The Just Played Verdict–Radiohead ‘The King Of Limbs’

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? Continue reading “The Just Played Verdict–Radiohead ‘The King Of Limbs’”

A reasonably concise update

It wouldn’t be the same if this blog didn’t just grind to a halt for a month or so every now and then, would it? I’d originally intended to rest it for a week or two while I delved into the Beatles remasters but a week leads to a fortnight, a fortnight to a month and, well, you know how it is. Quite a month, mind, including the live return of one of my all-time favourite bands, Massive Attack. If the new songs played on that drab night in Sheffield are anything to go by, the new album will be everything people have hoped for and a little bit more. There’s one new track, (I have no idea about the title, I’m afraid) sung by Horace Andy which may well be one of the best things they’ve ever done. The ‘Splitting The Atom’ EP emerged last weekend as a digital download and it’s a pretty impressive quartet of new material. The lolloping title track belies the fact that Damon Albarn has been involved this time around, while ‘Pray For Rain’, featuring vocals from TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, has a wonderful gear change about four minutes in which elevates it to ‘special’ status. You can sample it for yourself over at Spotify, purchase it as a high-quality FLAC download from 7Digital or even shell out £20 for a spangly vinyl edition from those Monkey-box-set-making-types over at The Vinyl Factory.

Beatles expenditure limited the funds for new music last month, but a few splendid things snuck though, such as the latest offering from Richard Hawley, ‘Truelove’s Gutter’, which is a muso’s dream and the very definition of a ‘headphones album’. Coming off the back of the really rather polished ‘Lady’s Bridge’, (hmm, that sounds slightly wrong) an album with only eight songs, two of which scrape the ten minute mark, it’s an absolute delight to listen to and it may well be his best. ‘Remorse Code’ is a remarkable beast, languidly atmospheric and beautifully recorded. ‘Open Up Your Door’ may have spent some time with ‘The Ocean’ from ‘Coles Corner’, mind. There is meant to be a deluxe double vinyl edition with free CD and signed photo springing up at some point but, with every additional week’s delay, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

The NME has a new editor in the shape of Krissi Murison and she’s already made a few changes. Icky changes, largely speaking. Making me actually wish Conor McNicholas hadn’t left after all kind of changes. The most unforgiveable change is the removal of Mark Beaumont’s weekly column, which was as good a reason as any to shell out £2.30 a week. Thankfully, Peter Robinson Vs has been retained, tucked away at the back now, or I may have had to have said goodbye. Again. Oh, who am I trying to kid. Still, it’s a shame as Beaumont was a witty and acerbic observer of the music scene, something the NME was always good at and I’m not sure how that hole will be filled.

The Radiohead deluxe editions for the latter half of their EMI tenure proved to be delightful additions to the collection, containing some splendid B sides which I’d never previously spent any time with and selected visual highlights from this wonderful, wonderful Later… special.

Put aside an hour and treat yourself. It’s really rather special. While I’m talking about all things Yorke, if you’ve not yet sampled the two tracks recently released as a (bloody expensive) heavyweight vinyl 12” single, you’re truly missing out. Click here to sample ‘FeelingPulledApartByHorses’ and ‘The Hollow Earth’, the latter track being one of the finest things I’ve heard all year. It’s in the same, slightly skittery vein as ‘The Eraser’, with a nagging hook and a thumping beat. It’s almost worth the insane amount the 12” costs. £10, by the way.

I’ve been ploughing through my record collection for the last few weeks, attempting to assemble a list of some kind ready for the launch of the previously trailed, ‘Just Played – Albums Of The Decade’ feature, which will be arriving fairly soon now. It’s been lovely to be reminded of albums like Daft Punk’s ‘Discoveryand Air’s ‘10 000Hz Legend’, alongside Teenage Fanclub’s ‘Howdy and Rufus Wainwright’s ‘Poses. There are some absolute certs for the final list, but it’s been interesting to realise some of the records I’d totally forgotten about that are thoroughly deserving of a place. More on that soon.

Oh, and there were those remasters I briefly mentioned at the start. I haven’t got an awful lot to add to the millions of column inches offered up over the last six weeks (and largely bought by me) so I’ll not say much. (On the other hand, recent convert, Dan of teatunes, says plenty here) Suffice to say, the more expensive of the box sets, ‘The Beatles In Mono’, is an absolute delight, with the sound punchy and remarkably clear. I feel obliged to inform you that you haven’t heard ‘Rubber Soul’ until you’ve heard the mono mix at a fair old volume – it’s a rather special moment. The packaging is wonderful and a serious step up from the fold-out card things used for the stereo reissues. As for the more widely available stereo mixes, I found that box a slight anti-climax, what with it arriving four days after the mono box had had its chance to seduce me. That said, it’s still a beguiling collection of music and those albums only available in stereo sound pretty impressive to these ears. I’ve certainly never liked ‘Abbey Road’ more than I do now. I love their catalogue now more than I ever previously have, but that’s probably no great surprise. For anyone who takes their music listening seriously, you really should get at least one of these boxes, if you haven’t already, as they are the definitive versions. Sod the money, on this occasion. Buy a few less takeaways or £40 games and treat yourself.

Oh, and if you’ve still not heard the new Maps album, sort yourself out, eh?