As I write this, I'm listening to Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele for the second time this afternoon. Amanda Palmer is one of those amazingly talented people that I like so much I almost hate, because she gets to be a rock star and be married to Neil Gaiman. For the moment, I'm going to ignore all the hard work she undoubtedly put into her musical career and decide that the universe has doled out unfair amounts of cool to certain people.
Anyway, Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Works of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele is exactly what it sounds like. Amanda Palmer, ukulele in hand, singing Radiohead. And it is, as advertised, magical. I should mention here that I was in high school in the late '90s and early '00s, right after the release of Radiohead's OK Computer, when Radiohead was in heavy rotation on my local alternative radio station and every black-clad art freak I knew and respected had adopted "Creep" as his or her own personal anthem.
Some might argue that performing the soul-wrenching songs of Radiohead on a such a cheerful instrument as the ukulele is only another symptom of my generation's obsession with irony. (See: 20-something guitar players wearing Girl Scout shirts.) While I'm sure the irony isn't lost on anyone, I think the album works in a sincere way, too. There's something perfectly melancholy about singing "Creep," backed by the sunny pluck and strum of a ukulele. Sometimes society demands that we smile and act upbeat when things are, frankly, shitty. Or sometimes one good thing can pull us through a bad situation. That's what this album sounds like to me, the struggle between being honest about how bad things have gotten, not burdening other people with your own troubles, and not losing hope altogether.