Monday 22 May 2017

Conspiracies, blobs and WTFs?

Niall Byrne

When Arcade Fire were announced as the surprise winners of the Album Of The Year award at The Grammys by a discombobulated Barbra Streisand, thousands fired up their Twitter and Facebook accounts and began to ask "Who the hell are RK Fire?" or as Streisand's confused announcement had led people to people "Who the hell are The Suburbs? Bieber and Gaga fans, in particular, felt uncharacteristically duped and all of these incredulous reactions were screengrabbed and posted on the Tumblr blog Who Is Arcade Fire? (whoisarcadefire.tumblr.com). It was a great reminder of how fractured our cultural worlds are.

It's easier to imagine then, that those same Beliebers would be scared out of their minds by The Flaming Lips' latest musical idea. Charmingly entitled Two Blobs F**king, the Oklahoma band, who are known for their forays into sonic experimentation and participation, posted 12 YouTube videos (youtube.com/flaminglipsfree), each with different music and visuals. The band then asked people to play them simultaneously via their browsers, smartphones, tablets, etc.

The resulting audio/visual mix is pretty trippy. Quelle surprise! If you don't want to go to the hassle of trying it all yourself (and I don't totally blame you), then you can see the resulting A/V mix at (bit.ly/twoblobs).

Everyone has now had a week to get acquainted with Radiohead's new album The King Of Limbs. But a week is also enough time for conspiracy theories to rise to the top. Theories seem to have started primarily because of the album's tracklisting, which runs to only eight songs, and the fact that the band have previously released a follow-up album from the same studio sessions before as they did with Amnesiac after the release of Kid A.

Thirty-odd minutes of output in four years is pretty low, so a follow-up would be expected reasonably soon. The fact that the last track was supposedly renamed to Separator and features the lyrics "If you think this is over/Then you're wrong". Would suggest that too.

Others point to the purchase order ID, which starts with 'TKOL1', suggesting a part two in future. The active Radiohead message board AtEase is full of tenuous links. One of the five people that Thom Yorke follows on Twitter, @decath10n, has referenced future plans with the tweet: "Suppressing my disappointment that 'Present Tense' didn't make it to the new album... yet."

Add that to various fake file names on Last.FM and iTunes screenshots purported to be a second disc of tracks, and some really imaginative explanations (bit.ly/rheadtheories) and you've got the typical fanatical conspiracies that form around popular rock bands. See also the recent suggestion that LCD Soundsystem's last ever gig ticket fiasco was a hoax by the band for more publicity (bit.ly/lcdhoax).

Maybe Radiohead fans should concentrate on the eight songs they do actually have, or is this their way of expressing disappointment with the album? Well, there is one silver lining in all this. It's the Thom Yorke dance meme! His slithering moves in the Lotus Flower video have inspired many a video mash-up, from Benny Hill-style to Beyonce's All The Single Ladies and beyond (bit.ly/thomdance). The King Of Limbs, indeed.

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