Tuesday, April 12, 2011


  Accept the bitter truth:
  Radiohead, whether your a Kid Rock-style detractor or alterna-fan, have been the future of rock for going on nineteen years. Not hard rock, not metal, or punk, but the slow fusion over those two decades of all rock sub-genres, including the so-called Alternative-Rock movement and Electronica. They may have started off as your typical alt-rockers in the key of Sponge, loved and worshipped by we followers of 89X. But a uncommon willingness to experiment with the "traditional roles" of each member of the group, has allowed these Abingdon musicians to effortlessly transcend the traditional limitations of the modern recording era.
  Think about it. Giving the songs and album art for 'In Rainbows' away online for whatever amount fans were WILLING to pay ?  Effectively letting 92% of us ungrateful downloading criminals have it for free ! Fusing Maxinqyuae loops and 'Blue Lines' beats with diffused guitars and chronic drums, that have us breathlessly searching for the next sonic fix? How many bands can embrace a monumental change in sound with that level of comfort, and still create a record that doesnt sound forced ?
  Radiohead chose to let their sound evolve naturally instead of clutching desperately to the clever hooks and depressing lyrics that made 'Creep' such a disturbingly fun listen.
'King of Limbs', their newest and possibly most epic musical jewel yet, finds Radiohead happily easing out of the Alternative Music stalwart mode. Yet, they are still fearlessly pushing the boundaries closer to the next evolutionary leap in music: the human Ipod. They've recognized we're all but a breath away from the end of music purchase and ownership in any format, but digital computerized files. And, these files will eventually be downloaded into our nervous systems as we become the 'record player'. The only choice for a band who wishes to stay relevant is no choice at all: evolve.
  Yes, Limbs is clearly the '1984' of 2011 rock albums, with far more in common with Daft Punk's Tron:Legacy soundtrack than 'The Bends'. (Yes, my dear readers, that is a literary reference, not a Van Halen acknowledgement) Yorke and company have long since declared 'Rock Is Dead', and were smart enough to embrace change, unlike most of us nostalgic types, who hold records in our arms like estranged children. You witness the fulfillment of this creed, on songs like 'Little By Little', where traditional British pissing and moaning is successfully filtered until it becomes as easy to swallow as Bell's Winter White in the middle of a Royal Oak Blizzard.
  For all you shut-ins typing furiously in Mom's basement, I get it. Calling a new Radiohead album 'experimental' and 'a mesmerizing work of unsane genius' in light of all their years of critical acclaim, would normally sound like oblivious jackassery. But, on 'Limbs', Radiohead have clearly drank ALL the kool-aid, and signed up for Amway. They've left 'Knives Out' and (incredibly!) 'There, There' so far behind in their career rear view mirror, it's hard to believe this is the same group of musicians. Examine the track 'Feral', which is as much Zero 7, as it is Oasis. Even on their landmark 'OK Computer' record, firm degree of 'rock music' were visible within each track. Subtly buried, under layer after layer of keyboard and studio-created gimmickry, but present. Now the anger and fury, the spit and grit, is barely discernible on tracks like 'Give Up The Ghost' which sounds like as the Aeon Flux woman abandoned the revolution to stay home smoking cannabis. Sure, distant shades of 'Fake Plastic Trees' and 'Talk Show Host' emanate, but they are across the river.
  Still, this is the real world. And I cannot ignore one glaringly obvious point. Radiohead's success remains their downfall. 'Limbs' maybe be a near-perfect example of Thom Yorke's dream world genius, but it's also an excellent case for why the band has so many critics. 'Limbs' is even less accessible than 'In Rainbows', which was less accessible than Hail To The Thief, which was light years away from it's cousin 'Kid A', and so forth and so on. I'm not going to pretend this record is a Bob Seger fan's lesbian fantasy album, nor will I anoint it the second coming of 'Raw Power'. In fact, Limbs took about six complete listens before it FINALLY began to sink in at all, via 'Give Up The Ghost'. But when it does gets a foot hold, it spreads like Captain Trips through your immune system. You find yourself pushing repeat, as these tracks are more daydreams than songs, allow your mind to travel places few of us ever visit. It's a deeper, rich, and altogether more vivid listening experience. So, what will you take away from it ?
  For my brothers and sisters of music who consider Journey to be the pinnacle, . . nothing. And there's isn't a single thing wrong with that. Radiohead, as a band, simply isn't everyone's cup of tea.
  But, if you're the type to spend three hours wandering the DIA, in search of inspiration, 'The King of Limbs is the equivalent of listening to Van Gogh's 'self-portrait'.

Four Stars out of Five
Listen to: 'Codex' 'Give Up The Ghost'

for the DRB

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