King of Limbs

Despite yesterday’s post, I’ve been listening to more Radiohead. A lot more Radiohead. I think the tenth playthrough was sometime around lunch. I’ve not listened to this much of the same eight songs for god know’s how long, so there’s probably something here that’s not exactly the standard fare. And I’ve been giving it a bit of a think. I’m going to give it a bit more of a think, over the next few hundred words. It’s nice, word thinking. So much more tangible.

The first thing about this album is it’s the first Radiohead album I’ve really, properly got into. I do like the other stuff, and love some of it, but it’s never quite compelled me to listen, beyond the fact that it’s obviously so very good, and worth listening to if only because it’s an important thing. Something monumental. You go to a city, there’s always going to be some sights you have to see. Radiohead are a landmark, towering over the other stuff by sheer force of will. And because they’re pretty good. That’s got something to do with it.

But this album, there’s something slightly more subdued about it. There’s relentless drums, a beat that works as the skeleton for the music, but also serves as a main gravitational body, the entire focus of the thing. Bloom is a good example of this, the soft snare stuttering its way through the song, while the melodies, including Thom’s voice, waft around it, something not quite there, not allowed to be touched. The beat? The beat you can touch. The beat you can feel.

It puts me in mind of Cosmogramma, most of all, which is both odd and not. Odd because Flying Lotus isn’t exactly the kind of guy you think of when making Radiohead comparisons, and not because Cosmogramma has Thom Yorke featuring on one of the tracks. It’s understandable that they rub off on one another, but I never expected King of Limbs to be quite so… experimental? I guess that’s a word, but it doesn’t sit right, hips squeezing too tight in the seat, the whole thing a little uncomfortable.

Perhaps that’s why the reception hasn’t been quite as overwhelming as usually greets a new Radiohead album. It’d be fun to play the elitist and sneer down my nose at all these people who don’t understand the way the bass seeps in and out of the track, the drums always there, only regularly accompanied by little electronic trills. The fact is, though, that they might understand perfectly well what’s going on, but the fact is that it’s a little different to what they’ve done before, a little quieter, more relaxed, and a little more of a diversion from the usual. I mean, you just have to look at the video for Lotus Flower to realise that maybe this isn’t Radiohead as we know them.

As I’ve said, that’s perfectly alright with me. Because suddenly I’m presented with something that’s more jazz than rock, more instrumental than not, and certainly something that can set up shop in my subconscious, not always actively listened to, but always there, that beat that keeps on giving, little nuances of the music drifting out into the forefront of my mind, pleasant little surprises that I’d missed on the first time I’d listened to the track. Or the second, or the third, or the.. you get the idea.

It’s a good album. I like it more than the other’s I’ve spent some time with, even though I’d be loathe to say it was better. Obviously Radiohead are best doing what Radiohead do, but this deviation has brought them closer to a middle ground between us, and for that I’m glad. Go listen.

About Phill Cameron

I've graduated, had a look at the world, and spat. Now I'm devoting my time to moving from 3/4 of a games journalist to 9/10ths. I figure I can get away with 9/10ths.
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