For a minute there, I lost myself: The story of a love that goes beyond time and space

Some music transcends its purpose as song and becomes an experiment in self-awareness. The medium of sound and silence shifts into an analogy for breathing and suffocating. You start correlating the thickness of the music’s texture to the people of your life and their timbre, as opposed to the layering of instruments. Pitch stops being a perceptual property and becomes an excruciatingly physical sensation that you feel deep within your bones, your muscles, and your blood. Damn it, you start sensing the frequencies vibrating inside your esophagus, and the involuntary muscles of your body become slaves to the tempo, contracting and expanding with the notes of the music.

Most music is not transcendental to me, regardless of how much I enjoy it.

Radiohead is.

My story with Radiohead is practically auto-biographical. In the 15 years since I first heard “Creep”, their music has become a reflection of my life and my being. I was 13 when I fell in love with my first Radiohead song. It was around the time “OK Computer” came out, and way before “Amnesiac”, “In Rainbows”, or “Hail the the Thief”. My first song wasn’t from “OK Computer” though (we can all agree that that album wasn’t designed for 13-year-old girls): it was “Creep”, from their 1992 debut album “Pablo Honey”.

A boy I was in love with sent me the MP3 file, and it was the most excruciatingly painful thing I ever heard in my life. I was instantly addicted, playing the track over and over again. I couldn’t relate to the lyrics (as a teenager, I believed I was too cool for my own good), but there was something so beautiful about “Creep” that I wanted to do nothing but get lost in the sad, sad pain of Thom Yorke.

During the rest of my teenage years, I explored Radiohead with agony, swallowing them in bites larger than I could chew. I didn’t know how to feel every time I heard a new album. I realized the gorgeousness of their music, but I still had not developed a feel for the experimental electronica that I now love so much. I listened to Radiohead anyway, often to impress the boy who introduced me to them. He had good taste in music, and to this day, his love of Pink Floyd, Oasis, and Tool greatly influenced my own musical preferences.

Then right as I started university, Radiohead released “Hail to the Thief”, and my uncomfortable appreciation turned into love. That album marked an important year in my life. I had just moved to Jordan, I became the proud owner of my first car, and I spent many, many hours discovering who-the-fuck-Roba-is in Amigo’s, a little rock pub in Jabal Amman. “Sit Down Stand Up” and “2+2=5” perfectly embodied my awakening as an individual and my rising frustration from being a part of a backwards system.

Several years later in 2007, five months after I started my first full-time job, “In Rainbows” was released. For around a year, it was the only album on my iTunes library at work, and it was during this time that Radiohead started becoming transcendental to me. Thom Yorke says that “In Rainbows” is based on “that anonymous fear thing, sitting in traffic, thinking, ‘I’m sure I’m supposed to be doing something else’. The lyrics are quite caustic—the idea of ‘before you’re comatose’ or whatever, drinking yourself into oblivion and getting fucked-up to forget … [there] is partly this elation. But there’s a much darker side.”

The darkness of death and pain came into my life as the album continued to be the only thing in my iTunes playlist, and the darkness only started abating around the time they released their most recent studio album “The King of Limbs”. The latter is light and airy, with a lot of white space. Although I’ve listened to it over a hundred times, I have no idea what the lyrics say. It’s just an experience in elation, very much like how my life has been in the past two years.

Somehow though, this elation I feel now affects all of Radiohead’s music. Listening to them is like drinking a very stiff drink. Their music triggers feelings of pain and joy in exactly the same millisecond, sending my brain into a رحلة إنفصلم, where I lose control over my muscles as I try to make sense of all the contradictory things I feel allatthesamedamntime.

I am sitting on the floor and the woodsy fragrance of my teenage bedroom’s carpeted floor is attacking my senses. I am 18 and it just started snowing lightly, but I don’t care because I’m heading to Books with a guy I like. I am at work, furiously fighting to finish a deadline. I am 25 and unhappy, sitting outside on my balcony watching the rain and smoking a cigarette. I am 13, writing an essay for my English teacher. I am drunk somewhere, feeling the frenzy of their music, screaming the lyrics at the top of my lungs. I am at the hospital, my dad dying on the bed across from me. I am 27, lost in new old sensations.

That’s what being transcendental is about. My heartbeat slows down. My mind is gone.

Silence.






