When indie-rock saints Radiohead released their latest album, “The King of Limbs,” for free on the internet two weeks ago, the internet had the usual response: foaming-at-the-mouth ecstasy. The band has been pushing genre boundaries in its music for nearly two decades, so what better opportunity for a look back on how far they’ve come? Thanks to Jamie Gurnell’s infographic “A Genre,” Radiohead fans can do just that.
Gurnell wanted to classify the activities of a band he deems “the very definition of ‘unclassifiable.'” The product of “several hours of quite enjoyable listening and debate,” his infographic is, of course, just one man’s opinion of Radiohead’s musical zigs and zags over its 18-year existence (technically the band was formed in 1985, but its first real release, “Pablo Honey,” came out in 1993). Besides the fact that the band is in essence more alt-rock than electronic, they’re literally all over the map.
If you like their wonky electronic work as much as I do, simply follow the vertical line down the center of the graph (“Kid A” and “Amnesiac” are obviously represented, but so is “Pablo Honey”). And if you think that the band has gotten hopelessly esoteric since its blockbuster 1995 release “The Bends,” the graph proves that even later albums like “Hail to the Thief” and “In Rainbows” offer plenty of straight-ahead alt-rock tracks.
In fact, if Gurnell’s infographic had an interactive element, it could be a powerful tool for filtering Radiohead tracks by genre preference. Any Radiohead-loving code monkeys out there feel like taking on a weekend project? Even if not, variety is still a good thing — which is why Radiohead has stayed relevant almost twice as long as the Beatles did, as musical tastes (and business practices) constantly shift under their feet.