Apr 042011

Lotus, the song by REM. The Lotus Eaters, a song by Dead Can Dance. Lotus, the American jam band. Flying Lotus, the dj. The Lotus Eaters, British band from the ’80s. Lotus Eaters, another ’80s band. Plenty of lotus to go around.

But Radiohead’s latest single, Lotus Flower, was the song that became the target of a whole lotta dissing. I’ve been thinking about the comments that were generated and still puzzling them over.

  1. The self-indulgence of Thom Yorke. So a song sung in the first person about a problematic relationship should depict the whole band? I think I’ll take that over some of the ’80s band videos that have the lead singer play acting the relationship with a model.
  2. The Bowler Hat. If he wore yoga wear, wouldn’t we liken him to, say, the character of Ian, in High Fidelity? Stipe wears modified exercise wear in REM’s “Lotus,” so does that make that a better video?
  3. The dancing. If the song is about drug use, as posited by the sages of the Suds on Bleeker blog, then isn’t the movement pretty representational? Note hypothesis of viagra abuse.
  4. The symbol of the lotus. Out of the muck comes purity. Femininity (those are pretty tight pants). The progress of the soul from materialism to enlightenment. Those themes were popular in the ’60s, too.

The video seems to flaunt a lack of the rock and roll ethos. There is a flagrant disregard for lip synching. There are no other band members depicted. There is dancing in a non-white man’s-overbite kind of way.

Maybe that’s the point.


  26 Responses to “Lotus, continued”

  1. I’m not really sure what your point is, though….. or what the phrase “dancing in a non-white man’s-overbite kind of way” means, either.

  2. I’m glad someone stepped up to defend this video. It’s sad to boil it down to such things, but there are some serious Rockist issues and violations to the Code of Men that are probably fueling some of our reactions. I’ve noticed on Facebook, for instance, that women are digging this video. I don’t recall seeing a positive comment – or any comment, for that matter – from a guy. Of course that’s a tiny sample size, but honestly, as much as I try to have an open mind and as much as I can respect the fact that Yorke is ABLE to do what he does in this video, the simple fact is that I find it highly UNappealing.

    Then, honestly, I find myself digging through all the “violations” to the so-called Code of Men. As much as it may seem like I’m calling Yorke or the video “gay,” in both a “third grade” and outright adult homophobic sense, that’s not what I’m trying to say. I don’t think acting like this has to do with anyone’s sexuality – and I don’t know a thing about Yorke’s life or even think that I do. He seems like an energetic, creative guy, so that’s all the good start I need. It’s the showiness of the video that puts me off. My love for music and self-expression rarely if ever ties into notions of theatricality in musical performances, be them live or staged. Bowie bugged the shit out of me for years because he felt he had to ACT OUT everything. One of the things I get out of music is the feeling that the walls are coming down. I’m sure I sometimes fall for an overtly theatrical performer, but few immediately come to mind. That’s just me.

    When I posted this video a week or so ago and entitled the thread “DEAL WITH IT,” that was my intention, to have us deal with it and see what we learn about ourselves and each other. I’m glad to hear more on how you see this video and how others see it. One thing I’ve confirmed, a bit sadly, about myself is that I tend to be a bit of a bully about my pride in expressing myself “head on,” like I’m fucking Mike Watt or Lou Reed. A clip like this reminds me that some people express themselves through creating new walls and veils, that they’re not all about knocking walls down and being all John Lennon and Joe Strummer about things. I got past a lot of my hang-ups with Bowie. There’s hope.

    May various points of view on this video and other issue continue to be expressed!

  3. ladymisskirroyale

    Interesting about the gender differences that Mod comments on, and based on a tiny sample, I would generally agree.

    I guess I felt that I needed to defend this video because I admire most things Radiohead do and if they put out a video like this (and I like the video for many reasons, mostly dance related) they must have some reason or meaning behind it. I think that having a solo member of the band perform a song about someone’s individual struggle in a relationship, and use movements that evoke a struggle, is valid. But I can also see how this video would be considered not very rocking and thereby irritating. It seems like more people are irritated about the style of the video rather than the song itself. I checked out Radiohead’s video to “House of Cards” and that too has a solo Thom York mouthing the words – was that video dissed on this site, too?

    Maybe I’m being too serious here, or a bully too – I admire the verbal flair that so many people use in their posts and I wish I had more of that talent. Earnestness aside, I wanted to defend a video that I feel is a pretty visually and verbally cohesive.

