Release Date: Mar 29, 2011
Record label: XL
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Radiohead's 2000 masterpiece, Kid A, came with a song called "How to Disappear Completely." On the band's eighth album, Thom Yorke has a new magic trick up his sleeve. "I will disappear," he sings. "I will slip into the groove." Yorke sings that line on a track called "Lotus Flower" over gray electronic scrapple and the iciest version of a good-footin' James Brown hustle imaginable.
Review Summary: What if you heard a Radiohead album without knowing it was a Radiohead album?My Radiohead experience went like this: I found them in high school, listened to OK Computer and was thrilled by the theatrical possibility of the music. What I mean is that Radiohead conjure atmospheres so perfectly, feels so impossible to relate to but beautiful to imagine, that they could take me anywhere. There was Kid A’s apocalyptic landscape (the art in its sleeve as captivating as the album itself) followed by Hail To The Thief’s quasi-political message and open, green spaces (natural yet sinister, not dissimilar to the “There, There” video), both images that brought their albums' significance outside of the music within, giving Radiohead a lofty mystique as legends of Godspeed You! Black Emperor proportions.
Exuberant. Not a word usually associated with Radiohead, but then there we had it, bursting all over In Rainbows (2007)—from the vibrantly multicolor artwork to the joy of paying a buck (or less) for a download to the undeniable energy of “15 Step”, “Bodysnatchers”, “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” and so on. The word could also describe the appetite critics and fans alike had for the record, greeting it with almost universal acclaim.
Much of the almost instantaneous reaction to The King of Limbs has come with the caveat that any perspective on Radiohead’s new album at this point is unreliable and subject to change, which is fair enough considering that this latest offering is one that will take its time to fully reveal everything that’s happening on it. Or, as Chuck Klosterman put in a tweet, “I’m sure Radiohead is depressed about these reviews, since they obviously make albums for people to listen to once at 9:20 am on a laptop. ” Springing not one, but two surprises on the listening public by announcing the existence and release of The King of Limbs early last week, then sneaking it out online a day earlier than scheduled this past weekend, Radiohead caught everyone off guard and forced critics around the globe into rendering judgment before they were ready—talk about democratizing the marketplace, since music scribes and industry insiders had to wait their turn along with fans, casual and diehard alike, to hear The King of Limbs, suggesting that no one has any more insight on or claim to the album that anyone else.
Upfront: The most exciting thing about Radiohead’s eighth will probably prove to be its unexpected, sudden arrival. Immediately inside the lines—as with the band’s other post-millennial work (the muted, peaceful roaming of 2003’s Hail to the Thief and 2007’s melodic, beat-laden two-disc extravaganza In Rainbows)—this 37-and-a-half-minute, 8-track player seems to establish the fact that Radiohead’s free-form coloring days are all but over, which is not to suggest in the slightest that they should put away the palette altogether. In sly moves, the band are accomplishing some of their best sounds (Limbs’ skip-and-glitch, beauty-of-an-opener “Bloom” and the concentrated mourning of “Give Up the Ghost,” in particular) and that’s exactly why you ought to always pay attention.
Bands that embrace the medium of the internet tend to use it as a promotional tool, a platform for developing its brand or for communicating with its audience. But I remember when I first visited radiohead.com, around the turn of the century, when the website was a frustrating labyrinth of mysterious links and cryptic critiques of modern consciousness. As a branding or promotional tool, the site was essentially useless, but Radiohead’s identity only functions as a brand in spite of itself.
It's hard to think of an album that sparked more internet discussion in such a short space of time as Radiohead's The King of Limbs did last Friday. Spurred into action by its arrival a day earlier than expected, harassed reviewers reviewed it on first hearing, and commenters and bloggers complained that it was ridiculous to offer opinions based on one listen, then offered their opinions about it anyway. Other journalists sidestepped having to form any views of their own by writing pieces that simply collated other people's, some of which were admittedly pretty amazing.
Now that the music on In Rainbows has had four years to outshine its launch mechanism, it's easy to forget that the album originally came bundled with an honest attempt to solve a business problem. The pay-what you-think-is-fair system wasn't just Radiohead being magnanimous, it was using their popularity and their newly won independence to ask what might have been the single most important question facing a shaken music industry: What is an album in the download era actually worth to fans? Announced on Monday of last week and then chucked out to rabid fans like flank steak a day ahead of schedule, the band's eighth album dispenses with the honesty-box pricing model but still finds them using their influence to interrogate the terms around how we consume and relate to music. Containing a slight eight tracks across 37 minutes, The King of Limbs is Radiohead's first album to clock in under the 40-minute mark, falling into that limbo between a modern full-length and an EP.
Radiohead has never been a band that can be accurately judged on the first listen. Sometimes it even takes years for a Radiohead album to fully reveal itself. When Kid A was first released in 2000, it was met with plenty of scathing reviews, but by the end of the ‘00s, it was being placed at the top of several Best of the Decade lists. The King of Limbs, likewise, may seem disappointing at first, but reveals secrets with each new spin.
Have you ever seen David Lynch’s Twin Peaks? It didn’t last long – only two seasons, unfortunately – but it’s retained quite an immaculate cult following…and understandably so. There’s just something oddly jarring and startling inviting about the quaint mountain town that experiences incredibly abnormal instances. There’s the everyman Sheriff, the dopey Deputy, the country slang, the damn good coffee, the lush Pacific Northwest landscapes, and then there’s the death of the town princess by what may or may not be extraterrestrial or supernatural forces — if not both.
