Friday, May 23, 2008

Bags Part 2

The Guardian last weekend published some photographs by James Mollison from his latest project The Disciples – photos of fans at rock gigs. Quite amusing to see Marilyn Manson and Rod Stewart fans dragged up as their favourite pop star.

Less so for me, however, was the pic of Radiohead fans.

Chuck Klosterman explains:
“What is far more fascinating is the way true fanatics can see aesthetic consistencies within the seemingly unremarkable. Until glancing at these photographs, I had never realised that the defining quality of a die-hard Radiohead fan was the wearing of a diagonal strap across one's torso. What does that even mean? What do these people hear on Bodysnatchers that makes this visual determination so self-evident? It's not like this extraneous strap is some kind of widespread youth trend that lead guitarist Johnny Greenwood is spearheading; this is not like thousands of teenagers getting Beatles haircuts because that's the style of the time. It is not a look that will spill over into conventional society.

This personal choice has something to do with proving that you are not like a normal person, and it suggests you understand something about Radiohead that the average citizen cannot see or hear or feel. It goes to the nucleus of why pop music matters - at its highest levels of achievement, rock'n'roll is supposed to serve as "lifestyle music". It should have the potential to inform every single decision about being alive. And for these photogenic goofballs, it obviously does.”

By "diagonal strap" Mr Klosterman (American?) is referring to the visible part of an over-shoulder messenger bag. Of course, these are far more prevalent here than in the USA. However, from the photo it is very clear that the vast majority of Radiohead fans wear these bags. Pretty alarming, for me – I love wearing using messenger bags too (great ones at Mulberry and Ted Baker)! – moreover, like the other Radiohead fans in the photo, I wear jeans with jackets, jumpers, and dark denim. Also waistcoats (or cardigans). Argh! I am clearly part of a social sub-group!

As I have said before, I absolutely love In Rainbows, Radiohead’s latest album. I kind of lost the plot with Kid A. My boss bought me Thom Yorke’s semi-solo effort The Eraser, which I also loved. Encouraged, I went back to the dreaded Kid A. I last played it (or, as I remember, the first 3 songs) 8 years ago as soon as it came out. Unfortunately for me and many other fans, this album was the anti-OK Computer: Radiohead did it deliberately to piss us off! I was absolutely amazed trying it again – it’s gorgeous, in every respect the equal creatively of OK Computer. It just took me 8 years to catch up with it!

So I bought the other intervening albums – Amnesiac (which I think is their weakest) and the much better Hail to the Thief. But In Rainbows is definitely another career peak for them. Absolutely magical.

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