“Is ‘Like Spinning Plates’ a Song Orphaned by Experimentalism?”

* Precursor: whoa, I wasn’t expecting that to be an actual word.

Experimentalism: reliance on or advocacy of experimental or empirical principles and procedures.

Now, of course, nobody would mistake this current age we’re living in with an “experimental” one. For instance, the journal Pitchfork, which typically just about guides the helm for people who want to have the same taste in everything as everybody else, dismissed one of my favorite albums, Lower Dens’ Nootropics, as experimental. Then, they proceeded to posit that an album I found way too poppy, Escape from Evil, was the artistic breakthrough at hand. But to me it just sounded like Beach House. I guess I value originality in music more than some of the newbies. 

Original, Radiohead definitely is, and original, penultimate Ammesiac track “Like Spinning Plates” definitely is, in both its initial, bizarre studio form and the gallant, wondrous reincarnation it was gifted on the band’s Amnesiac-concurrent live album I Might Be Wrong. Actually, it represents what I’d probably say was a particular impetus in many artists around this time to deliberately make their music weird, maybe if only as a way of giving us bloggers something extra to talk about and scratch our heads over. As far as what might have been feeding into this ambition toward estrangement, one obvious answer would be as a rebellion against Britney Spears and boy bands, which had basically initiated a hostile takeover of MTV in 1999 (to then be followed by, essentially, reality TV shows where music manifested only intermittently).

But Radiohead were always of the disposition pretty askance before the “guitar rock god” trope, as would be evident on the deeply satirical and biting “Anyone Can Play Guitar” on their solid debut record Pablo Honey. Kid A and Amnesiac, then, would be the physical outplay of this discerning compunction at which the band hinted strongly on “Anyone Can Play Guitar.” Anyway, another thing the band were probably thinking was that downloading would pretty much lacerate their potential for selling lots of records, so it’s not like it matters if you’re too weird anyway — let’s punish these gluttonous, avaricious listeners with “Kid A” positioned second on that album and “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors” third on Amnesiac, an electro album by a band that had never been electro before, save for “Idioteque” and “Morning Bell,” and which would use the cheapest, most elementary kick and snare sounds to achieve said genre. 

But on the live album, “Like Spinning Plates” grew these beautiful feathers as a piano/vox number, like the opener on Cat Power’s You Are Free a bit, and equally dark, haunting and gorgeous, as it were. The irony is that so many more people have heard the Amnesiac version — a spliced and fu**ed Cubist adventure in vocal bizarro lyrics and half-sounds — than the I Might Be Wrong rendition that’s way more listenable and palatable. It’s six million to three million streams on Spotify, as it turns out, and the only reason has to be just its placement on a lower-profile album, since “Plates” is one of the least-streamed Amnesiac tracks and most-streamed live ones. But I mean, for further proof that Radiohead don’t really give a da** about us, you could look to the fact that they only have 13 albums available on Spotify, total, including live albums, and I Might Be Wrong is their sole live output. Sh**, Bon Jovi probably has more than that. 

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