Radiohead seems bigger than the sum of its parts. I happen to think their music is fantastic but I have just got this niggle that their music alone shouldn't be so big. Isn't it too drony for most people?
With The Tipping Point still kicking about in my mind from a recent re-read I can't help but feel some of their success can be attributed to their seriously innovative activity away from their instruments, like the video above where instead of capturing light bouncing off them (like a camera does) they have captured something else bouncing off and played around with the data. Then there's the web-only free album and all the remixing possibilities they create, like the video above, which comes with Google Code to make your own visualisations. This remix property is something Kevin Kelly predicted:
"Once music is digitized it becomes a liquid that can be morphed and migrated and flexed and linked. You can filter it, bend it, archive it, rearrange it, remix it, mess with it." Radiohead seem to be pushing people into this stage; other bands are still coming to grips with stage two, freeness.
Perennially operating on the edge lends a serious ding to the band's cachet. For one, it acts to get the attention of early adopters. It also may create a 'Coke effect'. In blind taste tests most people rate Pepsi as tasting better. When they see the labels Coke is preferred. Brand associations literally change taste perception. Radiohead's associations might literally change music perception or force people to give it 'more of a try' because cool early adopters, people who are serious about music, are serious about Radiohead.
Or maybe the slightly drony alienated sound is just what people like.
(Thanks very much to Faris who mentioned this post on his blog)