RADIOHEAD – The King of Limbs
Like, twenty years ago there was this band called On A Friday from Abingdon, England that mostly tried to sound like the Pixies, but added the occasional ska romp or indie ballad, and even infused electronics and drum machines into their sound.
In the early 90s, Britpop was getting big, so EMI made them change their name to Radiohead, signed them, and told them to “just do that.” They released Pablo Honey and The Bends, which, despite being Great Fucking Albums, were substantially limiting for such a stylistically expansive group.
OK Computer was released in 1997, and over the next ten years, Radiohead entered a Golden Era of Creativity. They touched back on their eccentric roots and did whatever they wanted with immunity from the label. They rarely released singles. They wrestled with blending the spatiality of acoustics and the immediacy of electronics. Thom Yorke was even able expand in ever-more-avant-garde directions with his Eraser project, and Johnny Greenwood was able to dig up his ska influences with The Controller.
The next logical step, I think, would have been for the band to try to find ways to further infuse acoustics and electronics while elaborating upon their Sound. But no, with The King of Limbs, you’re basically getting pretentious little dose of material that could have passed as B-sides to the In Rainbows’ B-sides. It’s like when Amnesiac came out after Kid A, but more dismal, and you had to wait so much longer.
The only standout (and I use that term loosely) tracks are 03 (“Little By Little”) and 06 (“Codex”). “Little By Little” is the first point on the album where the band picks up a guitar, and it harkens back to the “jangley” (there’s gotta be a better word; please shoot me or any other reviewer who ever uses this term ever again) alt-rock of “Optimistic” or “I Might Be Wrong” but in a kinda depressing, derivative way. And “Codex” is a straightforward “Karma Police”/ “Pyramid Song” piano ballad, but that shit was never really my bag so I’m not going to get into it.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. It’s not all bad, or even just all blah. The record ends on a high note with “Give Up The Ghost” and “Separator.” They’re nice little songs. Atmospheric, cozy, and the lyrics sound like they’re probably saying something important. But it’s almost too little too late, because if you’re anything like me, you stopped paying attention halfway through Track Two.
Radiohead is known for releasing Great Fucking Albums. I know it’s been four years since they let one drop, and that’s just about as long as they’ve ever gone, but come on. If you don’t HAVE an album, don’t RELEASE one.