Getting Lost In Rock ‘n’ Roll Symbols

These are the people who believe Courtney Love murdered Kurt Cobain. They hear alien messages in Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced. They think that Paul McCartney is dead.

Let’s stereotype for a second. Those who hunt for conspiracies in music usually have greasy hair. They wear cargo pants with too many pockets. They like to rant in an obnoxious near-shout. They make you feel guilty for listening to pop music and for not understanding references to drugs recorded backwards on vinyl.

There are websites and books devoted to their crackpot theories. The Vigilant Citizen site, for example, attempts to interpret the occult symbols of pop music and videos. In the Citizen’s most infamous article, “Lady Gaga, the Illuminati Puppet,” the site asserted that the pop icon used references to Fritz Lang’s 1927 film “Metropolis” and the all-seeing eye (among others) to support mind control.

According to the Citizen, Gaga is “a puppet who embodies exactly what the public represents in the eyes of the elite: mindless drones, mannequins, remote- controlled robots, hypnotized degenerates incapable of thinking coherently.”

I can only imagine what the dude who wrote that article is like. He’s probably a blast at dinner parties.

“Oh hey, have you seen the ‘Born This Way’ video? Weird, right?”

“Ah yes. The references to Baphomet were entirely too obvious, but the video serves as a prime example of the Illuminati agenda.”

Let me italicize for emphasis: really fucking weird.

But alas, I am now no better. In my fanatical post-King of Limbs bliss I discovered the most remarkable theory about Radiohead, and I fell for it like every Thom Yorke freak on the planet.

Allow me to explain. Radiohead’s 2007 hit In Rainbows was released on Oct. 10 (10/10), exactly 10 years after their 1997 magnum opus, OK Computer. Both album titles have exactly 10 letters and each album has 10 tracks. After the announcement of In Rainbows, the band posted 10 cryptic messages on their web site — all of which emphasized the letter “x” (they used phrases like “March Wa X” and “Xendless Xurbia”), the Roman numeral for 10 — and released the album 10 days later. Even the album cover for In Rainbows swapped the “i’s” and “o’s” in the band’s name for ones and zeroes. In fact, the working title for OK Computer was actually Zeroes and Ones — the mirror image of 10.

This all adds up, obviously, to one clear theory: Radiohead crafted a binary code of ones and zeroes across the albums, thereby allowing you to combine the two into one decade-spanning mega album. To create the trippy playlist, just start with the first track from OK Computer, “Airbag,” and follow with In Rainbows’ track one, “15 Step.” Then, just alternate the albums track by track, using OK Computer’s “Fitter Happier” as the filler between the two halves.

Finally, add a 10-second crossfade between tracks on your iTunes preferences and begin to trip balls.

After enough bong rips, the songs actually sound like they were meant to be played this way. The four drum beats at the end of “Airbag” set the new tempo for “15 Step”; the reverb from “Subterranean Homesick Alien” lingers into “Nude.” Lyrical themes even emerge from one song to the next (though ideas of paranoia and anxiety are prevalent among all of their work, and may also be amplified by your substance of choice).

Theories aren’t new to the band, either; Chuck Klosterman famously wrote of Kid A’s peculiar prediction of 9/11 in his book “Killing Yourself to Live,” and the band even hid a booklet underneath the case of that album, which included lyrics that would appear on future releases Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief.

It’s likely that Thom Yorke and co. are just fuck- ing with their fans’ propensity for overanalysis. Either way, my listening habits have been destroyed. Goodbye sweet normalcy, hello listening to every record I own backwards (just in case). But hey, at least I have a small sense of pride in knowing that I will always opt for skinny jeans over cargo pants.