After a brief return to earth to deliver the tart, focused In Rainbows, Radiohead drift back into the ether with The King of Limbs. Like In Rainbows before it, the actuality of The King of Limbs is purposefully somewhat obscured by the hullabaloo surrounding the album's surprise release -- announced for a Saturday release on a Monday, shifted to a Friday -- and in the case of KOL, such clamor is needed. Wispy and ephemeral, shimmering skin draped over the barest of bones, The King of Limbs doesn’t deliberately lack a solid foundation, songwriting traded for sound construction.
Review Summary: Radiohead revisit their weakest albums and sharpen them up to gold standard. In the wave of surprise and excitement that greeted last week's sudden announcement of this album's release, it would have been easy to miss the sighing and eye-rolling that greeted it in some quarters. The cynics had a point, too; surely a Radiohead album is enough of an event in itself to make all these cloak-and-dagger manoeuvres just seem like attention-grabbing? And yet, maybe the surprise element serves another purpose.
A cursory listen of The King of Limbs seems to suggest that Radiohead is still trapped in the same glitchy, stuttery-percussion obsession they’ve been nursing since Hail to the Thief (and eventually perfected on In Rainbows), but as with any Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood-led record, first impressions can be deceiving. While The King of Limbs isn’t some severe departure from the layered, synth-n’-guitar-drenched despondency we’ve been hearing from the band for quite a while now, it does exhibit a shift in tone away from the seething disillusionment of Radiohead’s last few records. The album is a retreat of sorts, the musical equivalent of curling up into a reflexive fetal position and entering a calmer, more pensive world.
Announcing a new album on a Monday, setting the release date to Saturday and then bringing it forward to Friday – Radiohead sure know what they’re doing. On Friday 18th February, the internet was a tornado of activity with bloggers and journalists alike all desperate to be the first to hear and judge The King of Limbs. For Europeans, a hilarious afternoon followed with people waking up on the other side of the Atlantic, heading online and exclaiming, “Radiohead did WHAT?!” .
You might be disappointed the first time you hear Radiohead's newest album, but it does improve on repeated listens. It still feels unfinished and unfocused, as flawed as it is forward-thinking. Had this been presented as a free download of a work in progress, we'd be much more generous, but since they're calling this a proper album and charging money for it, we have to judge it as such.
It’s always been Radiohead‘s way of doing things. Even when they were travelling through strong guitar rock and creating long-play albums with a substantial amount of music, they were always going against the grain, on their distinctive path. It’s that trail-blazing approach that has always made them far more engrossing, far more innovative and far more rewarding to all of their fans.
A fans-pleasing eighth album from Britain’s most consistently brilliant band. Mike Diver 2011 Radiohead’s sense of timing is quite something. Just when it looks like Arcade Fire, on a high after victory at the Grammy and Brit awards, are set to become The Biggest Band In The World, the Oxford five-piece confirm that their eighth album isn’t only done, but yours for a few bucks in mere seconds – no need to get dressed, let alone leave the house.
I wrote the following text on my personal blog after spending a day with Radiohead’s new album, The King Of Limbs: “I’ve listened to The King Of Limbs about three times in its entirety, and in fractions, about six or seven times. As has been the case with most Radiohead albums, it feels like a grower, and more so, much like Kid A and Amnesiac, it feels like a slow grower, a record that I really won’t be able to develop a lasting appreciation for until I’ve spent a considerable amount of time with it. Not 10 or 20 listens, but 50, 60-plus, with headphones and without, in the car, in the house, with friends, in solitude, as a music fan, as a musician, comfortably inebriated and stone cold sober.
Even if you’re not sure what a new Radiohead record is going to sound like — they’ve done blustery guitar epics, spastic pop, and brittle electronic compositions to start — you’ve probably got some idea of how it’ll make you feel. Radiohead are expert at eliciting a certain kind of emotion, somewhere between bliss and total devastation, and the band’s eighth full-length offering incites a very familiar swoon. But it’s not an effortless listen: A rattling collection of spare electro-rock sketches, The King of Limbs requires patience, and a fancy pair of headphones, to properly unpack.
Radiohead accomplishes a rare feat with The King of Limbs: a digital release that defies instant gratification. The pioneering UK quintet's eighth and shortest studio album presents a challenging, beatific assemblage of grayscale electronica and glass-house frailty that, like 2003's Hail to the Thief in the wake of Kid A's digital awakening, offers more of a ripple effect than a sonic sea change from predecessor In Rainbows. "Bloom" awakens in a dream sequence, a lone piano circuit warped and cast off to a tectonic beatscape of flinching, symphonic effects anchored by Phil Selway's fluttering percussion and the heavy swoon of Colin Greenwood's bass.
Last Monday, Radiohead unexpectedly revealed that they would be releasing their eight studio album The King of Limbs, arguably giving fans of the band the best Valentine’s Day present ever. After usurping our attention away from what would have been a weeklong, watered-down Grammy dissection, Radiohead demonstrated once again why they stand a full two (or 15) steps ahead of everyone else in the music business. While the impact of Radiohead’s latest release on the music industry will continue to be debated ad nauseam, that’s a conversation to be left out there for others to discuss.