by Chris Haire
There are three types of rock 'n' roll: Driving music, dancing music, and fucking music.
That said, the release of Radiohead's The King of Limbs makes one thing abundantly clear. There's now a fourth category: Facebooking music.
With their post-Kid A love of bleeps and bloops and staggered, skipping beats and half-whispered, wind-blown melodies, Radiohead have long been moving toward this new type of music. And with King of Limbs, Thom Yorke and company finally succeed.
This is music designed for the solitary pursuit of sitting in front of a computer and updating, liking, and tweeting. For the earbud-wearing Facebooker — or a deck-bound microserf for that matter — this new genre creates the same sense of movement that driving or dancing does. But in this case, the sense of movement is an illusion.
Unlike the dancer or the driver, the Facebooker stays in place, sitting and typing, sitting and typing, and then sitting and typing some more. And just as their flying fingers create the sensation that they are actually doing something physical, so does the music — which, unlike the music blasting out of a car stereo or the speakers at a club, seemingly appears to come from within the own listener's head.
That's not to say that King of Limbs is not a success. It certainly is. It defines its genre.
And it's not to say that it's not good. In fact, it's quite the opposite. The first half is quite stellar, while the second half experiences a bit of a lull.
As a fan of Kid A, but a bigger fan of Amnesiac, I'd say that King of Limbs is considerably better than Hail to the Thief, which aside from the lead off track 2+2=5, was a disappointment, while In Rainbows was just a mumbled drag. King of Limbs is considerably different.
"Morning, Mr. Magpie" feels like an Atari-age crossover between the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" and Andy Summers guitar work on the Police's early instrumental tracks. It's a solid hallucinatory affair. "Bloom" is bit like the fare on Kid A, but with a strange, almost Bollywoody feel. The single "Lotus Flower" feels most akin to something off Amnesiac; it's a haunting, almost soulful track. Call it an R&B ballad for the Adderall and ecstasy set. "Little by Little" has a healthy dose of Spanish flare. All four tracks are standouts, and far beyond anything the last three tracks — a series of whimpering trinkets — can offer.