Radiohead released their eighth album, The King of Limbs, last week to, surprise surprise, widespread critical acclaim. “A challenging album, difficult to review, but beautiful and interesting”, was the general consensus. Hmmmn. Forgive me, but should an album really be difficult to review? I mean, I’d struggle to review The Saturdays’ album because, you know, it’s probably total shit, and even if it’s not, it’s music-box-churned-out-pop-dirge. Not music I listen to, not in a lucid state anyway. Besides which, an album should be fairly easily gradable on some arbitrary scale. But this is not a review, it’s a critique. Of the critics.
I’ve been a big fan of Radiohead for many a year. In fact, when people ask me who
my favourite band are I will often refer them to the Oxford quintet. I even loved The Eraser, and I think Kid A is a near-perfect record. But I’m losing patience.
Sure, Limbs is a half-decent record. It’s gone some nice trademark tinkly bits, some catchy bass riffs, a smattering of Selway’s jazz infused drumming. I’m not saying it’s a bad record by any stretch. The problem is, Radiohead haven’t put out anything truly groundbreaking since 2001. And they shouldn’t have to, either – they’re great songwriters and fine musicians. However, when they put out a fairly average album, it ought to be treated as such.
It seems the only other person who noticed this is Barbara Ellen (ahhhhh, Barbara) in The Observer. Perceptive, she is, delightfully describing Radiohead’s sound as “like drunks tripping over Jean Michel Jarre’s dustbins”. But it’s not Radiohead’s problem. They’re now so revered, held on some music-royalty pedestal way above their contemporaries that their next record could just be Thom Yorke falling on top of a vocoder whilst playing glockenspiel with his penis, accompanied by Johnny Greenwood crying onto an infant’s face, and the crits would love it. “Ohhhhhh, once again Radiohead push the boundaries of ‘music’.” Actually, that does sound like a fairly interesting record, but the point stands.
It’s the old adage, “Man, you just don’t get it.” Well, Yorke, I do get it. You’re just not as good as you used to be.
*I’d like to point out that I thought of this article about a week ago but I was too lazy to write it. Then Babs wrote hers, and it seems like I stole her idea. I didn’t. Besides, we were all thinking it anyway.
You can follow Neal Wallace on Twitter @nealjwallace