Sometimes the weight of expectation is so great that the moment of release is doomed from the off. There was genuine, palpable excitement at the news of a new Radiohead album being less than a week away. In an age when even record label PR staff operate around when albums leak, this release mechanism sidesteps the usual build up and delivers a near instant fix for everyone at the same time. As a result, when you only have five days to wait from knowing of an album’s existence to actually hearing the thing, the excitement goes from zero to fever pitch in moments. As mere mortals stirred themselves into a state of aural arousal, the live-blogging plans whirred into action and the internet sharpened its typing fingers ready to shit out tiny nuggets of barely formed enormo-opinion at a world seemingly all trying to do exactly the same thing. While I can’t deny that there is something special about everybody sharing their first listen to a record, the depressing tendency towards massive overstatement and inane hyperbole made phrases like “where are the fucking tunes”, “it’s a Thom Yorke album” and “it’s another Kid A” make me want to pierce my own eyes with shards from a smashed up copy of ‘OK Computer’. The frequent desire to be first to review albums utterly baffles me. The pleasure of being first to listen, I understand, and I often get deliriously excitable when records I’m keenly anticipating arrive in promo form, but why prioritise saying anything over saying something? To see this lunacy in action, hang around any music discussion board and watch for any reasonably big release to leak. The clamour to declare the album to be either a masterwork or a disastrous misfire is startling and I can’t imagine listening to music in this way. When I’m reviewing albums, I am always determined to ensure that each record has had sufficient time to impress me before fashioning an erudite and witty paragraph or two. I remember as a teenager with limited funds spending hours upon hours poring over any album I bought, partly due to my youthful enthusiasm and partly because I wanted my money’s worth. As someone who now buys far too many records and receives a similar number in promo form, I do find myself occasionally longing for that less cluttered approach to music. It’s amazing to see how many people are willing to abandon albums by artists they seemingly at least have a semblance of interest in after one, clearly not all that attentive, exposure. The new Noah & The Whale album is actually rather good (no, really) but on first play it just seemed bloody odd and left me slightly nauseous. Elbow’s ‘Build A Rocket Boys!’ comes across as rather one-paced on initial listens but then gradually unfurls into something quite majestic. And, let’s face it, since when have Radiohead released albums which make perfect sense after ONE FUCKING LISTEN?
Listening to ‘In Rainbows’ the morning after the download was released I felt distinctly underwhelmed, wondering what the hell was going on with the drums and why it all seemed a bit hit and miss. I reassured myself that it would probably make sense in due course and that by the time the discbox vinyl had arrived I’d likely be glued to the speakers. That album has gone on to become one of my absolute favourite records and is as cohesive and plain beautiful a set of songs as you could wish to hear. Listen to the “ehhhh-ehhh” backing vocals which come in after several minutes of ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’ and tell me you’re not just a little bit moved. That said, it took me a number of months to really acknowledge that I loved that song and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The nature of reviews is that we don’t tend to wait months and months before transcribing our opinions but, in an attempt to at least find an imperfect solution, multiple listens are essential. Writing 40 From The Noughties was a delight because I got to review albums from a position of hindsight and, in an ideal world, that would be the best way for things to work. But they don’t. I, like you, want to know what’s good now and which new releases I should be spending some of my hard earned money on. So, what is ‘The King Of Limbs’ actually like? Read the rest of this entry »