Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Art of Evolution: Radiohead Continues to Lead the Way

Now that I am so far behind on my recording of the recordings, I realize I don't have to faithfully record them in the order I hear them. I am free to cherry pick whatever recording seems to work the best for the events of the world. For example, on Friday Radiohead released their new album, The King of Limbs, their first release since 2007's critically acclaimed In Rainbows. In fact, as they always seem to do, the band released this one with a twist-- the album was released a day early due to the fact that it was "a full moon." I won't get too into the new album except to say it's worth a listen if you have liked anything Radiohead has done since OK Computer, which is apropos considering that it's one of the 1000 Recordings.

Artist: Radiohead
Album: OK Computer
Recording #80ish

Back in 1997 I was only a few years removed from my discovery that the music I bought didn't have to come from what was being played on the radio. Experimentation was at an all-time high in my musical taste, yet somehow I missed this the first time around. Perhaps that's the reason my favorite Radiohead album is still Kid A (I understand that it is a very dangerous thing to list a favorite Radiohead album. People are as defensive about this opinion as they are about their favorite sports team or their religion. I will not defend my choice except to say that I can understand why you like better and I'm glad that works for you).

I won't get too far into reviewing this album because there are people with PhD's in Radiohead's music and a few seconds on Google will produce more than enough opinions (my friend John87 actually wrote a term paper on the discography of Radiohead about seven years ago, plus check out the Amazon stats). What I would like to say about this album is that it was the first of Radiohead's albums to really foretell their reign as rock's unlikely king. "Paranoid Android" seems as schizophrenic and dense today as it was at its release, and yet it is supremely listenable. The song takes about five unexpected right angle turns and yet the final destination still seems so obvious... once you get there. "Karma Police" was the radio favorite at the time of release, and I still don't understand how I didn't buy the album after hearing it, as "I lost myself" in it every time it came on the air. The rest of the album is full of strong tracks that take you to another world, full of darkness and beauty.

OK Computer led to Kid A, which was the real game-changer in alt-rock and it opened the door for electronic rock that actually, well, rocked. At the same time, OK's not a period piece: it truly is a great listen from start to finish. Whether it's the devastating "Exit Music (for a Film)" or the jarring riffage of "Electioneering," every note evokes distopia while sounding like paradise. And if that sounds like hyperbole, then you just haven't listened to enough Radiohead yet to appreciate it. I know after listening to the newest album I'm ready to return to the catalog and witness the evolution of music happen again.

Buy it at Amazon where you will find 2076 user reviews, 1799 of them 5-stars.

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