Radiohead: Meeting People Is Easy
Radiohead's first hit, "Creep," couldn't have been more blatant in presenting its theme of alienation; maybe that's why the single and the album from which it came, 1993's Pablo Honey, were so boring. By the time Radiohead got around to making its 1997 masterpiece OK Computer, however, the band had learned to communicate its intentions almost telepathically. OK Computer couldn't be more oblique, but its dark echoes of loneliness and alienation still resonate loud and clear from amid the conceptual clutter. Then again, maybe that wasn't much of a feat after all. With each subsequent release, it's become more apparent that everything Radiohead touches turns to a tale of alienation, never more overtly than in Meeting People Is Easy. A feature-length documentary filmed by the group's "No Surprises" video collaborator Grant Gee, the movie follows the band on its world tour in support of OK Computer. Coming from the band's perspective, the constant barrage of questions, flashbulbs, and anonymous airport lobbies must be a little disorienting, not to mention psychologically taxing. But on the other hand, Radiohead doesn't seem averse to the trials of stardom: At this point, no one is forcing the band to do photo shoots or interviews, and the group is certainly rewarded for its efforts to make contact with its adoring public. Meeting People Is Easy is thus an uneasy combination of travelogue and pity party. Granted, the group does seem honestly uncomfortable with its status as rock-star saviors, but it seems no one has informed Radiohead that with fame comes veto power. If singer Thom Yorke doesn't want to be a cog in the machine, all he has to do is break free, though to do so may be to sacrifice some of fame's perks. Not surprisingly, the band glosses over this option by instead making an enemy of the voracious and malicious media, whose inane interrogations gradually wear it down. But no matter how accomplished or ironically presentedand it's extremely well put togetherMeeting People Is Easy is ultimately just more product, with the band doing its best to ignore the fact that even as it confesses its complaints to the camera, it's still selling itself. Yorke may look like he's dying during the filming of the "No Surprises" video, but he's also grinning when someone hands him a gold record.