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HJ: Radiohead – The King of Limbs

February 18, 2011
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Well, it was released today because apparently the band thought, why not? I’m not complaining though (because who would complain about something being released a day early, really?), as of right now I am partaking in my first listen of this record. The first thing that one notices is the similarity to Thom Yorke’s own solo work. There is a lingering suspicion in my gut that I have heard some of these songs already when Thom Yorke played Coachella last year, although a quick check of the setlist shows that my feelings are false. It’s the way that the songs are played (I’m on the second one now, ‘Morning Mr. Magpie’), it just has the feeling of Thom Yorke’s songs.

Here we go, now onto the third track, this one with some actually guitar playing (the first that I have heard, or so I think). This track is called ‘Little by Little’, and it sounds like the works on Amnesiac. I really enjoy the way Thom Yorke’s voice floats above the music, no matter what is happening. No offense to how the guy looks, but by the way he lays down his vocals, he could be a ghost. A dancey ghost. I read something a couple of minutes ago where a writer for Vanity remarked, upon listening to the first song, that he had no idea how people listened to this music without drugs. This song, still ‘Little by Little’ is very, very twitchy, almost a cacophony of sounds. It’s good.

At this point Radiohead’s fans almost expect to enjoy the music that Radiohead produces. In a sense, it is almost cult-like. Radiohead baited people in with some off-grunge rock led by a catchy single, moved them through a version of pop with bite and atmosphere, then gave them the album they had been waiting for in OK Computer, something both critics and audiences devoured. With these people now drinking the kool-aid, it was time to test their loyalty, therefore Radiohead jumped down the rabbit hole with Kid A and Amnesiac, the divisive records, weeding out the ‘non-believers’. From there it looks to be a cake-walk. The fans left, those who have stayed faithful to the beast, will eat anything that is offered to them. Who cares if it is cake or shit? This is why it is important to not get caught up in the hype, especially when it comes to this band. With this in mind, my opinion is probably horribly, horribly skewed. I have been drinking the kool-aid for some time now.

Now I am on to ‘Lotus Flower’, as opposed to ‘Lotus Car’ or whatever else a lotus could be. Radiohead released a video for this song today as well and it is really good. It’s Thom Yorke dancing in an empty space, twisting and turning to the music, as if it is controlling him. He is it’s slave, but he is enjoying it. It reminds me of the music video that The National released for ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’. Both singers are (mostly, in the case of Matt Beringer) alone and singing, dancing, telling their stories, being the music. This song does fit the idea of what a single should be. It is morbidly catchy, and Thom Yorke’s dancing fits the music perfectly.

‘Codex’ is what this song is called, and it is a slow ballad. Thom Yorke is delivering his lines over piano chords and, at this point, horns. I would describe this song as beautiful. It appears to me that Radiohead have perfected their slower songs to the point where it is almost ridiculous. Thom Yorke could be making up words and gibberish over a piano and I would still think it was brillant. It is the delivery, i guess… It is the mood. They are placed perfectly in the album. The next song, ‘Give Up the Ghost’ is an acoustic pop song if I have ever heard one. Thom Yorke sounds like a drunker (if this is possible) Liam Gallagher. Behind his singing is repeated, over and over, what I comprehend as “don’t hurt me…”. There is the sense that, in the narrative of the song, these words are either the singer’s thoughts the words of the person the singer is speaking to. Either way, it does a great job of giving the song a musical spine along with the plucked electric guitar and strumming of the acoustic. This song gets pretty grand at its highest point.

And now the last song, ‘Separator’. One hears straight-forward drumming, clear as can be. Thom Yorke is singing many distorted mumblings… This is the downside to a digital version for sure: no lyric notes. This is almost a necessity for some Radiohead and Thom Yorke songs, but, funnily enough, sometimes they aren’t given. Could this be a tactic like the one Sigur Ros often employs? I know Radiohead is in english, but, especially with this track, it might as well not be. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Thom Yorke’s musical mutterings… But that is exactly what they are…

Well, there it is. My hasty judgments from listening to The King of Limbs. Time will allow my brain to mature in it’s evaluations of this record. I’m not going to attempt to judge this record based on past ones in terms of ranking though, as I am often prone to do. Instead I am going to let it sit in my playlist, spinning slowly… Thanks for reading my first in this new series. I hope it was ultimately enjoyable reading. If not, that’s alright. We all have our own hasty judgments to make, whether we like it or not.

“If you think this is over/then you are wrong”

Tracklist:

1. “Bloom” 5:15
2. “Morning Mr Magpie” 4:41
3. “Little by Little” 4:27
4. “Feral” 3:13
5. “Lotus Flower” 5:01
6. “Codex” 4:47
7. “Give Up the Ghost” 4:50
8. “Separator” 5:20

The King of Limbs was released 2/18/2011. It is available for purchase here.

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