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Ladies & Gentlemen: Radiohead's back in the building!

Radiohead
The King of Limbs

Independent Release, 2011

Reviewed by Kent Manthie

Radiohead’s back and they’re still not playing nice with record labels. With their just finished new CD, The King of Limbs, just like their previous and brilliant album, In Rainbows, they put it up on their website, selling it for a song, compared to those ripoff record store chains (Virgin Megastore, being the biggest ripoff I can think of).

If anything, this “declaration of independence” goes hand in hand with the experimentality, the depth of sound and the “anything goes” atmosphere in the studio: both In Rainbows and this new CD, The King of Limbs just blows one’s mind. The basic structures of the songs are not so intricate, but it’s the little touches, the tweaking, the knob turning and re-turning, the long, perfectionist grind that they must make look easy, since this is what they want to do, which means that it shouldn’t be a chore to put together such brilliance – it seems more like a labor of love. In case you’re already tempted to go buy it now, you can get it at their own website: www.radiohead.com/deadair.

The King of Limbs is pure and unmistakable Radiohead; it’s not watered down or diluted at all, making it impossible for even the most cynical critic to talk smack about it, unless it just made them feel inferior because of their own frustrated plans, goals, etc.

The first two tracks start the album off in a nice entrancing way, slow but really dreamy and hypnagogic. Track three, “Little By Little” speeds things up a little and sets the mood for the next few tunes – “Feral”, then the club overdose, “Lotus Flower”, really blows fairy dust around the room. The album then winds up with an extraordinary range of melodic trials and tribulations, ones that are all intricate and sound beautiful. “Codex” is a really special cut. The album ends on a surprisingly upbeat way, in the form of “Separator” – upbeat in that it has a beat, is louder than most and, even though it may be about loss, abandonment, getting apart from one that you love and hate simultaneously, it still ends the album in a way that leaves you feeling positive; positive that Radiohead are at the top of their game and that with each new album they just get better and better. Now, I know that In Rainbows was a revolutionarily great CD, not just because they went independent and ended up with a superior product, but also because it showed that you do not have to follow any set pattern for success.

The “masses” are not that stupid. Talent sells itself; it doesn’t have to masquerade as a fad or as pop music or pop culture, whatever the hell that is. And so it is with The King of Limbs, another revolutionary CD – still going indie and still making, some of the most beautiful, most wonderfully put together stuff I’ve heard – on any label. The first cut, “Bloom” starts out in that typical understated Radiohead way – a deceptively simple piano chop, which melds with synths and other electronics; by coming across like this, Radiohead’s music seems, at times, to be dehumanizing, but at the same time, this futuristic programmed wall of beautiful but dark nightmarish, dystopian futures is juxtaposed with pleading, personal, introverted lyrics that don’t hold back the songwriter’s inhibitions and, after all that, they are more human (or at least humane) than most other rock bands who play at being superheroes (listening Bono? Michael Stipe? You’re friggin’ rock singers, not UN diplomats, for chrissakes).

But don’t just take my word for it – go to their website and check out a cut or two before buying it so you know just how awesome an album this is.
-KM

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