Saturday, May 7, 2016

Track of the Week: Radiohead "Lucky"

This week brought the news of both Donald Trump's impending nomination and a new Radiohead song. I find the coincidence to be entirely fitting.

Of all the musical artists around, Radiohead has most directly addressed the alienation and absurdity of modern life. The lingering despair and lack of meaning that I experience in moments like being stuck in an airport terminal with some smarmy haircut on cable blaring their empty words on a big screen TV is the food for their art. In the aftermath of 9/11 I listened to OK Computer, Amnesiac, and Kid A as the only music that seemed to make sense. After Trump's electoral victory on Tuesday, I did the same.

So many songs on those albums are great, but only one gives me hope: "Lucky." It was first released on a benefit album for refugees from the war in Bosnia, and is fittingly about survival. Near as I can tell, it is about someone who survives a plane crash. Confronted with horror and the failure of the technology we rely on for our existence, the narrator feels "it's gonna be a glorious day." But the song ends with a note of doubt: "we're standing on the edge." The words are hard to discern in any case, what's more important is Johnny Greenwood's guitar. The mellotron dread of the song's beginning builds to a beautiful soaring lead by Greenwood, personifying the chilling thrill of surviving a brush with death. 

At times in my life when I've felt distressed I've laid on my back, closed my eyes, and waited for that sound to come out of the speakers and wash over me. Thank you Radiohead for coming back exactly when I needed you.

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