I'm unblocked! I can finally stop swallowing down the bilious, hateful things I've been thinking all these weeks! So let's make ourselves a sacred cow hamburger.
Now that I'm working from my brand-new, Ikea-sweatshoppified, dorm-reminiscent PC hutch on a daily basis, my musical selections are no longer limited to whatever I bothered to load up in the office. My entire CD library is at my disposal. This has a few notable benefits:
Fun turn-back-the-clock theme days. For example, my first order of business was to dig into the high school and college era, back when I was taking cues primarily from the radio. I listened appreciatively to some albums that would probably make my head spin today. I swam out past the breakers and watched the world die. I slowly walked down the hall, faster than a cannonball. And it was awesome.
Pearl Jam day! Everything from Ten through Binaural! R.E.M. day! Document through New Adventures In Hi-Fi! Ben Harper day! And so forth.
Correcting Past Mistakes
If something slips through the cracks, I can give it some more attention. For example, on Pearl Jam Day, I paid very close attention to No Code, the album on which the band clearly and unmistakably turned off the no-seat-belts sign from there on out. It's still mediocre (with a few exceptions like "Hail, Hail") and clearly a birth-defective cousin to both Yield and Binaural, but it's not as unmemorable as I once felt. Standing it up against Ten, Vs. and Vitalogy is clearly unfair.
I'll get into specifics on some of those other discoveries in a later (and longer, if you can believe it) post. But for now, let's get blasphemous.
With Radiohead's In Rainbows making the rounds, I thought it'd be fun to cue up Kid A, an album I never really cared for. I tipped my cap to the band after a few listens (you can't argue their brilliance) but apart from "Natural Anthem" and the opening track, it never made much of an impression on me. But I figured that my modern-day self, a much more open-minded listener with more complex tastes than my 21-year-old self, might have a different reaction.
So I popped it on. And I did indeed have a different reaction:
I was shocked to have so different a reaction than what I expected. My bias in favor of "Natural Anthem" and against pretty much all the other tracks actually got worse. I'd say six or seven years is enough lead time to determine whether an album is really all that good or not. Unlike the famous Onion headline, I'm not getting into it, and I won't. It's unfocused and meandering. It has its high points, but the lesser tracks are boring to me.
I guess I just have a bias against experimentation for the sake of it... or, at least, subjecting us to it. The fact that they're brilliant doesn't mean their output is just as brilliant, nor should it. Who cares if it's a landmark if it's not all that good? Bitches Brew was a landmark for Miles Davis... and for the destruction of jazz. Enjoy Your Rabbit is a landmark for Sufjan Stevens, but it's nowhere near as good as the albums that have followed it. Likewise with Kid A, and to a lesser extent Amnesiac.
However, I'm grateful that those two albums influenced Hail To The Thief, the best of their post-OK Computer output. It's an ideal blend of their border-pushing electronica fetishes and the this-is-your-brain-on-drugs-[pause]-THWACK adrenaline rush that's their true strong suit. The best five or six songs on Hail are better than everything on Kid A. The fact that one couldn't have happened without the other only goes so far.
Maybe I'm just pulling a Flowers For Algernon and reverting to my old ways. Perhaps I got a taste of Everclear and the Foo Fighters and, like a heroin addict who's been clean for a few years, I got sucked back in. (Losing myself to a white-trash hell... lost inside my heroin girl!!!) But I just gave Kid A a second spin, and had the same reaction: so what??? So I guess that's really what I think.