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David Berman calls Radiohead "miserable"

David Berman is one of the finest lyric writers around, and apparently he isn't very restrained in his opinions when it comes to very, very popular bands. In an interview with Pitchfork, he had this to say about Radiohead: "You can go through the whole new Radiohead album and try and tell me what they're saying, and all you'll get over and over again is things are miserable, don't try, things suck. And it's all gray. There's nothing there. Never before has there been a 'greatest band in the world' who had so little to say about anything."


Calling Radiohead depressing isn't exactly a revelation, but coming from Berman, who is not known for his boundless optimism, it's a strange accusation.  [Pitchfork via Stereogum]

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Silver Jews

That IS strange criticism, given the weird. Seems as though everyone likes to criticize Radiohead these days. (And not just the misguided pro-Oasis camp.)

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Johnmel/P1270021.jpg Johnmel

I think this makes sense. In SJ songs you have references to a world outside the songs that's knowable and familiar, if a little weird and sad. Radiohead's music doesn't have those small assurances, they're more like unsettling lullabies, to steal a phrase from Sasha Frere-Jones. They take aim at something so big and invasive that it's hard to face it with optimism or have a stable sense of relation to it.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/babussolini/R-342319-1105464108.jpg babussolini

dude can stay in his lane, absure indie lyricist.

as they say in Toronto...stay there!

jon jon

damn, its always sad to see someone try and tear apart what many (certainly including me) would consider one of the greatest bands of our time....nit pick away Berman you are just going to lose people's respect for you; Radiohead needs no defense

/site_media/uploads/images/users/basho/pirate mug.jpg basho

Well, I think the source of the backlash is not the misery, per se, but the "greatest band in the world" label. I think Thom Yorke's ego has turned a lot of people off, especially in the past year or so.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Ethan/nirvana-corporate-rock-whoresjpg.jpg EStan

I love how if anyone criticizes Radiohead, everyone riots.

If you know the back story of Berman's personal life, then this will make more sense. He's in a much better place now than he has been in a long time. He's actually a pretty optimistic guy now...or so it seemed in the article I read.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/dukkookim/6460_1130716601218_1626340558_309884_1280450_njpg.jpg dukkookim

Is he wrong? Does Radiohead have something substantive to say? About anything? How many albums does it take to get across the "I'm SOOOOO alienated and stuff" message? By my count, they've made the same record five times in a row now. If someone calling them on it is really so objectionable, then I suppose Radiohead really has been afforded some untouchable status... one that seems totally disconnected from their actual recorded output.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/GregIngber/gaywayswiththejello.jpg GregIngber

Go ahead and rag on Radiohead for Yorke's lyrics all you want; he really isn't a great songwriter. But that isn't the element of the band that makes Radiohead great. It's the music, ya'll. Jonny Greenwood. He'd make Chris Martin look better.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/broctoon/jar.jpg broctoon

"They take aim at something so big and invasive that it's hard to face it with optimism or have a stable sense of relation to it."

What you're saying is completely ridiculous.


I just listened to a few of their songs, read some of the lyrics. Sounds like music for the Prozac generation. It's dreary and depressing. Do the audiences clap for them, or just sob out loud? Maybe if the band got out in the sun more often, the words wouldn't be so nihilistic and depressing. It is bizarre that people are attracted to this. A generation up to their gills in techno-toys and feeling sorry for themselves. Somebody should be searching for a cure.

Mr. Rogers

It's difficult to listen to what Berman has to say, having read an interview where he equated Radiohead's popularity and loyal fanbase to the extreme of "date rape". It's fine to state an opinion, but to go to such extremes is strange.


Well, I would say the conclusion the author made from the interview is wrong. I'm not protecting Berman, but when you read what he said in the context of that Pitchfork interview, he's saying Radiohead have no agenda, or they have it, but in their case it is a feelings therapy for Yorke: "To me, what I would like to hear from Radiohead would be something besides a feeling. I would like it if Radiohead would sing something that you could take with you."
I've been listening to Radiohead for long time, and he's at least partially right, I would say. It seems like Thom Yorke never moved out of the box of his high school nightmare. Don't get me wrong, the music is still very good. But this is a part of a bigger thing, as Berman rightly points out, people these days identify more with the music, than the lyrics... Yesterday, I went to listen Curtis Mayfield's Superfly, and whatever you may think of him or this record, he's got some balls to comment on the state of things happening around him. The interview with Berman is very enlightening and hits some true points. I'm not familiar with him or his music, but I will give him an ear, because this guy has opinions (next to feelings), which seems the modern rock tends to loose.


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