Just finished Dai Griffiths' Ok Computer. There are so many passages that are Ron Sillimanesque in their close reading approach that it's hard to pick one. A sense of the generally Asperger's-lite-o-lishishness might be demonstrated with this:
"Thus, in simple quantitative terms the tracks on OK Computer average 4.27 each; however, if the notably short track seven is removed, the average length is 4.40. This is longer than Radiohead's previous album The Bends, where the average length of tracks was 4.03. That may not seem a big deal, but in music in general, the world of the pop song in particular , a minute is a very long time indeed."
The Griffiths, like Ron when he's in close reading mode, obsessively paces around the cartographic parameter of the album, with a strict distance maintained, constantly referring back to the most literal (and littoral) issues of production and presentation as grounding points.
Here's another example, this time dealing with York's Lyrics:
"...there seems to be a lot of internal alliteration, rhyme even (landfill/kill), all on the theme of h and l: heart, full landfill, slowly, kills, bruises, heal, look, unhappy (the listener sure to hear both 'an' happy' as well as 'unhappy"), I'll take, life, handshake, final fit, final bellyache, house, as well as recurring words 'alarm' and 'silent'. Outside these sounding correspondences are some characteristic words: job, bruises, bring down the government, carbon monoxide, the pretty garden, and surprises itself. References to polity and science contrast with the 'homes and gardens', and these contrasts perhaps help make 'No Surprises' a track that's characteristic of the album as a whole. "
Another person who shares this critical quantitative OCD characteristic is Phil Schaap, a legendary DJ on KCR. I have heard him read out several serial numbers from a CD series not once, not twice, but three times on the air. If he had gone for a forth round the differnce between Shaap's radio show and some kind of avant-guard performance art would have been pretty thin. Understandably there are people who are put off by this tendency, but there's something about it that I find interesting in terms of the drama of critic, and which sends me back to the material under discussion. Dai's book sent me back to the Radiohead CD with a vengeance even though it didn't say much about it beyond cataloguing details from it. The slabs of data cataloged are mostly not in themselves interesting, but the critic's dramatic fixation on them as a way understanding and engaging with the reader/listener and the art creates a particular kind of dramatic tension. The critic is activating their engagement with and passion for the material and their attitude towards their readers with extreme indirectness, as though overcoming some kind of emotional blockage related to attachment.