Radiohead - The King of Limbs

2011-03-08 14:33
Like revolutionaries Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Charles Mingus who railed against the staid conventions of jazz in the 1950s and '60s, Thom Yorke and his band of merry pranksters have been completely deconstructing post-Nirvana rock 'n' roll in the new century.

At turns transcendent and befuddling with more than a hint of menace under the surface, the new eight-song album is the band's latest step away from anything traditional - melody, time signatures, hooks, lyric structure, subject matter. At times it's more collage than album, a mixture of sounds and loops and beats so confusing and enchanting and mysterious, it hits the mind like a crowded bazaar.

Leave your preconceived notions at the door, the band announces with opener "Bloom", a warning shot across the bow of those waiting for Radiohead to return to the arena rock that first brought the band to the attention of the world almost 20 years ago. It is a song both manic and lush, with multiple time signatures played out across several instruments and backwards loops that eventually coalesce into a "song" that's as beautiful as it is difficult.

"Bloom" is no hit single beckoning the listener to enter the wonders of the band's first album since 2007's "In Rainbows". It is an obstacle - a warning to put aside your notions and open your mind or turn back to safer shores - and a mission statement. Even as most of the band members enter their 40s, they are still looking for something new. And they don't care if you come along for the ride or not.

If you're brave enough to make it past "Bloom," there are limitless delights on The King of Limbs, a reference to a 1 000-year-old English oak tree near where the album was recorded. Not everything is inscrutable homage to Flying Lotus and other beat farmers the band has become so enamoured with.

"Lotus Flower" is as good as anything the band has done (and Yorke's crazy pants dance in the video is just plain loopy), "Codex" is as beautiful as it is spacey and "Little by Little" labours along in a shambling lope that teases but never quite breaks into a sprint.

While The King of Limbs is not Radiohead's best album, it might be the band's best "experience." From it's guerrilla-style launch (alerting fans to its existence a few days before dropping a digital download) to the breathless anticipation and deconstruction of the album across the Internet (reviews were up within the hour) to the conspiracy theories already spreading (is there a second instalment coming?), Yorke, Jonny and Colin Greenwood, Philip Selway and Ed O'Brien - continues to show it's the most interesting "rock 'n' roll" band in the world.

Donald 2011/03/08 3:08 PM
The King Of Limbs from the Kings of Rock! Took a few listens to grasp but it is the work of progessive genius; Little By Little is fantasic!! I wish they would come on tour to SA
Trish 2011/03/08 9:49 PM
Donald, you and me both. Its long long overdue.
Galamatias 2011/04/16 1:50 PM
Ah, the emperor's newest suit. Nothing particularly new here, unless you usually avoid electronic cocktail noodling. It's just that others do it so much better and without the "aren't we so clever" posturing. Rather check out Atticus Ross and Trent Rexnor's score for The Social Network or, if you can find some, the Kalahri Surfers. Meanwhile Radiohead will hopefully continue the journey up their own backsides till they disappear completely.
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