Thursday, February 24, 2011
[pitchfork.com] Now that the music on In Rainbows has had four years to outshine its launch mechanism, it's easy to forget that the album originally came bundled with an honest attempt to solve a business problem. The pay-what you-think-is-fair system wasn't just Radiohead being magnanimous, it was using their popularity and their newly won independence to ask what might have been the single most important question facing a shaken music industry: What is an album in the download era actually worth to fans?
Announced on Monday of last week and then chucked out to rabid fans like flank steak a day ahead of schedule, the band's eighth album dispenses with the honesty-box pricing model but still finds them using their influence to interrogate the terms around how we consume and relate to music. Containing a slight eight tracks across 37 minutes, The King of Limbs is Radiohead's first album to clock in under the 40-minute mark, falling into that limbo between a modern full-length and an EP. What's more, it feels like it stops short intentionally, almost confrontationally, as if Radiohead are trying to ask a new kind of question about their music.
"None of us want to get into that creative hoo-ha of a long-play record again," Thom Yorke told The Believer in August 2009. "It's just become a real drag. It worked with In Rainbows because we had a real fixed idea about where we were going. But we've all said that we can't possibly dive into that again. It'll kill us." This wouldn't be the first time that a member of Radiohead publicly fantasized about disowning the album format, but it might have been the most convincing. How better to unburden themselves of the stress of making more records in the mold of The Bends, OK Computer, Kid A, Amnesiac, and In Rainbows than by simply changing the terms of their engagement?
Radiohead's eighth record, The King of Limbs, represents a marked attempt to create a considered and cohesive unit of music that nonetheless sits somewhere outside of the spectrum of their previous full-length discography. And that's not to say that it doesn't ripple with the dazzling sonics or scenery that have become the band's stock in trade, but just that, unlike so many of their milestones, there's no abiding sense of a band defying all expectations in order to establish new precedents.
Instead, we get eight songs that feel mostly like small but natural evolutions of previously explored directions. Opener "Bloom" announces Radiohead's return with a scattershot sequence of chewed-up drum loops and peeling horns that dissolve into a rhythmic tangle. "Morning Mr. Magpie" re-casts an old live acoustic ballad in a more anxious light, its once-sunny disposition frozen into an icy glare. With its crumbling guitar shapes and clattering, fizzing percussion work, "Little By Little" sounds dilapidated and rundown. Meanwhile, "Feral" contorts Yorke's voice into a reverb-infused, James Blake-like wriggle that pings around the stereo channel against a mulched up drum pattern that sounds sharper than glass.
READ THE ENTIRE REVIEW HERE.
Posted by Dan Goldin at 7:19 PM