New Radiohead LP surprises fanbase… again
The day after the Grammys, when most reporters were busy compiling red carpet fashion reports and avoiding obvious puns about Lady Gaga’s egg entrance, the English, alternative-rock Gods, Radiohead, had other plans for the media.
The group announced on Valentine’s Day that their eighth studio album, “The King of Limbs,” would be available for download Saturday, almost three months before the original release date. Then on Friday, Feb. 18, seemingly in an effort to one-up themselves, the band unexpectedly offered their album a day early on their website.
This release schedule is similar to the industry-changing distribution of the Grammy winning album “In Rainbows” in October 2007, when the band let fans name their own price for a digital copy two months before the physical release.
Reassuring fans, “it’s up to you,” Radiohead gave away countless free downloads of their seventh studio album and sold over three million copies after the physical release.
This time around the going rate for “The King of Limbs” is $9, but the idea is still the same: early availability of the record encourages fans to hand over their cash for special features and eye-pleasing packaging. Early, legal accessibility only helped “In Rainbows” climb the charts to No. 1 in both the U.K. and the U.S.
Accordingly Radiohead plans to release “The King of Limbs” in early May, complete with two clear 10″ vinyl records and 625 tiny pieces of artwork with a full-color piece of oxo-degradeable plastic to hold it all together.
According to Pitchfork.com, Radiohead is terming the physical copy of “The King of Limbs” the “world’s first Newspaper Album.”
“In Rainbows” was a revelation for the music industry, showing that consumers are more than willing to buy albums that they already enjoy.
Radiohead has eased “The King of Limbs” on their fan base. Thom Yorke first began performing “Lotus Flower” during solo shows last year, leaving only seven unfamiliar tracks on the 37-minute CD.
The music video for “Lotus Flower” has already circulated the internet, a simplistic yet eerie recording of Thom Yorke wearing a bowler hat, contorting and crooning to what seems to be “The King of Limbs'” first single.
The group continues to build upon the mixing of classical orchestration, electronics and a bit of rock n’ roll showcased on their seminal fourth album, “Kid A,” and built to near perfection with “In Rainbows.” The soundscapes scattered across “The King of Limbs” turn the seemingly discordant into art.
Like “In Rainbows,” there are very few tracks that have the potential to become karaoke standards like the band’s first single “Creep,” which enjoyed resurgence thanks to Rock Band and previews for this year’s Oscar favorite, “The Social Network.”
The lyrics are sparse, and extended instrumental sections come dangerously close to the derogative genre, “elevator music.” Well, “elevator music” in a spa that lost their recording of waterfalls and birdcalls.
When Yorke does choose to display his lyric-writing prowess, he is spot on as usual. “Lotus Flower” and “Little by Little” tell stories of addiction, lust, stress, confusion and depression: classic fodder for Yorke.
The piano ballad “Codex” is a welcome retreat from electronic influences, showing the group’s ability to write a truly great song using simple piano chords and lyrics: “Jump off the end / The water’s clear / And innocent.” No theatrics, no egg shells, just simple, spot-on song writing.
Regardless of whether or not listeners “like” the album (although the similarities to “In Rainbows” seem to peg it as a guaranteed hit), “The King of Limbs” is undoubtedly worthy of respect.
Ingenuity is apparent with each track, from the peculiar melodies of “Lotus Flower” to the folky undertones of “Give up the Ghost.” Radiohead never fails to deliver a tailored album; nothing sounds accidental, arbitrary or sloppy.
From the first tinkling piano chords and jarring electronic reverberations of “Bloom” to the symphonic close of “Separator,” Radiohead presents a completely original eighth album, three months early, but right on time for fans.
Meghan Dixon can be reached at email@example.com.