So I was watching The Colbert Report last night (the companion show to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart). He had an extended show (an hour as opposed to the usual 30 minutes) which had Radiohead as his special guest. They performed several songs and did multiple interview segments as well.
King of Limbs is an absolutely stunning album for me. Actually almost everything they’ve done has been completely stunning to me. As I watched last night I was taken with the thought that Radiohead is what I’d always hoped U2 to be.
One of the major differences in my mind is that Radiohead seems less concerned with that ‘Best Band In The World’ label that U2 touts and are more concerned with making their music.
Don’t get me wrong. I love U2’s music. But I don’t love it the same way. U2 has always imbued that ‘must be radio play ready’ sensability to their songs. I love the fact that Radiohead does not.
I guess I find the difference is that Radiohead are musical purists whereas U2 are more concerned with mainstream success. Is that a bad thing? Sometimes I have to think so.
For me, since Pop was released, it seems to me that U2’s music is safer. And despite the fact there was some experimentation with No Line On The Horizon, it could have gone a lot farther. I find that concern with success tends to be something that is holding them back from really letting go and seeing where they could end up. I think there is such a real fear of failure there that they gave up the spark that took them from The Joshua Tree to Achtung Baby, Zooropa and the unfinished Pop.
Maybe U2 has tons of material that will never see the light of day that would blow us away. Maybe not. I find Radiohead’s endless willingness to fracture sonic boundaries and explore well beyond the norms we see so incredibly inspiring.
If anyone cares to share their thoughts on the matter, I’d love to hear it. This is where my mind is and has been for a long time. Curious if I’m alone in that.
In the US (not sure if anywhere works), watch the full episode here.
In Canada (and elsewhere hopefully) you can go through the various videos here.
This is my favourite video of all time…Lotus Flower: