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The Audio PhilesRadiohead--The King Of Limbs: Track by Track
POSTED BY TERENCE NUZUM, February 19, 2011    Share

Radiohead's announcement on Monday to release their 8th LP The King of Limbs this Saturday reminded me of the immense anticipation I had staying up all night and into the morning, going to work on 3 hours of sleep to download their last album In Rainbows. Over the years, Radiohead has proven that they are the last band that music fans still get excited over and rush to the computer to download much like The Beatles back in the 60's would cause fans to ransack record shops. This is a rare thing in this day and age and pretty much Radiohead (at least in the world of alt-rock) are the only band left that can pull this off. That can interest the rabid music fan, high school student, art rock aficionado, and the casual mainstream music fan all at that same time. King of Limbs unlike In Rainbows is not a pay what you want download but instead either a deluxe edition with a download link or simply the download option. So to help you decide what is worth your hard earned money I break it down track by track for you.

1. Bloom: Bloom is probably the least impressive opening for a Radiohead album ever. Nope I'm sure it is. Basically a "Kid A"/"15 Steps" knock off. But it does help the theme and mood of the album which I will get back to later.

2. Morning Mr. Magpie: A very electro-bleepy affair that has guitar in it but you gotta listen closely. Colin Greenwood ingeniously plucks his bass to create a Aphex Twin Drukqs electrobleep sound but organically. Definitely a throwback to the late 90s/ early 000's electronica scene.

3. Little By Little: This is the first really seemingly awesome track. Filled with a cool chill tune backed by a very 60's sitar for percussion. But it really is more just a cool nod than awesome when you start to realize Greenwood's slithery guitar is unabashedly influenced by German Kraut rock band CAN's David Karoli's guitar noodling. Even Yorke's vocals instantly remind you of CAN singer Damo Suzuki. Radiohead have made no secret of their love for this band (even much of Kid A sounds like CAN's Tago Mago) so this is without a doubt more of an homage than a lazy rip off.

4. Feral: Feral seems to be a segue track. It's a quick little showdown between plonky electro drum beats and electronically distorted vocals. Like Yorke set Auto tunes to the retard dial. It recalls Cabaret Volataire's spacey emptiness and Kraftwerks weird robot vocals on Computer World. For a Radiohead comparison think "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors" from Amnesiac.

5. Lotus Flower: Most commercially friendly track on the album. No shock that it was picked as a video single. It has Yorke backed by a drab organ grind that slightly goes into Booker and the Mg's territory if they were scoring The Phantom of the Opera. Yorke's vocals refreshingly sound R N B'ish themselves.

6. Codex: Codex is one of two tracks on this album that are gems. Not quite classics but gems. Instrumentally it's the same ambient pop vibe of Eno's Before and After Science album but vocally it's even more awesome. Yorke pulls out Peter Gabriel-esque soaring yet aching vocals transporting you to gray shores and rainy days. Perfection.

7. Give Up The Ghost: What with its Wishbone Ash type album title you'd expect this entire album to be inspired by the Green Man. But this is the only track that busts out the acoustic guitar. A very English folk vibe to this one that lyrically may give some clues to the conspiratorial in nature. The title and lyrics "I think I've had enough.." may point out that this is the last release from Radiohead. Then again who knows with a band this unpredictable. But it's fun to look for the possible meanings in songs and this one is ripe for examination.

8. Separator: Easily the catchiest track. Yorke sings in his typical slurring manner but for some reason will remind you of David Bowie in it's inflections. For a bit we are treated to some out of the left field Byrds folk rocky guitar before it morphs back to Karoli CAN style again. One thing that is interesting about this
closing song is that it is the most uplifting sounding song the band has released since "I Can't" off of Pablo Honey.

Radiohead way back in 2000 with Kid A were trying to convince us that the guitar was dead even as the garage rock scene popped up out of nowhere and took rock fans by storm. In 2011 after some flirtations with guitars again the band is once again back to burying the old axe. But it almost feels like at this point the bands obsession with the late 90's electronica scene that sounded so fresh to our ears back then is now sounding as complacent as guitar rock. As a final summation The King of Limbs seems to suffer from it's production, which reeks of a sameness that allows none of the songs to stand out and grab you. But is that the point? Is the whole album one long mood piece masterwork? Or is it a uninspired collection of discarded outtakes dressed up a bit? Unlike previous Radiohead albums this one will tell with time. And while it won't have the instant gratification of sucking or being a masterpiece right out the gates it will at least spark interest for months and maybe years to come. The question is in this day and age of quick and fast information does an album even have that chance? Only time will tell and then, like the musical sermons of fear of technology on Ok Computer and Kid A, Radiohead will sing about it.

"The Audio Philes" is ©2011 by Terence Nuzum. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova.

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