About The Pennds

The Pennds is: Jared Rosenberg, Steve Waye, Andrew Bielen & Charlie Isaacs.

Mission Statement: The Pennds explores Radiohead from an academic perspective. We go beyond notions of active listening in favor of involved perception, in order to better understand the band's work. We do not assign superlatives; in fact we challenge those that exist. Using the framework of discourse, we aim not to pin down the essence of Radiohead, but rather to set free that concept, to give it pliable spirit.

Special Thanks to Al Filreis for making this (and so much more) possible.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Radiohead As Activists

Radiohead announced (somewhat haphazardly) on DeadAirSpace in the last few days that they will be playing a benefit concert this weekend in LA, with proceeds going to relief efforts in Haiti. No glossy campaign, no heroic press release, no teaming up with huge corporations to sell a Radiohead-flavored consumer product, just a pair of rather informal notifications from drummer Phil Selway. Which got me to thinking... Radiohead is quietly one of the most vocal groups in this modern era of super-charities. Case in point: U2 records a song with Jay-Z to play at an MTV telethon for Haitian relief, Radiohead books a show at a tiny LA theater and auctions the tickets.

When Radiohead picks up a cause, it seems they do it if not the "right" reasons, then at least for earnest ones. Thom snuck in to the Copenhagen climate conferences (alone, and with no fanfare), wherefrom he posted his scathing (and rather disjointed) opinions. No "official celeb activist correspondent" status. Just a long, ranting lament on DAS after a series of little "reports" (scroll down for all of them), and a couple of youtube vids, none of which garnered more than a few thousand views. An attempt to get the point across. No face-time. No personal glory.

We already knew Radiohead are probably allergic to limelight, and this is just another manifestation of that fact. And just like I wonder how this bunch of aloof weirdos manages to infiltrate popular culture so intensely, how they balance fame and commercial success with their borderline sociopathic personalities, I sit here amazed that they are consistently among the most vociferous proponents for a variety of causes (most notably climate change), and yet you'd only know it if you cared to find out. Maybe that's the point.



  1. Aloof weirdos with a social conscience. Good stuff!

  2. A lot of us get annoyed with Bono and all his pomp, but the fact is that his high profile allows him access to meetings with the Presidents of major nations. Last February he raised over $40 million dollars in one night alone for his AIDS charity, (RED), with a successful art auction. While he definitely rubs me the wrong way, the man has done a massive amount of good in a very quantifiable ways.

    I've always respected Radiohead's (and particularly Thom's) views that radical action must be taken against climate change. They post up eye links on DeadAirSpace, which raise awareness. And watching Thom share a stage with Bono would be laughable for the juxtaposition of egos. I don't know the full extent of their social activism, but this might be a good topic to throw in, perhaps to the week on Internet/Band Image.

    Anyway, to get to my point...it's great to see that their heart is in the right place (making it about the relief effort and not trying to cop publicity out of it) but image aside, might not their efforts be helped by the publicity the go to such lengths to shun? Their quest to look like they DON'T care about that stuff is in many ways as superficial as a lot of Bono's preening, and in the long run likely makes their activism less fruitful.

    This starts to touch on a lot of the contradictions that will make studying them such a puzzle. Great first post.