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An open letter to Radiohead upon the release of ‘King of Limbs’

Dear Radiohead,

You sly devils. You almost pulled the wool over our eyes. As I write this, I’m listening to your new album, “The King of Limbs,” and the atmospherics, Thom Yorke’s moaned lyrics, the vague but omnipresent sense of gloom—where have we heard all this before?

Of course! They’re all present in increasing amounts in everything Radiohead has ever released. Now, there are a lot of critics out there who will say that “The King of Limbs” furthers the artistic reach of “In Rainbows.” They’ll applaud your singular virtuosity of mournful expression, deconstruct your deconstruction of alternative music as we know it.

And these people will play straight into your hands. Your evil (presumably white-cat-stroking) hands.

Because obviously, Radiohead, you are geniuses, misunderstood poets, vanguards of artistic expression. For a critic to speak ill of you guys would be sacrilege, which is why on “King,” we get Radiohead parodying Radiohead. All the band’s predilections are inflated to the nth degree. The atmospherics are more sparse, the lyrics at their most gossamer. “Make sense of this!” you dare music writers, and they will; to admit befuddlement would be a black mark on their careers. Not being able to tease out a meaning denotes a deficiency in the listener, not the band. Not Radiohead.

Suddenly the band’s recent actions—splitting from its label to release music for free, teasing listeners with cryptic multi-lingual tweets about a new album, changing the album’s drop date at the last moment to the impotent fury of entertainment reporters—can be read in a whole new light. Radiohead is pushing us to see how far we’ll budge, and WE LET YOU!

If “The King of Limbs” arrived on an editor’s desk attributed to anyone except Radiohead, it would be passed over without a thought. You know this. You know that it’s utterly devoid of meaning. When we play it, you’re playing us.

There’s more at stake than just the music, isn’t there, Radiohead? “King” is an appraisal of a musical scene that rewards success instead of value. You know that the album was a critical darling before the critics even got a chance to hear it. You know that sycophants, flavors of the week and bloated has-beens control the industry. So, on your new release you have demeaned yourself to make a statement about our complacency with established musicians. Suddenly the album has greater value as a divining rod for hacks and lemmings than as a collection of notes and words.

Sincerely,

Steve Hardy

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  • TTTTTTT says:

    Not going to comment on the new album’s music, because I have not been able to download it off Sandbag’s terrible download system. Zero customer service. Finally, six weeks later I get an email telling me they’re refunding my order “shortly”. Still no download. Radiohead have chosen a sub-par method of distributing their music.

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  • Clavis says:

    Ha, ha. Fail. This album shows up unattributed on a desk and whether they love it for personal listening or not, they would recognize immediately they had a rare and gorgeous creature in their hands.

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  • Nok says:

    Mr. Steve Hardy, I salute you.

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  • well played says:

    lots of butthurt from hipsters in here

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  • hatersgonhate says:

    This would have been a really good EP. Kind of like how Hail to the Thief could have been so much better with a few songs removed.

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  • Roger says:

    @Steve Hardy

    I’m sorry the Jonas Brother couldn’t have come out with a new album instead…

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  • Alex says:

    Ugh. Radiohead is all well and good, but every time I hear someone pour over how amazing they are, I throw up a little bit in my mouth. No, In Rainbows or OK Computer is NOT the Sgt. Pepper of our time. They are vastly overrated.

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  • j says:

    That you didn’t name a single song or really describe the music beyond “atmospherics, “moaned vocals,” and “sense of gloom,” I think is telling that you really haven’t explored the album. I agree with the other commenters that a Radiohead album takes some time and should be accorded more than a knee-jerk reaction.

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  • BP says:

    I respectfully disagree. As with most Radiohead albums, the first listen is the hardest. The first time you hear it, you may be confused. What is the meaning? Where is the content? You may even feel a little threatened. But I implore you, don’t give up then. Keep looking. It will open up to you. And by that I don’t mean the concrete meaning of the lyrics and music. Goodness knows we’ll never know what Radiohead means, just as we don’t really know what Miles Davis meant or Bob Dylan or Chopin. Just enjoy the damn thing.

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  • listner says:

    I couldn’t disagree more. I don’t hear a jaded parody of musical dissonance from a band comfortable with its status as The Mainstream Genius. There’s a highly cohesive conceptual and musical theme in the King of Limbs, and it’s about entering a place of pure, naked, wilderness. Take some time with this before you jump to conclusions. I personally hear the evolution from “In Rainbows”, albeit through the more experimental, “Kid A” Radiohead genre.

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  • Tom says:

    Looks like somebody had a big dose of sarcasm this morning

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  • samya says:

    I don’t think you know or feel music….Radiohead will ALWAYS be the band that revolutionized Rock music…or do you even know anything about that?? What other band, mixed in electronic notes to rock beats and wasn’t shy of moaning and groaning in their songs before them???

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  • TS says:

    Hot off the press – Music Journalism moves to new open letter format in a desperate bid to reinvigorate an increasingly irrelevant industry. Steve Hardy hopes this format will ensure every possible angle is explored and that anyone who wants to approach bands with a semblance of curiousity is left confused and alone. Steve Hardy accepts that collateral damage is inevitable but hopes this will teach Radiohead not to mess with established critical opinion.

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  • bennyboy says:

    Less of a review than half-baked attempt at insight. Here’s a tip for the future: never try and second guess an artist’s intentions mate. What comes to mind reading your ‘open letter’ (which I assume you have also had the balls to send to Radiohead themselves?) is Bob Dylan’s very wise song ‘The Wicked Messenger’:

    There was a wicked messenger
    From Eli he did come
    With a mind that multiplied
    The smallest matter
    When questioned who had sent for him
    He answered with his thumb
    For his tongue it could not speak, but only flatter.

    He stayed behind the assembly hall
    It was there he made his bed
    Oftentimes he could be seen returning
    Until one day he just appeared
    With a note in his hand which read
    “The soles of my feet, I swear they’re burning”

    Oh, the leaves began to fallin’
    And the seas began to part
    And the people that confronted him were many
    And he was told but these few words
    Which opened up his heart
    “If ye cannot bring good news, then don’t bring any”.

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  • Damian says:

    The most interesting point of view to date. I still feel there will be another part to this album. Well maybe that is just wishful thinking

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  • Mark Beaumont says:

    “If “The King of Limbs” arrived on an editor’s desk attributed to anyone except Radiohead, it would be passed over without a thought”

    Nonsense. Find me an album by an unknown act that sounds like this.

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  • R says:

    O how I love you and every word you just spoke. wrote.

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878