Radiohead – The King of Limbs (1st Impression)

The King of Limbs
Digital Download

When Radiohead last released an album, called In Rainbows my immediate response was, “yup, it’s Radiohead”. That’s a response I have to a lot of bands new albums actually. There is just something so Radiohead about Radiohead that they will never be able to escape it ever again. Even if they were to make a guitar album again, it would still sound like Radiohead. I think if they tried to do a folk, roots, classical or even hip-hop album it would still sound like Radiohead. No other band sounds like Radiohead, though many try to failing degrees, and in a way, that is the key to Radiohead.

So, when I copped The King of Limbs about ten minutes ago, I put it on my iPod and started listening to opening track “Bloom” and said to myself, “Gee, this sounds just like I thought a new Radiohead album would.” So what does that mean to me? That’s the question I ask of myself and present to you, here, today, on Monday with every other blogger and asshat who are writing burning missives about, arguably, the greatest band of our time. Personally, I wouldn’t argue that. We’ll get to that in a second.

Radiohead clearly are making music on a different plane of existence then any other musical group out there today. That has been well established. All but abandoning their post-rock, loud guitar blasting, pop sensibilities that launched them into the stratosphere they once or currently occupied, Radiohead has mostly settled for subltle, ticky-tocky, plinky-plonky, digital music captured effortlessly with “Little By Little” this time around. What do you mean “once” occupied there, stupid blogger? Well, what I mean is, it’s hard to say if this band remains the household name it did, during it’s initial fun run of Pablo Honey, The Bends, and Ok, Computer which were and remain awesome guitar records. After all, nothing they’ve made since then could really be considered pop music, though Thom York did make a pretty catchy solo record a few years ago. We can’t really look at sales figures either. Considering that Kid A was the first album any of us copped of the internet for free, before it was released (I still have the CD-R a buddy at work made me over ten years ago) who knows how popular Radiohead remains.

In fact, it was Kid A that turned the tables for Radiohead, where they abandoned everything and made their first ambient, full on art rock record. Following it up with Amnesiac which was almost unlistenable, Radiohead seemed destined to alienate everyone except a bunch of geeks who really loved a band that turned on rock and roll. You can’t totally fault them for that, most Rock and Roll bands have all but failed on any kind of global scale. The problem is was that Radiohead was perhaps the last great Rock and Roll band we had. Since burying the sounds of guitars in a sea of MIDI, Keyboards, and manufactured drum sounds (See “Lotus Flower” for an example) Radiohead basically made the guitar uncool.

So, maybe I took this a little more personally than I should have. I still like Rock and Roll. I’m uncool that way. I still think, in the DIY scene anyway, there are still people doing really amazing things with guitars. The Woods, Sleater Kinney’s swan song, is an example of a big, great, guitar record, that makes Radiohead’s refusal to turn up the awesome look pansy-ish. Quite frankly, I’m at “Codex” at the moment, and this album just makes me want to go to sleep. It’s kind of pissing me off at how subdued everything is. It just seems buried in a sea of luke-warm melancholy. They can’t even quite commit to sadness and sorrow. Thom Yorke sounds more sleepy then mournful or deep or meaningful, or whatever the hell he’s supposedly going for. I don’t know, that shit is boring and this album, The King of Limbs, is boring as shit.

I could be wrong in all of this. I’m not sure, but it seems to me these so called indie rockers are a little too sensitive and subtle for their own good. 2011 has already brought us albums by Bright Eyes, Mogwai, PJ Harvey and now Radiohead, and from what I’ve heard, it seems most of these monsters of mid-level rock stardom have hit a wall. There was a time when Indie Rock was loud, powerful and beautiful. Immediately coming to mind are Superchunk and Versus. Those two bands had moderate success, toured their asses off and played SG guitars and had awesome, powerful bass players (both ladies, which even though people thing Bass is a ghetto instrument and that women bassists are bastardized musician’s it’s total bullshit. Laura Balance and Fountaine Toups knew low end and played the fuck out of those instruments, playing that was essential to the band). Radiohead doesn’t even seem to know what a bass is, all the low end, manufactured pulses.

The King of Limbs falls even further into the all too sensitive depths of Thom Yorke’s angry soul. Me, I’m bored as shit. And I don’t want to be either. I want to like this band. I want to be on the bandwagon. I like unconventional approaches to making music. I like combining analog and digital. But I like to feel something, other than sleepy after I listen to an album. I’m too tired to even get that worked up. That’s just tragic.