OK we’re downloading “King Of Limbs” now, and I think we’re going to have a go at liveblogging it as we go. Join in,won’t you?
Bit of fiddling with wires going on here, but I think we’re just about ready to rock. Bit of an accident with a banana slowed us down for a moment.
Curses! NME are about a minute ahead of us.
John Robinson says he’s “agreed to something” and is importing now.
We’re off! tinkling piano loop and heavily chopped edits, sounds like someone’s Warp subscription brought them a couple of Flying Lotus records last year. “Bloom”, by the way.
I was playing “In Rainbows” this morning, and I was reminded how much one of the highlights of that album is the drumming. Feeling it again here. As on “Lotus Flower”, Yorke feels subtly processed. Liking this a lot.
Wow, dense. A lot of layered orchestral passages now, pretty amazing. Just looked at the tracklisting – quite a short album. Eight tracks, as rumoured, but nothing longer than 5 minutes 20.
Anyone else got this yet? “Morning Mr Magpie” has identifiable guitars, and this kind of ominous funk undertow. Lots of looming, ascending atmospherics kicking in now. I’m going to say the vibe thus far is a kind of beatific hyperactivity.
Apologies if I’m getting carried away by the whole Eventness of this, but fucking hell it’s good, and I write as someone who was pretty equivocal about Radiohead until “In Rainbows”. Maybe I’m just a sucker for internet kerfuffle.
“Little By Little”. Some kind of eldritch jangle going on here, awkwardly tuning, very fragile-sounding, accentuated by the radical editing that seems to be going on. Again, I’m feeling Flying Lotus (who I’ve just recalled had Thom Yorke on “Cosmogramma”). Maybe Prefuse, too: those LA aesthetic beatmakers that I guess he may have been mixing with during the Atoms For Peace thing.
A hint of older Radiohead in this one, as it evolves, like some ghostly, fidgety evocation of something from “OK Computer”. Again, though, they seem to be obsessively – and fruitfully, I’d say – pulling back from any obvious anthemics. The power is insidious, cumulative, anything but blustery.
“Feral” now. Back to the sliding breaks, super-neurotic rhythms. Yorke’s voice is ultra-processed and disorienting. I feel somewhat obliged to mention dubstep at this point – Burial’s dystopian soundscapes yada yada – but really they seem much more locked into that evolving Warp continuum, rooted back in their love for Autechre.
I know this one, it’s that old favourite, “Lotus Flower”. Lotus, Flying Lotus – am I being a bit of a stuck record here? It’s the hit. I think one of the things I liked about “In Rainbows” was how Yorke’s voice seemed more relaxed, less self-conscious, less histrionic. He really sounds soulful here. Interesting how hooky the song sounds second time round. Is it closer to the vibe of “The Eraser”, perhaps?
“Codex” starting as the obligatory piano ballad, but there’s all this subtle processing going on, which’ll doubtless bed in on future listens. Apologies for not mentioning any of the lyrics, by the way; I’ll try and keep updating this as the day goes on and we listen to the record some, maybe in a less superficial way.
Again, ten years ago “Codex” would have been so pumped up, so fraught with a sense of its own importance. Now the way Radiohead seem to approach everything is to keep their music on such a discreet level, with microscopic tonal shifts providing a more mature and satisfying kind of drama. Greenwoodish orchestrations I think.
“Give Up The Ghost” seems to start with a kind of blossoming, twittering microscape, then evolves into a miraculously understated acoustic guitar ballad. Again, it’s the lovely subtlety that comes through. John Robinson has just mentioned Can, say “Sing Swan Song”, which is rather wise.
Just thinking about the whole subtlety thing some more; of course that can be a marketing tool, hence the whole ‘no-fuss’ announcement and release of “King Of Limbs” this week resulting in this whole fuss. It’s like a way of shifting responsibility of portentousness from yourself to your fans and your commentators. Let others do the anthemic work for you.
Wow, last track already. “Separator”, very nimble drums and bass, very intuitive, Robinson has me stuck on Can and remembering how Jonny Greenwood has interspersed his “Norwegian Wood” soundtrack with Can tracks. Lovely delicate electric guitar threading through this now.
Think this one’s going to end up very memorable, again in such a powerfully understated way.
The atmospheric reverberations now that loom in and out throughout the album are making me think of ’80s Eno now, but “King Of Limbs” couldn’t be more different from the way Eno has subsequently addressed rock music.
And it’s over already. Very, very good is first hunch; I managed to really enjoy that while typing like a lunatic – I hope I’ve made some kind of sense.
One thing that occurs, right now, is that those who might have been looking for Radiohead as quote/unquote saviours of rock in a mainstream environment where rock bands can’t get arrested right now, are probably looking in the wrong place. For a start, there aren’t that many obvious guitars on “King Of Limbs”.
If you’re a music business executive hoping that Radiohead will have made a record to inspire a new generation of guitar bands to take on the mainstream, usurp the dread hordes of X Factor or however you choose to demonise chart pop today – you won’t be in luck. What Radiohead have done again, I think, is make a record that will open up a lot of minds to the possibilities of music, and especially way beyond the mainstream. They’re an international phenomenon who have built a platform from which they can disseminate avant-garde ideas, in a deviously uncompromising way.
Which is not to say that “King Of Limbs” is a particularly difficult or inaccessible record, it’s just one that’s heroically disdainful of what normative behaviour among major rock groups is perceived to be. A few years ago Peter Buck, I think, started called REM “the acceptable edge of the unacceptable”. If ever a band deserved that label – as an adventurous positive, rather than a compromised pejorative – it feels like Radiohead today.
Think I might play it again, anyhow. I daren’t read back what I’ve written thus far; hopefully, it makes some kind of sense.
I’m not going to do all that again for the second listen, but thanks for your support on this, and thanks for the very perceptive comment from Cetin Cem about it being a Colin Greenwood record, with the bass being so prominent. I always imagine Radiohead as a kind of instrumental democracy, with people swapping instruments a lot, so I’d be wary of drawing such delineations, but I’m not really an expert. Also aware, though, that I’m not always 100 per cent sure what I’m hearing on these records; the treatment being so intense of every sound.
A recurrent line on “Little By Little”: “I’m such a tease and you’re such a flirt”.
I wonder if we’re going to get bandmembers dancing in videos for every track, as with “Lotus Flower”? If so, whoever drew “Feral” may have got their work cut out.
Strikes me I should repost the “Lotus Flower” vid here, for the sake of completeness.
“Give Up The Ghost” is just wonderful second time. Has the same kind of valedictory vibe as “House Of Cards”, but, like so much here, an ethereal pull, too.
While I think about it, I should also mention that we have an interview with Jonny Greenwood in the next issue of Uncut. Out sometime next week, I believe.