On Radiohead

Por Cecilia Rinaldi.

“When I let myself feel, all I feel is lousy.”

(Conrad Jarrett to Dr. Berger)

Behind Radiohead’s songs, to my mind, lies a cry for genuineness. All through their records, there’s a longing for something purer, simpler, of a more straightforward nature; something, perhaps, not dependent on mere utilitarian motives. Their music is fundamentally melancholic, but I don’t think this is rooted in “good ol’ times” that are past them (i.e. their childhood, their first love, etc.) On the contrary, they might be mulling over the times of their lives in which they were most wretched; those times in which they were most deeply depressed. And this is where Conrad Jarrett’s quotation comes in.

To feel lousy is better than to feel nothing. Yet that’s not what self-help books —which are so much in vogue— profess. People today feel the need to raise seemingly flawless façades for themselves, only to spend the rest of their lives trying to live up to them. “Fitter Happier” seems to me like a twenty-first century Mosaic Law for the (post-) modern man: some sort of panacea that, if followed closely and obediently, will make us all “happy, well rounded individuals”:

Fitter, happier, more productive,


not drinking too much,

regular exercise at the gym

(3 days a week),

getting on better with your associate employee contemporaries,

at ease,

eating well

(no more microwave dinners and saturated fats),

a patient better driver,

a safer car

(baby smiling in back seat),

sleeping well

(no bad dreams),

no paranoia,

careful to all animals

(never washing spiders down the plughole).

Beth Jarrett, just like Carolyn Burnham in American Beauty, thought of nothing but projecting an image of temperance and perfection. This doggedness to persist in her intent despite all odds — despite the loss of her son Buck, and the increasing wintriness in her relation to Conrad and Calvin — created a vacuum that crippled her feelings. Like a lot of people, she was not really living; she seemed to be a puppet, or automaton, subject to extrinsic commands.

To succumb to despair, if only temporarily, would have been saner, purer. To her (and others like her) are the words “we hope your rules and wisdom choke you” directed. Perhaps she’s the fake plastic girl, the girl with the Hitler hair, to whom Radiohead are referring.

Grief, gloom, dejection: sometimes (most times), it is better to acknowledge that one can be their prey. And if one is hurting, it is better to live through that pain fully. I was staggered when I saw a book on display called “The Pointlessness of Suffering”: it urged people to steer clear of deeper feelings; to shun intensity of emotion and float about ceaselessly in a clement midpoint; to become, in the words of Roger Waters, “comfortably numb”. I was rather sickened. I believe that pain, when genuine, can cleanse Blake’s doors of perception, thwart Huxley’s reducing valve, and ultimately heighten our senses, making our experiences more intense (“more real”). Because if one is to ignore pain, how is one to savor happiness?

This is, I think, what Radiohead are raging against: people who live for appearances, who run away from suffering because it does not serve an immediate purpose. People who, instead of living, are just “killing time”

Cecilia Rinaldi

19 años

Estudiante de Derecho