Monday, February 28, 2011

record review: Radiohead: King of Limbs

There is a certain unspoken "I'm kicking myself as I'm writing this" aspect of reviewing a Radiohead album. On one hand, it's Radiohead, that supermassive creative genius with Thom Yorke acting as it's neck and head. Thom Yorke, who's aeons ahead of you, musically and otherwise.

We're dealing with a super, super natural phenomenon here.

On the other hand, Radiohead is a band. A band with a catalogue of albums, some more impressive than others, some more colourful than others. One thing that can be stated across the board for all of RH's discography is that is takes some time for their music to sink in. But when it does, watch out, because it will take over your life and pale almost every other musical artist or album in comparison. Even King of Limbs' beat drenched predecessor which any music fan is bound to take a liking to almost immediately.

Radiohead's eighth studio album, King of Limbs, is a magnificent ode to individuality. It's like a musical coming of age, the same thing that avant garde artists like Anthony Hagerty do all of the time. It doesn't have to be loud or attention grabbing because it's Radiohead. It can be quiet and subdued and its own entity and still make a place for itself in the music world. This new album might initially come off as one that lacked editing, deliberation or the capacity for radio play. I think I read it described somewhere as an album of "b-sides". But that's like calling Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures an album of b-sides. Just because something strays from the commercial doesn't make it any lesser as a work of art that can be enjoyed by fans and critics alike.

All five members of Radiohead are very much present here. There may not be an abundance of "Paranoid Android" guitar licks but that's because Radiohead is a group of highly evolved musicians. They work together to recreate the sounds of nature, of the open airs and seas. They come together beautifully on the eerie single "Lotus Flower" and the closer, "Separator", which is the closest that Radio comes to In Rainbows.

That being said, my favourite two tracks on this album are the rollicking "Morning Mr Magpie" and the equally enthralling ocean floor ode "Codex". The latter song takes muffled horn sections and drowns them in an sea of Thom's slow and deliberate croon alongside a piano chord progression you would have to toil to forget. I swear Thom must have been possessed by the spirit of the late John Lennon when he wrote "Morning Mr Magpie". It's so very British, so very reminiscent of the history of rock music in that area. Thom's threatening repetitions of "you've got some nerve coming here" makes you think twice about all those wrongs that you pretend not to notice anymore. Give King of Limbs a chance. It might just surprise you and your preconceived notions of entertainment both.


Murphey said...

One thing I love about this album is how it demands to be listened to again as soon as it ends. Not to mention the veritable rabbit hole of conspiracy it has spawned in the form of "Part 2"...

פפראצי אלמוני said...

Very good review.
You invite to read my own, though I think our experience was a bit different.
Either way,I definitely agree with the difficulty of actually writing the review.

prisonertoinstincts said...

Hey just curious, how many times do you listen to albums before reviewing them? Just once? Does it vary? (This isn't anything to do with Radiohead in particular).

Hanan said...

to Mary Shea,
I usually will listen to an album at least 5 times all the way through before reviewing it. 3 if I don't really care. I think I listened to this one 12-15 before I reviewed it (a week and a couple of days went by with me listening to it nearly every day, a couple times a day)