February 23, 2011

Test Spins: Radiohead

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Thank goodness this review was due a couple of days after the album’s release, because my opinion of Radiohead’s new album completely changed after listening to it multiple times. In typical Radiohead fashion, the album was released as a digital download as well as a pricey “newspaper album” that includes digital versions of the songs as well as 10 inch vinyl records and large sheets of art work. After some last minute change of plans and several Twitter updates in Japanese, the album was also announced only a couple of days before its release, catching fans by surprise and leaving music critics in the lurch. I was so excited to dive in to the album that I forgot Radiohead does not design songs for a quick listen. At first I thought the songs were innovative to a gimmicky, repulsive degree, but the jigsaw pieces fell into place after a couple of days and I began to understand the method behind their intricate and deliberate madness.

It’s hard to innovate in a situation where innovation is synonymous with predictability. After In Rainbows, it was very obvious that Radiohead was heading into a even more metaphysical and almost deconstructed direction. Rather than depending on avant garde innovation to interest fans, King of Limbs only comes alive after the novelty wears off. The first track “Bloom” opens with a dreamlike, swift piano sequence. A couple of measures later, electronic sounds as well as the drum and bass lines join in irregular meter. Then, high above all this organized chaos, Thom Yorke’s voice begins to invoke a pensive, almost post-apocalyptic wasteland-esque sensibility that persists through the entire album. Tracks such as “Little by Little” and “Codex” are definitely reminiscent of music they’ve made in past albums. While others such as “Morning Mr Magpie,” “Feral” and the outro “Separator” sound unmistakably Radiohead, they take the band’s trademark jittery lyrics and ghost-like electronic echoes to entirely different realms. In addition to eight new tracks, Radiohead successfully mapped out a wondrously abstract psychological terrain that no other band could imitate. The only catch is it takes some patience to get there.


Original Author: Lucy Li