Sunday, March 6, 2011

And Now I'll Set You Free

Where did the last three weeks go? Nothing really happened, nothing out of the ordinary anyway. Blogging, like most things, has its ups and downs. One of the downsides is when a few days pass and those days turn into weeks and so on. Given a new Radiohead album I assumed I'd be on here everyday sharing discussion and opinion. But life takes over, persistent knee injury, work, travel, bike riding, socializing and some sleep in mixed in. I've also been reluctant to discuss The King Of Limbs without listening to it 20 or 30 times. So without getting to philosophical or deep I am going to share my short opinion on the record.

Despite only being a few minutes shorter than some other Radiohead records The King Of Limbs has more of an EP feel to it than the long player I expected. I know Radiohead stated that the LP was something of the past but In Rainbows felt like a long record and coupled with the B-Sides their was so much joy. From the off I was disappointed by only 8 tracks. Its not a slight on the band, rather just me being a selfish fan wanting more. This view had me take a look at myself and the other Radiohead fans that have complained about the record. Sometimes, because of our devotion perhaps, we expect nay demand from our band. But really its our choice to follow Radiohead. No one told me it was cool to like Radiohead (although a few years later it seems that is very much the case) I just do. I loved The Bends, I loved OK Computer more. After Kid-A it was a case of fanaticism. But Radiohead don't make music to satisfy me, they make music they want to make, and they put out records and EPs that they are proud of. Who are we to say we want more, or question why certain songs were left off. That was my initial reaction. Where is Present Tense, Open The Flood Gates, Super Collider, Judge, Jury, and Executioner, The Daily Mail? Me Me Me. Its not about me its about a band who are so comfortable in what they do and the direction they are going that with no fanfair they released 8 tracks that they obviously love and while it may not be In Rainbows its still very good. In fact if I knew nothing about Radiohead I would think this album is better than I do now. I suffer from expectation and hope. Expectation is fair, hope is a lost cause.

I remember when many of my friends ripped on Kid-A. Lots of Radiohead fans found the album to be very divisive and ended up turning their back on the band. For me the albums affect has been monumental. And I continue to look back and wonder why so many fans disliked it. I am seeing that same series of events happen right now with The King Of Limbs, and I for one am not going to take some disappointment and let it overshadow the fact that this is still a great record. Coming in at 38 minutes it sees Radiohead in leftfield like never before. Even tracks such as Like Spinning Plates or Worrywort had a melodic feel that was very Radiohead despite the limited instrumentation and more experimental sound. A new sound is every evident on the track Feral which is like a dubstep tune with chopped up and looped Thom Yorke vocals. Something completely different but still very beautiful. See what I'm saying about hearing this album as a neutral. Morning Mr. Magpie is a let down for me, only because I loved Thoms acoustic version on The Most Gigantic Lying Mouth Of All Time. For years I wondered if we would ever see this song see the light of day so naturally I was buzzing when it was listed as one of the tracks. It starts off amazingly but then the loops get too much and I feel it looses its greatness. It may be the first time that I am genuinely disappointed in a recorded version of a Radiohead song. If that is as low as the album gets however its not a bad thing because the track is still decent.

The second half of the record is exceptional. Its only 4 tracks and I have addressed that so looking at it as the second half of the album its as good as anything Radiohead have released. Lotus Flower is magnificent. It will be in contention, along with Codex as my favorite track this year. I have included the video of Lotus Flower below. The parody videos are actually quite funny but for me its one of the best videos I've ever seen. Some people think Thom Yorke is an egomaniac and I think they're nuts. This is how he dances at every live show. His expression of love for the music reminds me of everyone from Kate Bush to Ian Curtis. These are artists that couldn't control the beauty they create and Thom is an excellent example of wearing the passion. The video makes me smile. Codex may even be better. A straight up, melancholy Piano number that harks back to Pyramid Song and Videotape. There is no one that won't like this song unless Thom Yorke sounds to you like nails on a chalk board sound to me. The lyrics are sorrowful and very beautiful. An epic track. We've heard Giving Up The Ghost a few times before. Thom banging his microphone and looping the sound to create a drum loop. The recorded version pays tribute to his live version and unlike Mr. Magpie captures the beauty of the live stripped down version and takes it to a new level. Separater closes the album. Thom is very soulful and four tet sounding drums loop provide a very jazzy soundscape.

The internet has been rife with theories about the closing song "separating" this collection of songs from a King Of Limbs part 2. I bought into it but deep down inside I don't suspect we will see anything soon. Maybe it will be a Kid-A/Amnesiac thing and those other songs I mentioned will be released in a few months. Or maybe its completely coincidental. Either way I have decided not to have expectations or hope.......

Pitchfork Media gave this album a 7.9/10. I like the site and respect some of their reviews and while I didn't agree with everything in the review I did agree with the writer when he said; "A trawl through message boards and social networks leaves the impression that many disappointed fans are still struggling to make sense of the gap between the greatness of the thing they got and the genius of the thing they thought they might get. It's in that gap, when assessing the album overall, that it's easy to get tangled up". This is exactly how I felt. However, The King Of Limbs is a great album and if Radiohead want to go in this direction, shorter records, more experimental, more Thom Yorke, its fine by me. I can't wait to see how the full band perform these songs. Lots of good stuff to look forward to.

Only Pablo Honey is worse than this for me but when dealing with Radiohead something has to be worse than the other stuff and that is not a reflection on this album as such, rather its a reflection on how great the band is. There are very few artists that can produce an album like this so when I say 8/10 after saying its one of my least favorite Radiohead albums you get the picture.

Peace and Love,



  1. Thanks for the thoughtful write-up Keith!

    I feel much the same way you do about this one and I wonder if we'd feel differently if the name on the album was "Thom Yorke" instead of "Radiohead". Because, to me, this feels more like a follow-up to The Eraser than In Rainbows.

  2. I was looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the album. I think us fans just expect something transcendent with every release and the fact is they gave us a solid and I think, a very happy album. Happy for them, anyway.