Tim Carmody gives props to Radiohead for their rare combination of longevity and relevance.
Still, I think music fans and cultural observers need to grapple with this a little: Radiohead’s first album, Pablo Honey, came out 18 years ago. Here’s another way to think about it: when that album came out, I was 13; now I’m 31. And from at least The Bends to the present, they’ve commanded the attention of the musical press and the rock audience as one of the top ten — or higher — bands at any given moment. You might have loved Radiohead, you might have been bored by them, you might have wished they’d gone back to an earlier style you liked better, but you always had to pay attention to them, and know where you stood. For 18 years. That’s an astonishing achievement.
As Anil has his hands busy with a new baby, I’ll wade in here and point out that Tim’s examples don’t include any pop, rap, R&B, or hip hop. Jay-Z hasn’t been around as long as Radiohead, but he’s getting there. The Beastie Boys had at least 15 years. Madonna and Michael Jackson each had 20 culturally relevant years, more or less. I’m probably forgetting a few, but yeah, that’s still not a long list.