This really, really isn’t what most people wanted. Sure, a shock new Radiohead album, unleashed on the world within seconds, injected directly into your own brain from Thom and co’s lair for as little as £6 really did get music’s bowels ticking over with excitement this week. With the five-day wait slashed to four by mid-afternoon GMT 18/02/2011, The King of Limbs, the band’s 8th full-length (or is it?) release certainly doesn’t do anything to diminish this continuing WTFer??-factor. But not really in a good way. Or is it?
This is the album where Thom’s dubstep and electronica influences (bashing the Burial, as the were) should now be considered expected Radiohead strands. However, whereas usually most even-slightly discerning fans have been able to easily take to hypnotic, skittering non-guitar tracks like “15 Step”, “Harrowdown Hill” and even “Packt like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box” , that wasn’t to do with the lack of guitars: the was due to the presence of a lovable, intoxicating song. This time it’s mostly just uninviting, hookless and meandering. They can make music however they want – it’s non-unlistenable songs people generally want to hear.
Opener “Bloom” is Kid A at its most glacial. Think a more excited version of “Treefingers”, joining repetative chimes with the same drawn-out, jazz bullshit to be found on Amnesiac’s “Life in a Glasshouse”. It’s a trick which also sinks the album’s last track “Seperator”. The latter’s refrain of “If you this is over/Then you’re wrong” has prompted probably incorrect speculation from “bloggers” that The King of Limbs has only partially been released.
Judging by the incomplete, disappointing feel to this album, it would make a lot of sense if this wasn’t the only full-length Radiohead release this year; however, the idea that the band would allude to this within the lyrics of one of their own songs is as likely an idea as if they released a new single tomorrow including the line “Why don’t you go lay a fucking egg if you don’t like our pretentious new jazz-dubstep influenced tunes/you dirty, philistine bastards” repeated over and over again.
“Lotus Flower”, an android-soul trip as filtered through a malfunctioning sex robot, is accompianied by a video where Thom busts some moves and goes all Black Swan on our asses with the interpretive dancing. So what if the album’s gash, big T-Yorker’s having a whale of a time.
The delicate “Codex” continues where “How to Disappear Completely” and “Pyramid Song” left off. This time, instead floating down the Liffey, Thom’s lyrics involve letting go, jumping into the sea. It’s a gorgeous, piano-led ballad that comfortably sits among the “Reckoner”s and “Let Down”s of their most beautiful songs.
That, along with the exceptions of the sinister “Morning Mr. Magpie” and “Little by Little” (where we get spoiled by Thom singing “Oh, I’m such a tease and you’re such a flirt!”. I’m not kidding) are the genuine highlights.
Are they just messing with us now to the point where they know this isn’t really up to the mark, and that we’ve got to say how amazing it is, and therefore it by proxy eventually becomes good? Is that what a grower of an album means? Has my own head fallen in on itself just by typing thEse words? Where am I? What’s going on? Just what do you want from us, Radiohead???
It also means that Radiohead are really going to have to go for it if they want to confuse us from now on. Next time, they’ll have to record an album of sea shanties and name it “OK Computer”. For now, The King of Limbs, a baffling, mostly-insular digital soap opera of an album will have to suffice.
Also, why are they all wearing wanky hats now as well? Seriously, I hope I’m missing something here.
Radiohead – Lotus Flower – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfOa1a8hYP8