s work a chance to speak for itself. It just may be exactly what you’ve been looking for.