The Church of Listening to Radiohead

So via , I found out about at I Blame The Patriarchy, which stumps for an end to all sorts of ritual–religious, and, it seems, otherwise. Imagine there’s no heaven/God/communion/baby dedication service where the kid won’t freakin’ quit crying. Hm.

I don’t think I’m ready to go there. Yes, the last time I was in church was for my sister’s wedding (and a lovely wedding it was!). No, I have no intention of sitting through a religious service any time soon. But theres still something about ritual–completely apart from any symbolic meaning–that’s not only comforting, but gives me a sense of something bigger than myself, a transcendent communal feeling. It’s not a spiritual manifestation… I think it’s the combination of sensory overloads. The smell of incense… the sound of stately music echoing off arched rafters overhead… the shattered rainbow of half-light streaming through stained-glass windows. That’s the part I like. I think it may be the part that got me into medievalism in the first place.

There must be others out there who like the general solemnity of High Church ritual without buying into the belief system behind it. If this describes you… I humbly present, for your consideration, the Church of Listening to Radiohead.

Picture the scene: a stone-walled, or perhaps timber-framed building, on a Sunday morning. (But not early in the morning. Early Sunday mornings are reserved for the entirely different secular ritual of reading the Times and drinking coffee.)  Rows of high-backed wooden pews (note: these pews are comfortable and have nice fuzzy cushions on them. Maybe they even rock back and forth like the chairs at the new movie theater.). Flickering candles clustered near the entrance and set into sconces lining the aisles. As you take your seat, the spiky-haired usher hands you your communion cup, filled with your choice of ancient-vines Zinfandel or frothy Guinness (or, for the less alcoholically inclined, some steaming dark-roasted Fair Trade coffee). Go ahead and drink it now if you like–you can get a refill later.

The celebrant ascends the platform at the front of the room. She welcomes you all very briefly, then presses a button on the lectern and goes down to take her seat somewhere among the congregation.

An expectant pause of a few seconds–then a warm electronic hum rises in the air, followed by Thom Yorke’s plaintive reverb-laden cry: "Ev’rythiiiiiiiiiiiing… in its riiiiiiight plaaaaaace…" And another service at the Church of Listening to Radiohead has begun.

No sermon. No prayers. No tithing, no "small groups," no hymns, no moralizing, no guilt, no unified worldview to which you must adhere. Just you, the tasty beverage of your choice, and the chance to listen uninterrupted to Radiohead on a really bitchin’ stereo system for an hour or so. And then afterwards, if you want, you can hang out and grab another beer with your fellow congregants and then maybe go on a mountain bike ride or out to lunch or something. Or you can just go home and get on with your Sunday.

(Why Radiohead? Because their music has a dense, layered sound suitable for amplification in an acoustically echo-ey environment, overlain by an omnipresent keyboard that reminds me of a church organ, typically set at a slow, deliberate tempo that lends itself to unconscious back-and-forth swaying like that of people in deep religious ecstasy. But without the religious part, and probably without the ecstasy part too. Radiohead’s pretty damn depressing.)

And since this "church" involves no actual belief system, holding nothing sacred (hey! Radiohead’s next album could suck and be totally unsuited to communal High Church listening. Probably won’t happen, but it could.), we obviously can’t call it the Church of Radiohead. The Church of Listening to Radiohead is a much more accurate name.

I look forward to applying for tax-exempt status and opening an umbrella organization for homeschoolers in Tennessee, where non-college graduates can’t homeschool their kids except under the aegis of a church. More homeschooled kids should spend more time listening to Radiohead.

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About Molly Newman

Writer, cook and trivia/spelling bee hostess, living it up in North Portland.
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4 Responses to The Church of Listening to Radiohead

  1. Mike says:

    As a parent myself- I always question if the excessive exposure to Thom Yorkes incessant whining will damage their brains- My wife won’t let me listen to Radiohead in the car anymore, although my 16 year old sings along to My Iron Lung with me at the top of our lungs in provate moments (normally in the car, which is the only place where Radiohead is welcome). Thanks for the Church of Radiohead entry- makes me feel less alone- LOL!

  2. Dave says:

    I have never really understood why, but my life is entirely without ritual. I don’t do anything the same in any recognizable pattern. Definitively nothing daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. It has been a source of concern for me and the topic of some discussion with people tolerant enough to get into such a discussion. Many people insist that I must have some sort of ritual and if I don’t then I should get one (at least).
    Attending the Church of Radiohead might be something I could build a ritual around although I might propose expanding it to the Church of Music (with everything else described above the same). A pint of Guinness, a collection of music lovers, a comfy chair and excellent acoustics all sound like my type of gathering.

  3. forsen says:

    Consider me a in, as long as it’s compatible with pastafarianism. I’ve been hooked since I saw the music video for “Street Spirit (Fade Out) at age 12. “Everything…” is a great mind-bending track, but for the mass I would use “Fake Plastic Trees” and “No Surprises”… they posess a certain hymn-like quality. Heck, we can use it all.

  4. ropan says:

    Great idea, did anything ever come of this?
    found you on: http://www.scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/05/donothing_atheists_and_reignit.php
    I’m guessing there is a correlation between people reading about atheism and Radiohead?
    Cheers…

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