Exit Music (For a Fan) – An Experiment in Radiohead

July 7, 2011 7 comments

This was an awful idea…

Let’s go back, if I may. Around the time Radiohead released their latest album, I decided, in my great misguided wisdom, that I wanted to conduct a human experiment. One that would probably concern only myself, and most likely only affect my personal interests. This study was conceived to span no more than one than 24 hours, though, as a matter of fact, it ended up taking much less. Now, I wasn’t going into this experiment as a blind constituent of my own curiosity, I knew that, above all, I had to follow the rules. 1) Appropriating a description (check). 2) Proposing a hypothesis (check). 3) Designating a facility (check). And, of course, 4) An affective log of the progress for the subject, a.k.a. me, (check). Let the decomposition begin!


  • 1) Description (what’s being tested): The theory that tone, arrangement, and all around feeling of a certain style of music, particularly sad music, can adversely alter the mood of an otherwise cheerful and optimistic individual.


    • a) I knew I wouldn’t be able to build a complete sample of this genre of music, so I went the simple route, and chose Radiohead. Not just a few albums though, EVERY album! That’s right, with Yorke, the Greenwood bros., O’Brien, and Selway as my sample piece, I used their eight studio albums (no Com. Lag, Live albums, or b-sides for the sake of my own sanity), a steep six hours and 18 minutes, as the basis for my experiment.
  • 2) Hypothesis: If one partakes in the listening of too much of one genre of music (or Radiohead) then said individual will become a living reflection of the audible emotions being displayed. (I’ll leave my prediction out of this)


  • 3) Facility: My room.


    • a) I was originally going to walk around Philly, but who wants to be zoned out AND lost at the same time? And, I know that if I’m going to be listening to Radiohead for hours upon end, I’ll want to be stationary at the least.


  • 4) Log: Well, straight from the scribe himself… I must warn you, some of what you’re about to read is graphic, a bit strange and, for the most part, just pathetic:

Album 1 – Pablo Honey:

I knew what to expect from Pablo Honey (RH’s first album). A lazy, undetermined production by a band that had not yet found it’s way. And I was right. “You” and “Creep” create a mood that doesn’t really do much for the listener other than let you know that Thom Yorke has a serious angst emoting issue. The rest of the album is nearly devoid of highlights, “Anyone Can Play Guitar” has a genuine progression to it, but it’s initially weak in it’s delivery, and “Lurgee” and “Blowout” don’t do much to solidify the false earnestness that they’re clearly going for. 3.2/10

Note 1: I feel pretty good at this point. I’ve got my Kraft mac ‘n cheese in arms length, my Arnold Palmer half-and-half, and a hearty helping of Watermelon Sour Patch Kids. Pretty much set so far, despite the dismal faux-grunge album I just had to sit through.

Radiohead – You

Album 2 – The Bends:

“Planet Telex” kicks in for The Bends… That’s more like it. This album really found it’s way into my heart only 5 years ago, but listening to it now, sans disruption and background noise, is really a treat for myself. “High and Dry” is just as awesome as it feels live and “Fake Plastic Trees” is just as heartbreaking as Jonny Greenwood strums it. After a brief drop off, the album really picks up again with “Just” and My Iron Lung” before easing us out with the trio of the fleeting “Black Star”, the cool “Sulk”, and the classic “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” Excellent, yet damaging. 9.1/10

Note 2: I feel okay. “Fake Plastic Trees” is a pretty emotional experience to handle when you completely take it all in, but regardless, it’s an incredible piece of music. I’ve still got my head about me. Though, this album cover disturbs me to no end. I should probably slow down on the Sour Patch Kids, my tongue’s starting to burn.

Radiohead – Fake Plastic Trees

Album 3 – OK Computer:

This album may just put a kink in my theory. Because “Airbag”, for lack of a better phrase, just fucking ROCKS. OK Computer begins with what may be the most kick-ass song about a car accident ever. And, the song that follows, the most epic Radiohead song ever created, “Paranoid Android”, is a one-two punch that ensures the longevity of this album for generations. Every Track, “Subterranean Homesick Alien”, “Karma Police”, “No Surprises”, hell even the “Fitter Happier” interlude kept up with in the concept of the mass production in the global landscape theme RH was going for. Brilliant. 9.3/10

Note 3: Strange, the excitement I felt for this album’s songs didn’t seem to translate into any actual emotion. Like, I love all of these tracks, but something seems off. There’s this feeling of impending doom behind every measure of every song. I’m happy to hear it, but I feel a bit off. Also, I’m starting to notice my dislike of macaroni and cheese. It’s probably my least favorite kind of pasta. So, I’ve decided to switch to leftover sesame chicken from the Chinese place down my block. Things should go smoother now.

