From late 1994 through 2009, Radiohead went on an insane run as the greatest band on the planet. Almost everything they touched caused critics to drool uncontrollably and fans to purchase records and concert tickets without reservation. After a merely good debut, Radiohead proceeded to dominate Brit-rock, create one of the greatest records of all time, blend rock and electronica, and then come back around to make a statement about the record industry. Even their few missteps were glanced over (The Eraser), and their more divisive efforts were eventually regarded as near-perfect (Kid A and Amnesiac). Radiohead just didn’t seem like a band that could do anything wrong.
Then along came The King of Limbs. It was quite shocking in a number of ways. Firstly, it came out of nowhere. The band took to their website on Monday February 14 to announce the record. That Friday, Limbs was released. Pretty quick turnaround by any standard. The next shocking element was the length of record. The entire thing was only 37 minutes long and featured 8 total songs, making it the shortest proper release in Radiohead’s history.
But the real shock was the music itself. On first listen, it was without structure, without rock sensibility and pushed into semi-dubstep. But the problem was that it just didn’t feel right. Songs were too rhythmic and didn’t feature enough melody. There were plenty of layers to pull back, but it was very difficult to do so and the rewards weren’t quickly accessed. Limbs was just hard to deal with, not great for a cursory listen, and didn’t seem as valuable even with careful ears.
So it came as a shock to me that the record could be truly saved. And then it was. By television.