The eighth of ten favorite 2011 albums — Radiohead, ‘The King of Limbs’

Radiohead, The King of Limbs

Well, yeah.

Which isn’t much of a justification. But some things are obvious with me. Some things are obvious with any listener, writer or fan, that one will have one’s hobby-horses, positive and negative. It need not always be so clear — so, for instance, I don’t think I could have specifically predicted my fellow WordPress denizen Alfred’s number one album of the year offhand, but I am not at all surprised by the choice and his rationale for it. (Good album too, what I’ve heard of it.) So it’s not a case of exact one to one — and I would never want to be able to predict all my friends’ choices if they have a choice, or my friends who are also writers and so forth.

The flipside to this being, of course, that some things ARE utterly predictable. So, for instance, am I excited about The Hobbit movie trailer that debuted yesterday? Yes indeed. Are a lot of my friends surprised I am? Hardly. If this means I’m more of a creature of habit than most then I’m at the least aware I am, which I’ll take over pretending otherwise, or that certain things won’t appeal to me when in fact they do, on a near lizard brain level. That’s an excuse for habit, saying that, but it’s also kinda true, or more accurately, that many of those judgments shaped when young are ultimately pretty hard to break later on. The kid who devoured the Rankin-Bass adaptation of The Hobbit at six years old is still a Tolkien freak now. The guy who first heard “Creep” in early 1993 is still enthralled to Radiohead. Who I also saw that year opening for PJ Harvey, so it’s not like Radiohead are the only obvious choices in this list of mine.

If you want the full history of Me and Radiohead (because of course it’s about me, I’m selfish and this is my blog and ME ME ME and so forth), I’ve already said quite a bit, investigate at your leisure — scroll down a bit and read from the earliest entry or so. So this is a bit of a continuation of that, a few years along, in slightly similar circumstances — a Radiohead album is suddenly announced and gets released a few days later and seemingly everyone goes HOLY WTF or alternately NOT THEM AGAIN. Or so it seemed. As Eric Harvey noted today in an entry in the SOTC round table I talked about briefly yesterday:

I know that my online immersion has at times altered my perception of greater musical time—hype cycles, release dates, the speed of acquisition—but I wonder if any of you have stepped back and wondered how much your perception of music is affected by your continuous virtual proximity to other obsessives?

To say Radiohead is popular — and just as equally loathed — online in the circles I find myself in rather…understates. It’s not that they’re inescapable, except they are, except they’re inescapable only in the sense that I don’t mind them being inescapable, because I like them a hell of a lot. A HELL of a lot. So my tolerance level is a little higher than some.

None of which, so far, has been much about the music of The King of Limbs. Consensus seems to be “More of the same, I guess it’s pleasant, we’re not talking about it a lot, are we?” I can understand that, then again I was listening to it on a regular basis for about three months there so it’s not like I wasn’t talking about it given how much time I spent thinking about it. Then again, I wasn’t thinking about it so much as happily absorbing it, taking it in, getting familiar with all its details and contours. Aural furniture, sonic painting, use whatever metaphor works best. I would have called it a headphone album if I listened to it that way but I didn’t. It’s Radiohead and, well, yeah.

Seems to me that justifying something at a certain point is less about making the case as acknowledging your comfort level. I’ve said before these kinds of lists ultimately irritate me because of their skewed sense of what one was actually listening to and engaging with throughout the year, or where one found the greatest importance in things. I’ve said in general this year that the most important thing that happened was me moving in with the love of my life, music’s somewhere back there in the list. Still important, though, certainly, and part of that importance can sometimes be as simple as knowing there’ll be something that I will unreservedly love straight out of the gate, and to have your hunch fully justified. One year it might have been the Cure. This upcoming year I already know it’ll be Windy and Carl. This year it happened to be Radiohead. Done, dusted.

But I guess I should say something. Still, what is there to add? Radiohead for a while there weren’t resetting the bounds of music — they never have, let’s make that clear — but they were slowly mutating album per album, playing off hunches and decisions self-conscious or not. Hell of a string of releases they did, and it may continue, but I don’t think it’ll be quite that kind of change any more — they’ve found a lovely niche for what I can tell and might well stay there forever more. (I haven’t heard the new songs that debuted today yet but I can’t but guess they’ll sound like the outtakes from this album that they apparently are.)

So if I’m fond of focused, nervous electronic rhythm/drum arrangements and fluttering tones and minimal falsettos on the one hand and slow, stately rock-band melancholia on the other and in both cases am thanking Christ that it’s not the wall of warm Jello that is inevitably Coldplay — oh, so easy to hate still, no matter how much of a self-deprecating BS artist Chris Martin is — and if I can happily laugh along with all the complaints and GIFs based on Thom Yorke’s approach to dancing and curious hairstyles and if I’m just content to go “Works for me!” then I am. It’s comfort food with some extra seasonings, I guess, a cliche that might as well work because I’m describing a cliched situation. I like this album a lot! I like this band a lot! I’m not looking every time for some sort of sudden change or breakthrough! I’m not trying to pretend one’s here when one isn’t!


Whatever’s next with them is next. If I’m lucky enough to catch their next American tour, hurrah — I sure hope so, it’s been nine years since I’ve seen them and they are just fantastic live, absolutely compelling — then I’m lucky, and if not, I’ve got the album. And I’m ready to play the next one into the ground.

So, yeah.

Purchase The King of Limbs via the dedicated album site

3 Responses to “The eighth of ten favorite 2011 albums — Radiohead, ‘The King of Limbs’”

  1. humanizingthevacuum Says:

    Alfred’s #1 album too!

  2. Mark Reed Says:

    That Thom/Bear gif is the best thing I have seen on the Internet ALL DAY. Well done!

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