“We've only heard it once, but Radiohead's The King of Limbs hardly sounds like a band breaking new ground.” – The Guardian
“There has to be more” –Twitter User
“It’s no Kid A or OK Computer” – Anonymous
I don’t care what you think about “The King Of Limbs”.
It’s fine if you want to tweet your opinion or do a super early review of the record, I just want you to know that I don’t care…and you shouldn’t either. This is one of those records where the event of the release is currently bigger than the music. It’s impossible to even focus on the eight tracks with everyone rushing to get their thoughts into presentable form first or come up with the best overdub to the “Lotus Flower” video. In this “review” of “The King Of Limbs”, I only want to talk about what I know now and address a few things about how the release is being handled by fans/critics. This is one of the rare times where I’m glad WLFY moved away from the numerical review system, because I don’t know what number to give this record, and I’m fine with that. I can only let you know how I feel now and anyone who is speaking to you in what seems to be full-formed opinions about “The King Of Limbs” should be ignored. I’ve done reviews the same week I’ve listened to an album, but there is so much context and excitement surrounding Radiohead’s new release that time is a very crucial tool in determining the worth of “The King Of Limbs”
So, what do I know? It sounds simple, but “The King Of Limbs” sounds like a Radiohead record. Big deal right? Actually, it’s very important. It’s hard to name more than five bands that started in the early 90’s, like Radiohead, and continue to make solid music that’s worthy of their original praise. It’s a rarity for a band with success after success over such a long period of time to stay both original and true to why fans fell in love with them in the first place. Mix that with every future release being compared to two of the greatest records of the last several decades (OK Computer/Kid A) and you have the perfect storm for disaster. Despite it all, Radiohead continued to push forward with “Amnesiac”, “Hail To The Theif”, “In Rainbows”, and now with “The King Of Limbs”. Love or hate these albums, you can’t deny that they are all unique to Radiohead and never once made a record that seemed like a betrayal to their sound/vision as a band. So, while the idea that “The King Of Limbs” sounding like a Radiohead record as a huge compliment might sound pedestrian, scroll through any great band’s discography and the inconsistency of quality content, breaking up, reuniting, changing genres, reformation, etc makes this feat a very important achievement for an album released eighteen years after the debut LP.
To quickly address the people crying: “hope the rumors of more music are true” or “there has to be more…I waited four years for this?”…go fuck yourself. These cries all occurred within days of the release and highlights what I hate the most about the current music scene. There is so much music out there that we as listeners are becoming conditioned to consume, judge, and throw the scraps aside, half digested. How are you already complaining for more tracks when there hasn’t been enough time to take in the eight given? For those who say that the 37.4 minutes is way too short I have two responses. First, some of the greatest records of all time are even shorter. My personal favorite is Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” which clocks in at 28.22. Secondly, the record doesn’t feel quick, rushed, or unsatisfying (in terms of length). In the first days of playing this record I’ve continually found myself lost in time. Tracks like “Give Up The Ghost” and “Bloom” feel different (concerning length/time) with each play. Sometimes they feel like the listed running time and with other plays it can feel like an hour in those four to five minute tracks. If you’re really that upset about the length, remember “In Rainbows” was a whole five minutes longer.
“The King Of Limbs” is an album and I don’t think people are used to “album albums” anymore. If you flipped track after track with each thirty seconds to find a hit or something quick to bring you in, well, you’re out of luck and doing it wrong. Love or hate “The King Of Limbs”, the ending of each of the eight tracks spends a few seconds (sometimes more) setting up a bridge to the next. The album has an emotional arc both melodically and lyrically that spans throughout. This is not simply a collection of songs written while touring and then thrown together because it’s time for a new record. Tons of records today feel like a bunch of songs with no connection that surround a few hits and when there are enough of them…well, it’s an album. Before you click the comment box to talk about how some of these tracks have been floating around for a long time, let me finish. I’m not saying that “The King Of Limbs” was created in a room in one thoughtful meeting. What I AM saying is that this album was constructed around a singular vision of what the album should ultimately become and you can hear it in every moment of “The King Of Limbs”. There isn’t a single moment that feels different than the world of sound set up in the first track. If you find the album boring or too reliant on loops, you still have to agree that the things you don’t like string throughout creating a single piece. If you love this record than I bet the qualities that make you swoon run throughout as well. Either side of the judgment table, the idea that this is an “albums album” remains true.
So…we know it sounds like Radiohead, length complaints are ridiculous, and it’s an album’s album. Fuck you WLFY, thanks for nothing, can I have my ten minutes back? Nope…they’re mine forever. This may sound obvious or simple, but these points are the immediate pitfalls that a band of Radiohead’s stature has to avoid. They successfully navigated the early obstacles and now time will tell how “King Of Limbs” stands with the rest of their powerful discography. When I feel ready I will review this record, but I for one think that Radiohead over the eighteen years and eight full-length albums have earned a level of respect that listeners and critics are generally ignoring. This is not some new buzz band that needs press this instant or they will go away. It’s all about the fact that everything has to be immediate in today’s Internet culture. While we have become conditioned to manufacture opinion quicker than reason, it’s just not fair to a band that has done everything to earn our musical trust. As I said before, I don’t care what anyone is saying about this record at this specific point in time. I’m concerned with listening to the record and letting it all sink in. The hype dust kicked up from the event surrounding the release will clear and all that will be left is the album itself. At that time, with clear eyes, I will begin to read reviews and gain knowledge/perspective from other critics/bloggers/music fans. Until that time, I’m perfectly satisfied enjoying what we have, eight tracks of new Radiohead material.