8/19/2008

Radiohead vs. The Hold Steady: Win, Lose or Draw?

First, it was this acquaintance who, over drinks Saturday night, foolishly compared Radiohead to The Beatles [groan] and unequivocally stated that the Oxford quintet would one day be looked back upon as equally great and influential as John, Paul, George and Ringo. And no, he wasn’t drunk. This was made clear when we proceeded to remind him that half of Radiohead’s output consisted of spotty (Pablo Honey), uneven (Kid A), and flat-out boring (Amnesiac) albums, and his chest-beating immediately endured a bit of deflation. Man, that was some heavy Kool-Aid guzzling. Or so we thought. Then came this:

It turns out that The Hold Steady’s guitarist Tad Kubler
told BBC6 over the weekend, how he feels about Radiohead these days.

"I think they've lost the plot. What are they doing? Where are they going? What's happening? I don't get it any more. They lost me. I still appreciate what they're doing, or what they're trying to do. But I think they're trying too hard not to be Radiohead. That seems a little ridiculous to me. I like them as a rock band, all the buttons and sequencing and stuff like that I don't really care for. I'm a fan of rock music and what they're doing now I don't think is very good. When you have that kind of money, you can put on a great performance regardless of what you do. If you can't go out and pick up your instruments and play a good show, that doesn't do it for me. I don't have any interest in that".

Did he just rag on the hipster sacred cow? Oh no, he didn’t...

As expected all hell broke loose in the blogosphere, and the level of vitriol directed at Kubler and his band was pretty intense—we still don’t know if Craig Finn was actually burned in effigy out in Williamsburg—but it was all quite predictable, if mostly pathetic, and generally went along the lines of Fluxblog’s Matthew Perpetua, whose
skewering of the Hold Steady is simply a more eloquent and verbose version of the average irate 'tween letter to whomever has dissed her favorite Tiger Beat cover subject. [yawn]

For the record, we like Radiohead. We own all of their albums and have repeatedly raved about the brilliance of The Bends and OK Computer. The Hold Steady, on the other hand, we don’t care for. But we gotta take the side of the latter in this stupid debate, which just magnifies what is wrong with most of these music blogs. Kubler made his feelings known about the current state of Radiohead as a fan of rock music, not as some sort of arbiter. He just happens to be in a well-known band himself. Does that preclude him from commenting on colleagues of his? It shouldn’t. (At least we don’t think so.) He wasn’t comparing his band to Radiohead in any way, shape or form. But we’re guessing that’s a subtle difference lost on the Radiohead zombies or one which they choose to ignore. Probably the most to the point and least infantile take on the whole episode can be best summarized by this comment posted on
Idolator:

Radiohead: overdue for a critical takedown

Hold Steady: not the people to do it

Hmm…

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