King of Limbs or King of Whims?

Posted: March 2, 2011 in Music
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Ask me what my favorite band is and my reply will include Radiohead. They have graced my top favorite bands for several years now. Their older albums are nostalgic to me–reminding me of people, times and places that used to be and a “now” I never would have imagined.
When their new self-released album dropped into the hands of fans on February 18th, Radio-heads were surely expecting another “In Rainbows.” It has been over three years since that pot of gold was found and followers have been salivating while waiting to hear what’s next for the band. Pressing play for the 1st time on any Radiohead album is always a golden moment. You think ‘this is it! Will it be like their last album?’ “King of Limbs” has a different concept than “In Rainbows”. The first play through was like reading a passage in a book that you know is good, but you have to make sure you’ve read it correctly, so you read it again. “King of Limbs” begged me to play it again, and during my next few listening experiences, my mind was enveloped with thoughts. The following are some of my observations.
Longer is not always better. While “King of Limbs” is about a half hour shorter than “In Rainbows,” the listener must interpret what sounds and ideas are being produced rather than the minutes recorded. Quality versus quantity. Supposedly, people are upset by these “missing minutes,” but this is not a meeting of the masses. If you forget about the time, what you hear can be described as the title of the first track, “Bloom.” Radiohead’s newest album is it’s own entity. It is reminiscent of past albums but has bloomed into something unique. “King of Limbs has underlying themes of creation, chaos, rumination, death and rebirth. Like a flower that has hibernated during the winter, the flower is still called by the same name, but the winter has changed it; it does not look exactly the same, new people will notice it and pluck it from its stem, but the fragrance smells just as sweet.

Track talks:
Track 1: “Bloom” Initially reminded me of artist Steven Ellison a.k.a Flying Lotus. Inspiration could be pulled from Thom Yorke’s collaboration with Ellison on the song “…and the world laughs with you” on the album Cosmogramma. This track is very beautiful with a heartbeat pulse throughout. My favorite line is “Don’t blow your mind with why? [insert long instrumental part] I’m moving out of orbit.”

Track 2: “Morning Mr. Magpie” An upbeat song until you listen to the lyrics, which is another classic Radiohead move (see and hear: “Idioteque” from album Kid A) and one reason I love them. Everything is not as it appears.

Track 5: “Lotus Flower” I always wonder how artists who don’t do music videos for each song choose certain songs and decide to make that one the music video. Is it the one they think is the best? Is it the one they think will capture the greatest audience? Well, even if I’m wrong you can listen to “Lotus Flower” and watch this: Thom Yorke’s dance moves are hot

Track 6: “Codex” This is my personal favorite from the album. Radiohead fans are known to try to find their own meaning to the music looking up lyrics and titles in search of what the band members are trying to tell us. To each his own. This song is hauntingly beautiful. Water (a certainly symbolic thing) is a recurring subject that is found in Radiohead’s songs and this one captures it in an interesting way. Slightly scratchy, distorted sound, trickling instrumentals with a powerful and steady undercurrent, which fluidly slides right into track 7, “Give Up the Ghost”. The two tracks are surely meant to be heard back to back.

Last note: Each Radiohead album has its own personality. Certain people are drawn to different personalities. This one has definitely blossomed in my mind. So, now that we’ve heard their recent album, we’re ready for whatever is coming next and as Thom (I call all musical geniuses by their first name) sings in the last track, ‘Separator’: “If you think this is over then you’re wrong.”
If you haven’t heard the album, you can get it here and tell me what you think.

  1. norman kulkin says:

    s=light-ly+brilliant and quickly inspiring

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