Radiohead

Tourism

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Radiohead's enrollment in, and acceptance by, the new prog elite is misleading. Though one can certainly trace their stylistic lineage back to at least some of the giants of a bygone age -- a less confessional Peter Hammill, a less calculating Roger Waters, a less virtuosoic Robert Fripp -- they are more accurately, undeniably, a child of their own times: fractured, fidgety, edgy, upsetting, the soundtrack to a decade which never should have dawned. Prog, by its very name, strived for progression. Radiohead, by their very name, simply sit on the sideboard and feed off the ether. That is not to say that they're not, as the received wisdom of the age insists, a major talent; nor that OK Computer, the Grammy-winning album which dominates this 1997 New York City show, is not one of the monumental achievements of the age. Every decade needs its musical chronicler, and just as Dylan documented the '60s, Bowie the '70s, and U2 the '80s, so generations to come will listen back to Radiohead and marvel at how accurately they echo what's in the history books. As for the live performance of that opus, think Russian folk music at the height of the purges. Textures, which on CD are at least veneered with reassuring calm, in concert are harsh, ugly, and desperate. Tourism reflects the unrelentingly bitter brutality of the modern world, and it does so with such dogged aplomb that it's easy to believe that even the audience isn't screaming for fun. The band's own sense of occasion, meantime, is illustrated by the absence of their biggest hit, "Creep," from their live set. That, after all, would have made things easy for the non-partisan bystander -- the Titanic didn't carry enough lifeboats either.

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