Technology has evolved in music to the point where it’s perhaps impossible to do anything significantly new with it. It boasted the ability to be able to re-create any natural musical sound. The idea of re-creating accurately any natural musical sound still isn’t quite with us because computers don’t really grasp the idea of acoustics very well. Brian Wilson, Phil Spector – any of those Sixties producers knew very well the value of acoustics, different rooms and recording enviroments bringing out different feels.
‘The King Of Limbs’ mixes the digital with ‘the real’ as did ‘In Rainbows’, ‘Kid A’ etc. You could say it does nothing really very different to ‘Kid A’, which was released some ten years ago. To sum up this technological thing, compare the advances between 1960 and 1970 or 1980 and 1990. The advances between 2000 and 2010 that meaningfully affect the way people make music have been far fewer in comparison. ‘The Kind Of Limbs’ runs to just over 37 minutes in total, a suitable time in his modern world. ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ ran to 42 minutes, it was only with the age of CD an album apparently ‘had’ to be longer than the optimum 35-45 minutes. Don’t feel short-changed then, if you were, that ‘The King Of Limbs’ is 8 tracks running to 37 minutes. Another couple of tracks we’ve got 43/44 minutes – it did perhaps need one more track as the album tails off rather than ends, but I trust Radiohead know what they are doing more than myself
37 minutes is a good time to listen to an album on the way to work, during a lunch break, after work before the kids get home – whenever. It seems to have been designed as a whole rather than a random bunch of tracks, as the album progresses it moves subtly away from the electronic to the more natural, almost folk of the likes of ‘Codex’ and ‘Give Up The Ghost’ before settling down once again. I like that evolution within a record. The latest PJ Harvey effort shares this sort of thing, PJ and Radiohead both artists who remember and love the old fashioned vinyl album as something to cherish. The clattering ‘Bloom’ has some really very clever things going on in the background, great bass sounds, wailing from Thom – as a standalone track it works far less well than it does here, running into the edgy and funky ‘Morning Mr Magpie’. We then get, well, a ‘proper’ song with ‘Little By Little’. Again, subtly from the guitar parts both bass and lead. Great drum patterns and an actual chorus. Beautiful singing actually from the apparently ageless Thom Yorke vocal chords. ‘Feral’ rounds off ‘Side A’ with tribal percussion and vocal sounds. Again, standalone you might think this fails but within the context off the album it rounds off ‘Side A’ very well indeed’ You can pause now if you like and come back to the 2nd half of the album whenever you like, or just carry on. Not all albums succeed in offering such an opportunity.
‘Lotus Flower’ is good enough to have fitted in quality wise with anything on ‘In Rainbows’ which essentially means it’s very good indeed. ‘Codex’ switches to Thom and Piano, switches to ballad mode. Acoustics play a part, you can imagine the piano off to the side of your room and Thom singing to you, empathising with you – this lonely slice of beautiful sadness. ‘Give Up The Ghost’ switches to Thom and an acoustic guitar, utterly lovely backing vocals and a song to make everyone in the room stop talking – it’s great when a song manages to captivate a whole audience like that. Also, as a measure of how Radiohead have progressed, it’s impossible to imagine Radiohead circa The Bends being able to create something this mature and wonderful, songwriting wise. The closing ‘Separator’ is five minutes of Radiohead sounding like a band playing live, another welcome shift whithin the album as an entity. It takes a few listens but this is equally as good as anything else the album offers a listener. Although ‘only’ 37 minutes long, it feels like a genuine emotional journey. That’s good. Radiohead, it goes without saying, are still very good indeed.