Radiohead’s The King of Limbs

I’ve been dreading writing the Radiohead review for a few reasons:

1. I don’t like the album very much, yet Radiohead is my favorite band.
2. I’m afraid I’m missing something. I think there might be a component to this record that would make it cooler, but I don’t see it. When someone, a few months from now, writes a blog about how The King of Limbs is actually an extended metaphor inspired by Shakespeare’s little-read Timon of Athens, I’ll be impressed with both Radiohead and the blogger—I’ll probably like the album a lot better after someone explains it to me. Right now (today), I don’t get it.
3. The King of Limbs has been making me think about stupid questions like, “Has Radiohead lost it?!” and “Can I still call myself a fan if I don’t buy the limited-edition-double-clear-vinyl-box-set-and-hand-numbered-artbook?” or “Do I need to keep it on my iPod if I only have 8 GB?” Whoa. Its the existential crisis of a middle-class white college hipster!
4. I might accidentally say what everyone else is saying since I procrastinated to write this for so long. So, I’ll be honest: I’ve read three reviews (Pitchfork; A.V. Club; see below) and they both brought up some good points. Steven Hyden (A.V. Club) mentions that the record is very percussive and shows off Phil Selway’s drumming. Mark Pytlik (Pitchfork) summed up my feelings on the record nicely: “A trawl through message boards and social networks leaves the impression that many disappointed fans are still struggling to make sense of the gap between the greatness of the thing they got and the genius of the thing they thought they might get.”
5. Worst of all: the best review has already been written. I read it on Twitter: Kid B+.
The reason #5 sucks so much is because that review is filled with pithy and wit—-but it also articulates King of Limbs sonic predecessors, excellent music quality, yet my underlying feeling of disappointment. Maybe it was just a joke not intended for deconstruction—but hey, it holds up!
So, yes, everything sounds nice. The cool IDM bleeps and bloops on paired with the ocean imagery on “Bloom”; the instant-internet-meme-sensation dance beats in “Lotus Flower”. I like it. But it’s missing something…
Usually, a Radiohead album is very dense. Obligatory pretentious potification sentence required for all Radiohead album reviews ahead: OK Computer articulates themes of fear and ambivalence of a post-modern society and accidently made Radiohead famous; Kid A affirms that previous ambivalence while touching on themes of isolation, paranoia, and post-millennial dread—since Radiohead didn’t want to be famous; In Rainbows changed the way we conceptualize music/capital exchange and proved that people are willing to pay for a good product. Sentence over.
But what is The King of Limbs doing? I don’t think much of anything except trying to be a good music that’s worth listening to. Perhaps it can’t be hyperbolized into a generational statement of pseudo-profundity. Is that a problem? No. I guess I’m ok with that. But, just ok…

WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P-G
Key Tracks: “Codex”, “Give Up The Ghost”, “Lotus Flower”
Recommended if you like: Thom Yorke’s The Eraser, Blur, Portishead.

W = Poor
W-P = Fair
W-P-G = Great
W-P-G-U = An instant classic!

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