“gravity always wins”: Radiohead and Christianity Part I

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I really like Radiohead.  They’re not my favorite, but they never fail to move me.  The first reason is because their music is from another planet.  From the aggressive guitar work and multi-instrumental genius of Jonny Greenwood, to the rhythmic bass of his brother Colin, to the subtle brilliance of Ed O’Brien’s guitar creativity, to the drum machine precision of Phil Selway, and the utter id like artistry of Thom Yorke; Radiohead is second to none when it comes to stretching the musical horizons of rock.

Along with this, as a Christian, Radiohead has always fascinated me with their realistic view of humanity’s conflicting desires and somewhat evil animalistic base.  To paraphrase Martin Luther Radiohead “says what a thing is.”  They don’t try to paint some utopian view of things.  “All You Need is Love” is a false optimism you won’t find from this band.  Simply put, they call a spade a spade.  They have a correct and realistic anthropology in their music.

As a Christian this excites me because the Bible does the same thing.  From the teacher’s cry in Ecclesiastes 1:14-15, “14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.  15 What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted…” to the Apostles Paul’s indictment on humanity in Romans 3:10-12, “None is righteous, no, not one;  11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.  12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one…” the Bible presents an anthropology of rescue.  We cannot help ourselves, we need a Savior.  Now of course the Bible and Radiohead part ways at this point.  The Bible presents Jesus as our Savior and Radiohead presents… I don’t know I think they’re still waiting for an answer.  Although this is the case, because Radiohead and the Bible share a strikingly similar anthropology (i.e. understanding of humanity’s hopelessness on her own terms) I’ve always had the desire to explore these connections.

This said, over the next month or so I want to do just that.  I will be diving into individual songs showing both the truth of them and the way the Gospel (the story of God’s one-way love) interacts with them.  Right off the bat I will admit that I may butcher the meaning of some of the songs, but I’m looking at the way they have spoken to me and I think the good people at Radiohead would be OK with that.

In my next post I’ll be exploring the themes in Radiohead’s most recognizable hit, “Creep.”

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