Nietzsche Blogging: Thus Spoke Thom Yorke
September 15, 2010

I’ve been slacking off on the Nietzsche blogging—so much so, in fact, that I missed all of Part Three of Thus Spoke Zarathustra.¬†Though perhaps that’s for the best, since Part Three lost some of the aphoristic style that has thus far defined Nietzsche’s work and instead added in a narrative arc. This arc begins when Zarathustra realizes that if time and the universe are infinite, then all things will recur infinitely, even the “small man” who he holds in such contempt and hopes would one day be obliterated by the overman. This throws him into deep despair, although by the end of Part Three he has come to terms with this revelation and decided to embrace the infinite and, by extension, all its constituent elements.

I’ve already written all I really have to say on the subject of eternal recurrence, so we might as well move on to Part Four; which begins, for me at least, with a different kind of revelation: I think the boys in Radiohead might be Nietzsche fans.

Consider the evidence: Much of the prologue to Part Four of Thus Spoke Zarathustra¬†consists of Zarathustra elaborating on a metaphor for how he views mankind. In the Walter Kaufmann translation, Zarathustra sees man as “queer fish”—but another way of translating that might be “weird fishes.”

Zarathustra says that he wants to go fishing for these queer fish, baiting his lure with his own laughter and humor and then reeling them in to bring them up to the height of his wisdom.

Now listen to the song “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi,” embedded above. In typical post-OK Computer¬†Radiohead fashion, the lyrics are pretty cryptic, so there’s a lot of room for interpretation; but one interpretation I’m finding increasingly plausible is that the song is being sung from the perspective of someone who lives “in the deepest ocean” among all the other unenlightened “weird fishes” and knows he would be “crazy not to follow” Zarathustra, yet is too scared.

I don’t know, maybe that’s a little far-fetched. But I wouldn’t put it past those guys.


Lyrics by free association
September 14, 2008

I’m sick of politics – let’s talk about something else today. Like, for example, the craft of songwriting, and the soulful, uplifting tunes of Radiohead.

Every once in a while, I’ll take a fitful stab at writing my own songs – occasionally I would even post them on the Internet, until my sense of shame would kick in and I would take them down again. The problem with my songs, I decided, was that I couldn’t write songs. I can’t really write instrumentals or sing either, but I looked at geniuses like Bob Dylan and that seemed like less of a hill to climb. The lyrics were the key, and my lyrics sucked.

Radiohead got me thinking about that again recently. Specifically, their song “Optimistic.”


The best you can is good enough
September 9, 2008

Okay, so Barack Obama’s speech at the convention was inspiring, historic, waterworks-inducing, so on and so forth, but if I had a choice to be anywhere while he was delivering that speech, it wouldn’t have been in the front row. It would have been in California, watching the Radiohead concert that was going on simultaneously. Fortunately for us, they’ve got it uploaded in podcast form over at All Songs Considered.

Listen guys: If Bob Boilen is gushing into the mic that this is one of the best concerts he’s ever seen, then it’s a damn good concert. Everyone needs to drop whatever they’re doing and find out when’s the soonest they can see Radiohead live.

Thanks to that concert, I listened to the song Optimistic for the first time. Like really listened to it. It was always one of those “skip over” tracks on Kid A for me, but now I can’t get enough of it. I think it’s one of my favorites now.

So that’s what’s good about the concert. The bad news is that listening to too much Radiohead is a lot like reading too much Sartre – there’s not a whole lot of music out there that’s better at producing a deep sense of alienation and sending you spiraling into an existential funk. And I’ve been listening to Radiohead all goddamn day.

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