9 Comments »

  1. محمد

    January 31, 2013 @ 11:57 am

    Thanks a lot Roba for sharing this. I can 90% relate to what you have written.
    I do not usually write comments, but I had to write something after reading this…
    Since the time I started listening to real music (anything more advanced that backstreet boys and such music), I have been a huge Pink Floyd fan. Since then, I still listen to something Pink Floyd almost everyday… well until almost two months ago where I started to listen only to Radiohead. Mainly “Ok computer” album, “Amnesiac” album, and “All I need” from Rainbows. As you said, sometimes I have no idea what the lyrics are, but I do not feel that it matters anyways. After I read them, I discover that they really are worth understanding.
    Till now I am not able to go back to listen to anything else :)

  2. Roba

    January 31, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

    I can relate :) I’ve had their entire discography in my car for a bit over a month now and nothing else. Pablo Honey can get really annoying though so I understand why you don’t include it.
    “In Rainbows” has lots of fantastic tracks though… If you like “Amnesiac” (my favorite album), you’ll enjoy Faust Arp, House of Cards, and Nude.

  3. محمد

    January 31, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

    I listened to all their albums, but these were the most I could keep on listening over and over again :) But for sure, after reading what you said about “In Rainbows” in your article, I will try to listen to it more, well to see if I’ll feel what Thom said coz I am really in the mood that is telling me “I’m sure I’m supposed to be doing something else”…

    Let us see. Will try to update in this regards :)

  4. Roba

    January 31, 2013 @ 12:12 pm

    Cool, will be waiting for your update then :)

  5. Abd

    January 31, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

    Radiohead is a great band, but to me they fall under “mainstream” category. There is a band I started to listen to 2004 I think, they called Antimatter, I am not sure if you know them, but ex Anathema bass player Duncan Pattersson formed it with Mick Moss.

    Well, relating to what you said in your blog, I sense that feeling, being lost, being lonely, drowing in thousands of disturbing emotions when I listen to Antimatter. One of my fav songs for them is Fighting for a Lost Cause from Leaving Eden release. There I really feel pity for anyone in that situation, where your will being stripped away from you, it reminds me of the Lich King…..

    If you like Radiohead, I really recommend you to listen to Antimatter, specially Planetary Confinement and Leaving Eden releases.

  6. Roba

    January 31, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

    Abd, I actually haven’t heard of them :) Will download a few tracks. Thanks for the recommendation!

  7. Abd

    January 31, 2013 @ 1:09 pm

    Hey, glad you will check them (him) out
    Personal fav from each release
    Saviour : Flowers, Angelic, Gowing nowhere, the last laugh
    Lights out: The art of soft landing, dream, lights out
    Planetary Confinement: The weight of the world, Epitaph, Legions
    Leaving Eden: Fighting for a Lost cause, The freak show, conspire, ghosts…

    First two releases more ambient/electronica.. later two.. more rock/acoustic guitars.

  8. محمد

    February 3, 2013 @ 10:57 am

    Hi Roba,
    I guess it would not be surprising to you that after “really” listening to the album the first time, my comment was: “Waaaaaaaaaallll ! keef ma ntabahteloush la hal album min 2bl!” (try to guess the accent :) ).
    I think I was not listening when I was listening to it, or probably it was because of the first two annoying tracks (not annoying anymore after listening to them for more than 50 times :) ).
    Nude, Weird Fishes, All I need, Faust Arp, House of Cards, Videotape are amazing!
    Some of the lyrics are so catchy and really fit in the “need to change” mood. “Why should I stay here? … Everybody leaves if they get their chances.” I guess here he is talking about some love relationship (or actually the end of it), but to me it fits in a different perspective :)
    Faust Arp reminds me of Nick Drake’s music… gloomy and beautiful.
    House of Cards is my new favorite!
    Videotape is a great song to end such an album.

    I can say that important decisions have been made listening to this album.

    Thanks Roba

  9. Roba

    February 3, 2013 @ 11:08 am

    Yaay, I’m happy to hear that! :)
    What an awesome comment :)
    and hehe, I can’t figure out the accent… I have become immune to accents (unless someone says “jobneh”).
    By the way, I wasn’t able to find much music for Antimatter outside of torrents (and I listen to music at work so I can’t download torrents), jay 3a balak teb3atli akamen oghneyeh to my email?

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