After reading both Tom
critiques of Brent Sirota's Radiohead review
, I've realised my problem with it is not that it's pretentious so much as it's a pretentiousness reserved solely for Radiohead. Kid A
doesn't garner Joyce comparisons because it deserves them, or because it necessarily aspires to them, but rather because the album is as much a piece of cultural property as it is a record.
The universally orgiastic press which accompanied OK Computer has made the emerging critical reaction to Kid A almost as much of an event as the record itself. The two Brents at Pitchfork are not reviewing the album so much as participating in this final conclusion of the OK Computer celebration, the final blast of which has propelled some critics like the aforementioned into the stratospheres of meaningless free association, while sending others spinning into the shallows of confused and disgruntled disappointment. Either way, they're still talking about OK Computer. Either way, saying "Kid A? Well, it's a bit like Aphex Twin and Bark Psychosis, really" is seen to cheapen the event, reduce it to being merely a record.
It's significant that the bands Brent S. does mention are the usual suspects: The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan. But, of course. The bands that people are compared to, who themselves are comparable to no one in rock, except perhaps eachother in the vaguest of senses (hence Brent Sirota searches desperately for lyrical references to The Wall and unhelpfully raises the spectre of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band, though not managing to get any deeper than that album's cover). But these figures have always benefited from extra-musical discourse, which suggests that either a) Brent Sirota doesn't actually like music itself, but has read some cross-form criticism, or b) he reckons that only these sorts of bands are worthy of the hi falutin theorising he employs - bands who have proven the worth through consistent canonical popularity.
When the Brents employ fantastic hyperbole or tedious literary allusions they're actually performing a none-too-subtle sleight of hand, trying to reaffirm Radiohead's postion as yet another archetype within rock, as a band that are undeniably genius, above all peers. And so the next generation's innovation sells out to the previous generation's respectability. And the cycle begins again.
I wonder if, in the midst of their Radiohead frenzy, Pitchfork are ever going to get around to talking about Kid A.