Another new Radiohead song released today, this time available to download for free.
This sounds more distinctly ‘Radiohead’ then “Harry Patch (In Memory Of)” and I can see why they would not try to release them as part of the same album. Radiohead are one of the few bands whose albums pretty well all work as a cohesive whole, and so while it is possible to thoroughly enjoy individual songs, they work even better in context (especially so for OK Computer, Kid A, and Amnesiac). Even when they released B-sides, which were usually songs on par in quality with the album tracks, there was a specific sound that linked it to that period in Radiohead’s career, perhaps pointing forward to what was to come next.
But for a band who relishes changing everything so frequently, it makes sense that they would grow tired of the stale CD format, as Thom has said in a recent Believer interview. They are a band who wants to try new things, and they have a million ideas wanting to get out that don’t necessarily all go together.
Of course, their fresh ideas aren’t just in the music writing process.
When they chose to self-release their last album, In Rainbows with the much talked about ‘Choose your own price’ model, a lot of fellow musicians criticized them for it (including at least one who then went on to adopt nearly the same method of release), stating that Radiohead could only afford to do it because they were such established artists and up and coming artists could never survive such a method.
This missed the point in a huge way, and the complaints were idiotic in at least two other ways. First, Radiohead weren’t establishing what they thought of as a feasible method of supplanting the record industry (as certain media outlets tried to color their motives), they were simply foregoing a major label (who they’ve had a love/much-hate relationship with all of their career), establishing a far more profitable method (though they couldn’t have been sure of that when they first tried it) that gave them control over the release and exposure of their own godddamn music.
The people who criticized them seemed to think that just because Radiohead used this method all other bands and musicians would have to follow suit and this would lead to the end of musicians’ careers. This is of course ludicrous, because Radiohead was (again) not creating a method to be used by all other musicians, they were simply trying something new. It’s ironic that the people complaining were, themselves, all well-off, established musicians who probably could afford to give their music to their fans, but have simply chosen not. You didn’t see too many complaints from your average, on the street sort of musician because a) Radiohead’s method didn’t affect them and b) up in coming bands have been giving away their music for awhile now. It’s called Myspace. And a million other sites that give out free mp3s. Up and coming bands benefit more from getting their music heard by millions of listeners then they do from selling maybe 20,000 or 30,000 albums (of which, in the traditional label scheme, they will see almost none of the profits).
All of that is to say, now that Radiohead has begun selling individual songs (or giving them away), people should enjoy access to new music from one of the greatest bands working and stop trying to turn the conversation into a “What does this mean for the industry and other bands” debate. Instead, you should be worrying about what songs to delete from your Ipod, because something tells me we’ll be seeing a few new songs drifting out from good ol’ Thom Yorke and the Radio Boys in the coming months (hopefully weeks).