  4. As I said originally, the song was fine to my ears. As annoying as I find the video, it’s definitely not pulling any punches. Your line about it being better than him acting out a scenario with a model cracked me up.

  5. tonyola

    I’ve been listening to and watching self-indulgent artistes for a few decades now. Bowie, Lou Reed, Bono, Sting, Morrisey, Rerznor, Billy Corgan…the list goes on. Some of them I like a lot, and even the ones I don’t like much have their moments. I’ve really tried to give Thom Yorke and Radiohead a chance. I’ve listened to all their albums. Sometimes the band makes compelling music. Sometimes not. But it’s hard to get around Yorke’s endless and humorless “I suck, so love me” arty preciousness. The weight of the world is on his shoulders just adds to his self-loathing. It gets really tiresome, and I’m through waiting for him to either jump off the ledge or learn to enjoy life. Even Morrisey – who I don’t particularly like – knew to laugh at himself (and us) once in a while.

  6. Radiohead is one of those bands that I respect but don’t really like to listen to. They’re not really my cup of tea musically, and it took me a long time to get over my initial impression of them as gimmicky hacks (based on “Creep” which just seemed to add a preposterously distorted guitar to a Hollies song). That said, I do admire the fact that they appear to push themselves creatively.

    As for the video, I found it to be really annoying, but, with a few exceptions, I just really want to see the band playing during a video. But what if Thom Yorke is just poking the crab, which is kind of fun sometimes. Isn’t that why Kurt Cobain used to wear a dress? To get a rise out of the meatheads who were suddenly flocking to his shows? One time I dressed up like a mime for Halloween because, let’s face it, what’s more annoying than a mime. I spent the evening getting in people’s face doing poor renditions of the “invisible rope” and the “shrinking box”. Mercifully, I did not receive the punch in the face that I so richly deserved. Maybe this is Thom Yorke’s mime costume.

  7. shawnkilroy

    if we’re stuck with words like “respect” & “admire”, then it might not be rock and roll.
    Dickheads like Radiohead, U2, and R.E.M. have sucked all the fun out of this medium, and gotten huge because people think it’s “deep” or “smart”. It’s not. it’s boring as shit and it usually has no hooks or riffs.
    I have not watched the video in question and i’m not gonna, because much like Christ, too much attention has already been paid to this suffering hack.
    I blame the epic success of nerd music like this for the proliferation of rap, which would have died out like the hula hoop had it not been for the need to have something so obviously stupid hanging around to frighten lame white people.
    these bands have put rock and roll in FAR WORSE SHAPE than it was in when The Ramones showed up to save us from Yes, Genesis and ELP.

  8. alexmagic

    I genuinely really like Radiohead, though what I’ve heard of this last one hasn’t done much for me so far (though I felt the same way about the last one before really enjoying it later). I think some context is missing here re: their visual presentation. They are, arguably, the last big rock band to truly embrace and make use of the music video/clip/short film format, either by putting out videos that were generally hailed as innovative or highly interesting at the time or briefly eschewing official “videos” at all during the Kid A phase to play on their place as the music video band of the era: they replaced them with five-ten second animated teasers and a special on MTV2 where they debuted the entire album at once, with the only accompanying visuals being a record player moving back and forth across an album with out of focus people moving around behind it. Weird, intentionally offputting and somehow, it worked.

    Basically, they are masters at knowing how to work the media and create hype, talk and cachet whenever they need to, all without ever seeming to come off in the standard way that the biggest selling acts do it. It’s a pretty impressive feat, especially when considering our previous discussions about the inability of some of music’s biggest names to make the leap into the MTV/video era of the early ’80s. Radiohead has managed to carve themselves that kind of big name brand, but has done so by expertly knowing when and how to use the tools of the day. Yorke’s done that here yet again, putting out an odd video that was bound to make the social media rounds while giving people the chance to acknowledge the pretensions, goofiness and artiness all in the same conversation.

    And, generally – as I’ve said here before – I think it’s that self-awareness that a lot of people miss, including portions of their fan base. I really do think they have a pretty good handle on when they tip over into the edge into weirdville, and I’d be surprised if it wasn’t calculated and Yorke wasn’t well aware of his image, how to play off it and when they can get away with poking fun at themselves while allowing the fans and media to keep the “Radiohead Is Serious Business!” engine firing.

