Saturday, February 19, 2011

Review: Radiohead-The King of Limbs

Yeah, I snagged it a day early like the other millions did. I have listened through the surprisingly short 8 song album 4 times, twice with headphones and twice from the glorious aural quality of laptop speakers. It pains me to say this, but so far, with the proverbial "it could grow on me" attached to my findings,  I feel like I got a consolation prize after swimming through shark and electricity laced waters to get it. I feel like the kidA at Dave and Busters who turns in 1500 tickets after attacking the tower of games for hours, only to get a plastic kazoo for my time, luck and quickness of hand. All the elements of a great record are there, but they start slowly like weary travellers picking up used luggage after a long flight and taking diverting trams to the albums of yesteryear. Its Most of the songs crawl by with no harumph or elation for their undefined subject matter, even packed with the marvelessly layered sonic minutia that I so love about the band's aural architecture.

For most of you out there, these wont seem like songs at all. More " blips and beeps" as most of the major- chord addicted pop/rock RADIO listeners will say. But for Radiohead fans, after the triumph and beauty of In Rainbows, this album may seem like a slippery step sideways or down into the infinite ether that sometimes clouds Thom Yorke's brain.  No song by song dissection here, but here are a few examples of the dots I'm trying to connect to dots.

For most of the album, Guitarist Ed O' Brien and drummer Phil Selway must have been on smoke breaks or holiday. The drums don't seem live at all. I think a basic track was looped to high heaven heavily on tracks like" Feral" and "Lotus Flower" which is basically tape that was plucked and stitched from the floor of the Eraser sessions. "Morning Mr Magpie" would be perfectly placed as a lost extra track on Hail to the Thief.

Then a beautiful, piano drenched, but still a bit sound-tracky song called "Codex" floors you and you wonder where the jungle birds or tape hiss that bleed into the next track called "Give Up the Ghost" will take you. And its an echoing, acoustic safehouse of love's release, that's where, with Thom's doubled up background vocal sounding eerie and Bon Iver-like securing it for me as the highlight of the album.

I wish I knew what itch Johnny and Thom needed to scratch every time they head back into the studio, but I don't. I don't think they much care about evolving as a band, this far into their career, however sonically that may be defined. Their jumps from The Bends to OK Computer were such a confounding, beautiful blindside, that they've never been able to turn back, too bored for their own good. Too smart from their own sound. I just wish the proverbial bone could be thrown to the diehards( maybe once an album) who might want a stoccatto guitar solo blast or a SONG, traditionally and emotionally available to adhere to like a True Love Waits or even Karma Freakin' Police, for christ's sake., with a CHORUS,even.

Radiohead have shaken the tree more than once, though. For all we know, these might be a collection of B- sides they decided to release and attach the name The King of Limbs to, with the actual NEW album coming soon in an undetermined future. Who would know? They announced this release on their own terms, on a slow news day to the surprise of everyone, attached to no corporate entity but their own. maybe we could ask Phil Selway or Ed O' Brien. It seems like they've had a lot of time on their hands lately. They might be willing to talk.


  1. Been debating this with a lot of friends.

    I hold this band to a most likely unfair standard - but they've delivered every time for me.

    Radiohead shouldn't be allowed to put our OK "albums" with only eight tracks.

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