Review Summary: It's not easy being the world's biggest band.
The public eye leers into your artistic business, waiting in the wings to praise or flame the finished product – or in the case of music websites to inscribe a hopelessly subjective numerical value to it. When the public perception is that you've been consistently genius since 1995, tension and anxiety are never far away.
At least that's the way Radiohead used to seem. They have this documentary Meeting People is Easy
, depicting the disconnect imposed on the group (and especially Thom) that came with fame and critical acclaim. The band was tethered to OK Computer
like it was their magnum opus – an identity any fan today knows is painfully incomplete.
So then is The King of Limbs
comparable to the band's past triumphs? In a word, yes. But this is the case because while maintaining expected quality, the record also stands out as a clear progression. The Radiohead from that documentary has grown to be much more comfortable in their famous skin; the role of alienated loser has been shelved indefinitely.
Putting out another Kid A
would be less characteristically Radiohead than their return of the acoustic guitar or building an ambiance that nearly falls into a downtempo take of the Tetris
theme song. Both happen here, on “Give Up The Ghost” and “Feral” respectively. Radiohead only move forward, and thus this album's point of reference is much more 2007's In Rainbows
than anything else. The drum loop/melodic bass line combo forms their familiar groove at several points on the record; The King of Limbs
' “Videotape” is the moving “Codex”.
While being the band's shortest record to date, its eight tracks co-exist in complimentary fashion – covering extensive dynamic and textural ground. Of course there's the argument that Radiohead could *** in a paper bag and we'd eat it up based on brand familiarity (see: the Animal Collective theory for haters), but I'd argue the quality here is undeniable. Thom's falsetto is despondent and beautiful as ever, and as a whole the band still sculpts moments that dig into your soul.
It's unlikely that The King of Limbs
will do to Radiohead what Kid A
did, but that has less to do with the music than with the fact that it would be hard for the band to become more critically acclaimed. So the question remains, where do you go from the top?
With their eighth LP Radiohead stay firmly where they belong.