Radiohead’s ‘King of Limbs’: 9 Thoughts on 8 Tracks
Charles Aaron's initial survey of the album touches on Don Delillo, Dave Grohl, and the genius of Colin Greenwood.
Editor’s Note: Like the rest of the world, SPIN was surprised by the Feb. 18 release of King of Limbs, the new studio record from Radiohead, which was supposed to arrive Feb. 19. Our proper review is here, but while the album was still brand new, SPIN music editor Charles Aaron obliged the band’s penchant for defying critics with unpredictably immediate release dates by framing the album in nine separate, nearly-Twitter-sized thoughts.
Of all bands whose work the Internet has equipped us to respond to instantly, Radiohead is perhaps the most absurdly inappropriate. Everything the Yorke/Greenwood Think Tank produces is about instrumental/studio nuance and fractured/insinuated emotion that’s difficult to place or understand or connect with on just a few listens. Foo Fighters’ new opus — now there’s an album I can hear once and react appropriately: “Yo, Dave, glad to hear you’re learning to walk or fly or whatever, now go ahead and stomp that muhfukkin’ pedal already, homie! My lighter’s ready to rawk! Am I right?”
King of Limbs: oblique swipe at Kings of Leon’s neanderthal pandering to capitalist dupes who cling to guitars? #KOL
In Rainbows very intensely reminded me of Don Delillo’s novel Running Dog; so far, King of Limbs is way more reminiscent of Delillo’s screenplay for Game 6, with Michael Keaton starring as Thom Yorke.
I’d like to see a Fantastic Mr. Fox dubstep remix of “Morning Mr Magpie” just for the, you know, formally-addressed zoological synergy.
Loved the Fleetwood Mac/Tusk influence on In Rainbows and was hoping for a Mirage-like response; alas, I don’t hear a “Gypsy” yet. Though “Give Up the Ghost” does remind me of that time I wanted to kill myself while having runny eggs at Johnie’s Coffee Shop in Los Angeles. Something about that snipping-scissors sound at track’s end reminds me of a woman who cruelly patronized my mixtape affections for the better part of the ’90s.
You know how that jazz pianist guy Brad Mehldau is always recording versions of Radiohead songs that seem to simultaneously simplify and complicate the melodies and emotions (for better or worse)? I feel like this album is doing the same thing for Deerhunter’s Halcyon Digest. Wait, take that back. Changed my mind.
You know what really sounds exhilarating on these post-2000 Radiohead albums — the bass. When the bass lines scoot and scamper and funk up the program, but in a way that feels more subliminally liberating than obvious. People always go out of their way to say that Colin Greenwood is no virtuoso, so maybe a lot of the patterns were rearranged and massaged in the studio — what am I saying, this is Radiohead, of course they were!
But still, I’ll always have vaguely warm feelings toward Colin cuz of “The National Anthem” and “15 Step.” “Separator,” the last song on King of Limbs, has some nice bass. There’s also a beautiful, obliterated-on-whatever-substance-or-spiritual-philosophy-you-prefer-while-lost-at-Joshua-Tree country-rock song in there somewhere too.
For now, “Lotus Flower” seems fantastic, as this groovy glitch-pop spazzing-in-the-digi-slipstream stuff goes. When the Church of Yorke’s choir of angels breaks from the flurry of beats to advise, “Listen to your heart!” it’s gorgeous and inspiring. And though the video’s kind of historically significant as a snapshot of the Evolution of Caucasoid Dance, it also suggests a frightening next phase for the band: MIME ROCK.