    I honestly can’t think of another band or artist who have managed to get so much out of so little traditional marketing. They tour and do the occassional TV appearance but aren’t ubiquitous media/public performance presences, and they know they can get all the press an album needs in a year they release one, even with a fittingly odd, nebulous web presence, by putting out a “pay what you want!” album (and only then putting it out traditionally, after the critical steam and hype have built) or putting together a video like this that they know will get in front of people, even (especially) without the old TV outlets once available.

    I do, however, think they should do a follow-up video with Yorke wearing Jagger’s blue-and-yellow workout gear from the “Mixed Emotions” video. I bet he’d do it if the idea ever got to him.

  9. Feel better now?

    Seriously, that was an excellent rant.

  10. Agreed. It contained the wisdom of E. Pluribus Gergely with the compassion of George W. Bush.

  11. shawnkilroy

    thanks fellas.

  12. misterioso

    I am glad someone has defended the video, too. But it is still extremely silly and not in an entertaining way, and it is telling that the most stirring defense of it is “it isn’t as lame as 80s hair metal videos” (which is true enough, of course). Like others here, I think I fall into the “I’m not a huge fan but I respect Radiohead” camp, which, increasingly, as time passes, I come to understand means “I find them uninteresting but haven’t bothered to listen enough to figure out exactly why.” But, heck, maybe this will be the year!

  13. I just never “got” this band. The music always sounded sludgy, & his mewling vocal style always bugged me. I’ve got no problem with bad/goofy dancing, camp, or theatricality…I tend to take it on a case by case basis, but if I don’t like the music, the case is closed and I won’t care at all about the video. In this case, I don’t. Doesn’t mean I think other people shouldn’t, and I have no opinion whatsoever about the singer’s perceived sexuality – it’s got nothing to do with it for me, & neither does any “Code of Men” bullshit – what the hell is THAT all about?

  14. Dude, I’m disappointed to learn that you’re unaware of the Code of Men. Thankfully you strike me as one who abides by the code.

  15. Well, I confess that I *did* like to dance in my younger days (before the ol’ knees went), all the more after noticing that girls paid more attention to me because I did (& guys muttered “fag” under their breath…while they stood around with other guys… and I left with one of the girls). I just hope I displayed more rhythmic aptitude than Mr. Yorke….Hope this doesn’t mean I’ve broken the rules of The Code…then again, I don’t really care.

  16. tonyola

    Psh. Worrying about “Code of Men” or such nonsense strikes me as concern that one’s masculinity isn’t glued on very tightly – as if one slip and it’s show tunes, pastels, quiche, and pulling out those old Smiths CDs that have been stashed in the hall closet behind the legwarmers.

  17. Or it could be Judas Priest & Henry Rollins CDs, if we’re going to be totally true to reality….which is another reason a “code” is kinda dumb.

  18. The Radiohead thread stayed with me a bit as well. Their songs tend to take a while to sink in with me and I wasn’t aware at the the time that “Lotus Flower” was the first release (single?) from King of Limbs. I’m not so sure that so much should be made of this quickie, low-budget video but of the points that LMKR brings out, the lack of rock n roll ethos and Code of Men violations may get closest to explaining the song’s poor reception around here. I get into moods where only Radiohead’s combination of odd rhythm, noise guitar and wispy melodies do it for me. That is not a meat and potatoes rock n roll mindset there. At all other times I can generally do without about 90% of Radiohead’s catalog (except maybe the railing “There There” or the lullaby-like “No Surprises”).

    Could there be a simpler explanation such as Yorke primarily composes his vocal melodies in falsetto, finds the results worthwhile and sticks with it? Nah, too easy, not enough homosexual panic in it.

  19. ladymisskirroyale

    See “When Harry Met Sally” dating descriptions or this:

  20. 2000 Man

    I kind of thought of a mime right away, too. I don’t like Radiohead. They just aren’t my thing at all. I kind of wish I did like them, because their fans seem to be having a good time, but they just don’t hold my attention very well.

  21. 2000 Man

    Yeah! There’s about as much fun in Radiohead as there is in hitting yourself in the thumb with a hammer.

  22. Guys, please make an effort to get the self-aware, tongue-in-cheek aspect of the Code of Men stuff, OK? Sheesh! Meanwhile, may the record note that you guys are above all that stuff.

  23. 2000 Man

    You have Smith’s cd’s?

  24. 2000 Man

    What will happen to these guys when the Cool Patrol comes and takes points away from them?

  25. shawnkilroy

    homosexual panic

    you just named my new band.

  26. mockcarr

    Maybe they were just happy that you had a costume that forced you to shaddup.

    I kid because I have nothing else.

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