The King of Limbs has now been out less than a week, and Radiohead's latest effort has people torn, even fervent fans who think that Thom Yorke and his crew can do no wrong. Craig's Hlist listened to the half-hour album at least three times last Friday, just hours after it was released, and came forth with this verdict:
The King of Limbs is short, fleeting, and seems to lack a focal point. If anything, at this third or fourth listen we are on now, it's slightly unmemorable, but the thing with Radiohead is that their albums are not always definitive statements. At least not now, with the reduced label pressure.
Older salts may scoff that as the band's output starts coming quicker and more immediate, we may lose quality. But with tinkers like Radiohead, if anything we are getting a play-by-play of a band's evolution at an ever-increasing clip.
We ended up listening to a burned disc of the album Friday night as we drove home, Saturday during errand-running, and Sunday at the house. By Monday night, driving home in the dark and fog from our folks' 30th wedding anniversary dinner, we understood the album, but our original instinctual feelings about it remained.
But we did come away with a new respect for KOL. It's a late-night driving record to us. It's for alone time, you and four wheels on the highway, or on darkened city streets. Listening at our desk Friday morning, facing the sun and daylight bustle, was incongruous.
Funnily enough, a commenter, pitchpatch, had this to say:
Hey Craig, please revisit this review in about a week or so? It's always been the case for me that I really need to get familiar with the songs to get my lasting impression, especially for such an enigmatic band as Radiohead... each group of songs on each new album have been pretty disparate for me right out of the gate, at least until I wore them around a little bit.
I think that might also explain why you're not picking up the focus. To me, it sounds pretty aware of what it's attempting to go for in terms of a conceptual idea and general style. Thoughts?
Agreed, sir or madam. After revisiting KOL, it makes more sense, but it's still a little hazy. It's far from the first album to catch us unawares days, weeks, months, or years after they initially entered our ears. Right about now, Arcade Fire's The Suburbs is starting to seep into our pores, continuing the circle of life.
U2, Achtung Baby: CHL bought this in 2005 on a trip home from Corpus Christi. We usually set aside 30 bucks for the Half Price Books out there to buy things we think should be on our musical curriculum. In 2009, the album came up as we were anticipating the band's Reliant Stadium show. It's all about "Ultra Violet (Light My Way)" for us.
Wilco, A Ghost Is Born: Going through changes in life, particularly interpersonal riff-raff and living situations, led us back to Wilco's 2004 album. For us, our favorite album is still Sky Blue Sky, but this will do in a pinch.
Metallica, Death Magnetic: On first glance it sucked, since it was "New" Metallica. Then we spent a good month with it at work, listening to "Cyanide" and moved from goofy to powerful. It's the band grown up and grizzly.
Bon Iver, To Emma, Forever Ago: It took a few days alone with Bon Iver, during a cold snap in late 2008 to see the magic in Justin Vernon's opus. A big echoey apartment, a great stereo, and darkness...
Bruce Springsteen, Darkness On the Edge of Town: The Promise, last year's documentary on the making of this album led to a month-long Bruce binge.
Nirvana, In Utero: "Whaaa?" you may be saying. But when this came out in 1993, all we cared about was "Heart Shaped Box" and "Rape Me," which we played at a fifth-grade swim party that year and got a stern talking-to a from a mother. In 2011, "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter" keeps bringing us back.
Ryan Adams, Rock N Roll: It was rock, and not the Americana jangle we were used to from Adams at this point in his career. Then we heard "Note To Self Don't Die" on a road trip and we are now on our second copy of the album. The first getting scratched to hell.
Hayes Carll, Trouble In Mind: All the right music writers were talking about Carll's Trouble In Mind in the summer of 2008, and we heard "Beaumont" and slept on the album until we found him again while we were doing music listings in November of that year. Then we couldn't shut up about the album for months.
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The Flaming Lips, Embryonic: It took seeing the Lips twice in 2010 for us to finally like and understand 2009's Embryonic. When it came out it seems trebly and awkward. Now it's probably our favorite album from them.
Incubus, Morning View: Shut your mouth. 2001 was a weird time.