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Radiohead – The King Of Limbs (Part I)

February 27, 2011

Radiohead – Morning Mr Magpie

Right, so last week I cheekily took dibs on who would do The King Of Limbs review and also mentioned I would go for first impressions after the first listen (Part 1) and then move into more detail in a week or so (Part 2).

And here we are – it’s OK.

I really can’t give it more of an opinion than that, and in hindsight I should really have considered what I was saying because it’s virtually impossible to give a decent review of something you have only listened to once, let alone a Radiohead album. I remember my first impressions of Kid A being that I wanted to shoot the guy who lent me the album.

The King Of Limbs makes for very pleasant backing music and I don’t really know right now whether that is such a good thing or not. I had a very similar experience with In Rainbows, and with that album there was definitely more of a sense of excitement and build up before its release. This album came out of the blue, even though I was well aware that it was due out this year, but the actual announcement and release came with such little fanfare that part of the “experience” of a new Radiohead album has just been lost in the ether.

So album opener ‘Bloom’ is OK…. ‘Morning Mr Magpie’ is better than OK… everything is in and around one or the other side of OK. Nothing is bad, in terms of production and overall sound these guys know exactly what they are doing and what they are after. I remember reading a few interviews with Ed O’Brien in which he continually pointed out that when they made Kid A they basically hated each other and the process of recording, yet released something so groundbreaking (for an alternative band I hasten to add) as a result.

But since that period (which also produced the equally fine if not superior Amnesiac) the guys have all settled down, they are happy with each other and themselves and look forward to getting in the studio. Now…call me a bit of cynic at this point but I have this overwhelming feeling that bands that DON’T get along and bands that tend to really HATE the whole process TEND to produce the better albums (look at Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Who, Yes… and even Oasis to an extent).

That’s not to say that this album or In Rainbows or even Hail To The Theif (which was basically a big middle finger to the record label rather than being any sort of creative effort…it’s still an amazing album) are bad albums. They just don’t have that edge, that friction, that underlying tension that comes from a group of very talented individuals who are kind of at each others throats to produce something very, very special.

The video for ‘Lotus Flower’ even focuses entirely on Mr Yorke doing his infamous shuffle. And smiling. Something is just a little bit up with this image to me. I’m a huge advocate of telling people that Radiohead are not a depressing band to listen to, a lot of the songs are very uplifting, some are melancholic but I certainly wouldn’t call any of them depressing. BUT the band themselves always struck me as a bunch of miserable artists who would never be happy with what they achieved. That level of perfectionism that can never be reached is something sadly lacking amongst many modern bands and musicians and has resulted in a lot of mediocre music over the years. And here we now have Radiohead. Way ahead of the curve still by all accounts, but lacking that perfectionism, that OCD style compulsion to keep pushing.

I’m sure when I’ve given this album a thorough good listen (and by that I mean at least 20 or so run-throughs) I will change my tune and find things so subtle throughout the album that will put it straight back up with the best that Radiohead have achieved. But sadly nothing really GRABS me in the way of ‘Paranoid Android’, or ‘Idioteque‘ or ‘Packt like sardines in a crushd tin box‘ or ‘2+2=5‘ or ‘The Reckoner‘. I mean look at that list (I had to put ‘Reckoner’ on now just to remind myself…totally worth investing in a record player and getting the vinyl). Will I find something like this on The King Of Limbs? Let’s hope so in a couple of weeks time when I get to the nitty gritty of the album review itself.

I leave you today though with a tasty remix of ‘Reckoner’ just because…well…you’ll see…

Radiohead – Reckoner (Damgroove remix)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. j-diz permalink
    February 27, 2011 3:14 pm

    Little by Little and Lotus Flower are my faves so far. I end up humming quite a few tunes from this album already.

  2. Robbie Bizzle permalink
    February 28, 2011 4:50 pm

    My first listen seems like so long ago now, but I think I agree with you.. I was slightly disappointed that nothing jumped out at me. But I must say I’ve completely changed my tune – I really really like all but one of the 8 songs, and am continually humming something from the album. There are some signs of age, particularly in the way Yorke sings, but this is inevitable (he’s getting old!), and they have definitely taken inspiration from their own recent work, particularly Amnesiac, as well as inspiration from their contemporaries. Even the album’s sub-40 minute length appeals to me.. Radiohead seem ready to contort the idea of an album to fit the current generation’s desire for short, concise chunks of information. And, several listens in, I’m enamoured with the subtle nuances of The King of Limbs. I’m interested to see what you think, bring on Part 2!

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