When the new Radiohead video was released on their website last month, the attention of even the most avid fans seemed to be focused not on the other-worldly bassline or staccato beats, nor even Thom's pleasantly mournful keening. The common consensus seemed to be: Forget the music - have you seen his dancing?!
Maybe it was the shock of seeing a man with such a sober, introspective public image shimmying like a sex machine and body popping like an extra from Breakdance 3: Robo-nerd - an arresting spectacle indeed. But many of the comments from fans seemed to suggest that Thom was somehow ruining, or demeaning, the performance of the song by choosing to dance to it as if wigging out at his own private high school prom.
Admittedly, Thom is no Fred Astaire, nor even a Jarvis Cocker when it comes to elegance of movement. He's probably only too aware of that - you suspect he had his tongue at least part-way inside his cheek throughout. But I, for one, applaud him for expressing his response to music in the most honest, natural and individual way possible - by dancing.
What is music for if not losing yourself in the intense feelings it provokes, without fear of disapproval, ridicule or sneers from one's peers?
I don't trust any fan of rock'n'roll who doesn't dance - if you just want to stroke your chin and applaud politely, then maybe you're better suited to a night at the opera. This is a form of music whose very name is synonymous with sex and whose backbeat was designed for frugging. Passive consumption of popular music is like sex with a blow-up doll - it's better than nothing, but you're really not getting the full experience...
This sense of reserve also dampens the atmosphere at a lot of rock gigs. At some shows you'll find a good 80 per cent of the crowd standing stock still, maybe nodding a head at most, unwilling even to wave their hands in the air like they just don't care when prompted by a rabble-rousing frontperson. Because evidently they do 'care' - far too much - about what others might think of them.
This conservative approach to self-expression is equally common among rock musicians. Can you imagine Kings Of Leon doing an impromptu Watusi in single-minded pursuit of the groove? Will Arctic Monkeys get an attack of blushes if they do anything more with their feet than tap them? Will Liam Gallagher explode with shame if he ever takes his hands from behind his back while singing? Thank God for the ladies, eh?
Trouble is, they're all way too cool to express themselves in anything but the most restrained, conventional ways. Fans buy into that approach, which means as soon as soon as someone does the opposite and expresses themselves in a totally unselfconscious way, they are considered an embarrassment.
It's the same disease that spread through rock during the prog era, when musicians would sit on stools, as if showing out on stage would somehow trivialize or cheapen their art. But forbidding themselves from such forms of instinctive expression ultimately made for music which might have had cerebral appeal, but which was useless for 'pulling' to.
If we value authentic forms of artistic expression, then we should all be looking to lose ourselves in music more often, even if we do bear a passing resemblance to the fella from Napoleon Dynamite. Eccentricity and individuality is an all too rare and precious commodity in music these days, and making a fool of yourself is all part of the glorious catharsis and liberation from social constraints that rock'n'roll provides. And ultimately, as Mr. Adam Ant so wisely pointed out - Ridicule is nothing to be scared of.
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