Radiohead – Exit Music (For a Film)

Album 4 – Kid A:

How do I describe how I feel towards Kid A? Well there are 12 perfectly arranged tracks on this perfectly conceived record. I wish I could go into it all but I simply don’t posses the vocabulary. It escapes me. All of it simply moves. From the beautiful blankness of “Treefingers”, to the brash bolster of “The National Anthem”, to the quiet war within “Morning Bell”. But of course, it’s “Motion Picture Soundtrack” that takes it all home. It is the last song on the album, and probably the first time I’ve ever inadvertently shed a tear during a song. Flawless. 10/10

Note 4: Shit. I felt fine, I really did… I can’t remember what I felt like, really. There’s this Portishead poster in my room that seems like it pulsates with every “Ooh” on “Optimistic”. So I tore it down. Fuck Portishead. Wait! What was I saying? Oh yeah, and FUCK ARNOLD PALMER too! Your iced tea tastes like piss!

Radiohead – Motion Picture Soundtrack

Album 5 – Amnesiac:

Amnesiac, you may not be my favorite, but I still love you. Maybe because “Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box” is absolutely insane to listen to with headphones and “Pyramid Song” weighs so heavy on your heart that you fear internal organ collapse. But elsewhere, the album doesn’t make a hell of a lot of effort to lure in first time listeners like many of their previous albums did. I guess Kid A didn’t either, but that album was perfect, so outsiders can go piss off. How is anyone supposed to feel about “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors”, or “Hunting Bears”, or “Like Spinning Plates. Yes they’re interesting, and they’re certainly entertaining, but are they any good? Well yeah, actually. 8.9/10

Note 5: Amnesiac has a very claustrophobic feel to it. I almost feel locked in this room now. These walls sort of have personalities now, and they plot — They plot? What the hell am I talking about? — Also, my bed sheets have never felt so constricting than now, so I’ve relocated to the floor. And How the hell am I out of Sour Patch Kids??? Shit! — “Life in a Glass House” has me a bit paranoid, but I still have the presence of mind to realize it. That’s a good thing, right?

Radiohead – Pyramid Song

Album 6 – Hail to the Theif:

I wish I liked this album. I wish I felt about this album the way I feel about the majority of Radiohead’s records. But, I simply don’t. Maybe I’m missing something, but Hail to the Thief simply doesn’t do it for me. “2+2=5” is awesome, but pedestrian when compared to the openers of their previous albums. “Sit Down, Stand Up”, with it’s two part epic shift in direction, would have probably been a much more apt entrance, but even that feels dry in the context of the record. “Sail to the Moon” and Backdrifts” are actually really good! They just don’t belong on the same album. After that, the only highlight comes with the bass heavy “There There”, and that’s probably too little too late. 7.9/10.

Note 6: There’s this ticking noise in my ear. And… Well, maybe there isn’t. But I know I hear something that isn’t the music. But oh yeah, how do I feel? I feel violated, honestly. Here we have a collection of songs about depression, loneliness, and violence, yet here I am, not feeling a damn thing. Completely numb. And, for some reason, sweating profusely. Odd.

Radiohead – Sail to the Moon

Album 7 – In Rainbows:

Oh, sweet redemption! In Rainbows is the album that I was waiting 5 years for. And I’ll be damned if it didn’t make up for it, and then some. “15 Step” is, literally, only the tip of the awesomeness iceberg. Once again, every track from “Nude”, “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi”, “All I Need”, “Reckoner” (my favorite RH song ever), “House of Cards”, I mean all of it. The Mephistopheles theme really held suit here and I appreciate the staid attention to detail ad editing. This is the showcase of an old band still at the top of their game. 9.7/10

Note… ?: “Videotape” just ended, and I don’t know where I am anymore. There’s something gloomy about this sunny day. That might be because the sun isn’t out anymore. Am I the only person who gets the urge to commit crimes when the backup vocals begin humming on “Jigsaw Falling Into Place”? I merely talking to myself, of course. Am I?

Radiohead – All I Need

Album 8 – The King of Limbs:

I must admit, I cheated my attention span here becuase I found myself skimming through the newspaper that accompanied the vinyl, The Universal Sigh. I always try not to read too much into the folklore of Radiohead’s extra-curricular endeavors, but this is fairly interesting. As far as the album itself goes, not so much. “Morning Mr. Magpie” and “Feral” are familiar to anyone who’s seen them live and, in my opinion, better that way. The majority of TKOL is subdued and underwhelmingly somber in it’s execution. There’s not a whole lot to hate here, but I also don’t love anything. I’ll avoid comparisons to previous records and just call this one “okay”. 7.6/10

Radiohead – Give Up The Ghost

Note… Who gives a shit, really?:  “And if you think this is over you’re wrong” is all I can hear on the final track “Separator”. It resonates. It’s ringing in my head right now, actually. Well, something’s ringing. Anyway, how do I feel, right? I feel light — NO! I feel like… Liquid — Like, I could just seep into the fibers of the carpet, and through the grains in the hardwood, and through the densest oxygen in the concrete, and right into the earth. Yeah. I don’t know if I’m cripplingly exhausted or glaringly awake, but I certainly feel. No more numbness, just continuous feeling… I also feel like a rambling fool. [END TRANSCRIPT]



Well, I’m still standing. “Adversely” affected? I wouldn’t go that far, but maybe there were some changes in my attitude. Not definitive enough though. I mean, look at my notes, I seemed fine by the end of it. Yeah, hypothesis: False. Nothing that day, from what I remember, can be seen as a conclusive “change in mood”… I must have just been imagining things.