On Radiohead’s ‘FITTER HAPPIER’

You know, whenever this song comes on the ol’ iPod, I almost always hit the >> because how many times can you hear a computer-generated voice say the same shit before it becomes rote. The album from whence it comes (OK COMPUTER, for those who have been in a cave or coma) has been out since 1997, after all. But like all art worthy of multiple looks, there is more to this than meets the tired ear. Especially when yr riding yr bike home from a hard day at 11 o’clock at night–I find that this is the time when I do some of my most revelatory thinking.

So last night I’m peddling up this hill and this “song’ comes on and because I am really pushing and can’t afford to let go of a handle to fast forward, I am forced to listen to it. Being as it’s right after the 10 year anniversary of the biggest catastrophe to hit our land in generations, what first strikes me is how pre-9/11 the piece sounds. And, subsequently, how pre-Mortgage-bubble-burst/economy collapse/Great Recession it all is. Just the two word phrase “At ease” sounds antiquated. I don’t personally know a single person who feels “at ease” about a single fucking thing. We’ve been at war for a decade now. And regardless of political declarations of official warzone “pull-outs, all of us know there’s no end in sight to any of it, Bin Laden shot in the face and buried at sea or not. It’s positively Orwellian, and we all know it, whether we have a close personal relationship with 1984 or not…

So as the piece progresses, I start thinking that this is the first time I’ve ever thought that Radiohead’s everywhere-trumpeted prescience has been seriously undercut by jack-booted reality. Hell, if anything (I was thinking as I peddled that monster fuck of a hill), we should be nostalgic for a time when our biggest problems was that it seemed like we had it all figured out, that were moronicly naive: We were regularly exercising 3 days a week, weren’t eating saturated fats, enjoyed drinks now and then, cried at good films (to prove to ourselves we were still human and “real” despite our robotic consumerism)…our kids safely secured in our well-tired cars.

But then, just as I crested the hill, I realized that Thom Yorke and Company might have pulled another fast one. Maybe, even though FITTER HAPPIER was released a good 4+ years before 9/11 changed everything for everyone, Thom was doing something more than merely holding the mirror up to our fragile sense of security and self-assurance, a wink in his glinting eye. Maybe he wasn’t just saying we’re pathetic when we think we have it all figured out, when in reality we’re just pigs in cages jacked on antibiotics. Maybe he was saying that that pre-9/11 feel was ALWAYS illusion. That we were never safe in the first place. Maybe he was saying enjoy these petty advances you’ve made in your lives while you can because soon, very soon, that cozy shag rug is gonna be pulled out from all of us.

Or maybe I was just overloaded on endorphins and lack of oxygen. All I know is that nearly every single person I know is struggling to keep treaded tires on their cars (if they still even own one) and is one lost paycheck away from eviction notices, can barely afford to go to a doctor let alone stay swimming in antibiotics, and gave the cats to the pound because it was just two too many mouths to feed.



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