Message 32: New sights, new sounds

Obviously, this link no longer works. –JT 1/3/03


Message 31: Gursky

Scenes from Meeting People Is Easy resemble the photography of Andreas Gursky, which is available here and there (MOMA). Radiohead’s music and cover artwork evoke artificial landscapes and disturbingly organized interiors similar to those documented by Gursky’s work.


Message 30: Minotaur

An image of a tearful minotaur appears on the Capitol Records Radiohead site.


Message 29: In a Little Row Boat

The seventh line of “Pyramid Song,” a new song to be released on Amnesiac, reads: “and we all went to heaven in a little row boat.” This is likely derived from a children’s jump rope song:

Three, six, nine
The goose drank wine
The monkey chewed tobacco
On the streetcar line
The line broke
The monkey got choked
And they all went to heaven in a little row boat

These lines also appear in Tom Waits’ “Clap Hands” (c.1985).


Message 28: Paranoid Piggy (God Loves)

The tenth line (approximately) of “Paranoid Android” reads: “Kicking and squealing gucci little piggy.” Gucci sells products and kills animals.

The final line of “Paranoid Android,” “God loves his children, God loves his children, yeah!”, is a phrase from the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi, Chapter 11, verse 17: “And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” Also, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs wrote and recorded a song entitled “God Loves His Children” (c. 1948) with Mercury Records.


Message 27: Optimistic Piggy

The third six-line stanza of “Optimistic” reads:

This one’s optimistic
This one went to market
This one just came out of the swamp
This one dropped a payload
Fodder for the animals
Living on animal farm

The first four lines allude to the Mother Goose folk song and finger game “This Pig Went to Market” (ca. 1728). In “The Pig: Profit and Loss,” Gilles Stassart writes that “contemporary art […] feeds off of flesh and pork-related problematics. Damien Hirst’s halved and bottled pigs reveal the inner and outer form of the pig, as if we had long-since forgotten it.”

The text of Animal Farm is available online.


Message 26: Coldplay

Rock critics in various forums have promoted the new British band Coldplay as the next Radiohead, but claiming any such intimate musical kinship for Coldplay and Radiohead is like asserting Chris Rock is the new Mr. T. Radiohead and Coldplay are the most visible manifestations in the pop music eye of two very different traditions. Coldplay’s style is a descendent of The Smiths. Like Gene, another Smiths reincarnation, Coldplay’s lyrics aren’t quite as morbidly melancholy as the famed Manchester group, but their songs nevertheless pay an oblique tribute to Johnny Marr’s haunting guitar and Morrissey’s solipsistic moans of contorted, tortured introspection.

Radiohead, on the other hand has more in common with the Clash, and even REM, their acknowledged idols. But, with Kid A, they show the influence of Aphex Twin, as well as Brian Eno, musically. Thom Yorke’s lyrics evoke snapshots of failed and pressured suburban life juxtaposed against responses to a technological and environmental distopia. While Coldplay sings of the inner, emotional turmoil brought on by failed relationships, Radiohead has another, more social axe to grind with an eclectic, electric digital precision. Lyrically, the style couldn’t be more different. Witness Coldplay’s “Yellow”:
Look at the stars
Look how they shine for you
And everything you do
Yeah they were all yellow
I came along, I wrote a song for you
And all the things you do
And it was called yellow

Now, Radiohead’s “No Surprises”:

A heart that’s full up like a landfill,
a job that slowly kills you,
bruises that won’t heal.
You look so tired-unhappy,
bring down the government,
they don’t, they don’t speak for us.
I’ll take a quiet life,
a handshake of carbon monoxide,
with no alarms and no surprises

Radiohead, as their song “Talk Show Host” listlessly claims, is waiting for the listener with a gun, a pack of sandwiches, and a collage of fragmented sound textures. Coldplay, as in the song “Parachutes,” is waiting in line, patiently, loving you always with their own special millenial blend of brightened ennui.


Message 25: Commercial

Michel Foucault asks in The History of Sexuality: “By what spiral did we come to affirm that sex is negated?” One might ask: By what spiral did we come to affirm that the authenticity of music is negated by widespread commercial distribution?

Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality. 1976. Trans. Robert Hurley. Vol. 1. New York: Vintage Books, 1990.


Message 24: Font

The font used for the cover of Kid A, named PLAKATbau, is made by Buro Destruct, Berne, Switzerland and may be downloaded free of charge from Buro Destruct’s font page.

UPDATE Dec 15 2003: The second link above is no longer functional. The PLAKATbau font is now available here.


Message 23: Kid Adorno

Read Curtis White’s Kid Adorno, an essay on Radiohead’s Kid A.