by Ian Newman on Mar.16, 2011
Etymology: < Latin fer-a wild beast + -al suffix
1. Of an animal: Wild, untamed. Of a plant, also (rarely), of ground: Uncultivated.
Now often applied to animals or plants that have lapsed into a wild from a domesticated condition.
2. Of, pertaining to, or resembling a wild beast; brutal, savage.
3. Used as n.: A wild-beast. Obs. rare.
Radiohead don’t like drummers. ‘Feral,’ checking in at three minutes and twelve seconds, is by some distance the shortest track on Radiohead’s King of Limbs. It returns us to the antagonism between the natural world and the electronic era, but this time with the breathless ferocity appropriate to the savage world of drumming.
by Ian Newman on Feb.27, 2011
The third track on Radiohead’s King of Limbs, Little By Little, opens with a snare drum hit followed by more of the South American percussion that was a feature of Morning Mr Magpie. A jinky bongo, cowbell, and maraca groove underpins the track, but rather than the band jamming along, this time the percussion is in at odds with the dance. A plodding bass line relentlessly conforms to the beats of the 4/4 time signature, a drudgery mildly alleviated by a guitar that curls around the bass, filling in some rudimentary rhythmic interest. Against this an acoustic guitar is strummed in a manner reminiscent of a Western. The effect is disorienting and discomfiting. Are we at a Brazilian carnival, in a dusty street in the American west, or sluggishly walking home from the office on a grey rainy day?
by Ian Newman on Feb.23, 2011
Up until the release of Hail to the Thief in 2003 Radiohead were under contract with EMI. At the end of the contract Thom Yorke was quoted as saying “I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say ‘Fuck you’ to this decaying business model.” Their next release, in 2007 was In Rainbows, which was initially released on the band’s website with no set price. Visitors were encouraged to pay whatever amount they thought was appropriate. Part of the explanation for this strategy was that each of the last four albums had been leaked before the official release date, so the band resolved to leak it themselves. The form of the album (to borrow Joyelle’s formulation) is the leak. Morning Mr Magpie, the second track on The King of Limbs, is a meditation on the art of reproduction in the digital age, a consideration of the value of music in the age of the leak.
by Ian Newman on Feb.22, 2011
On Friday 18th February 2011, four days after it’s existence was first announced and one day earlier than promised, Radiohead, a band known for their strident anti-capitalist stance, released their eighth studio album The King of Limbs online. This event occurred in the same week that protestors took to the streets in Libya, Bahrain, Yeman and Morocco following the fall of the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubark, from power. The protests in the Arab world were to a large degree facilitated by social media networks such as facebook and twitter. One strategy the Egyptian government adopted in the final days of their regime was to close down the infrastructures that supported the internet; in spite of this protestors stayed in touch with each other using proxy servers in foreign countries. When Muammar Gaddafi’s government prevented foreign journalists from taking pictures of the conflict as Libya’s people took to the streets, videos appeared on YouTube showing the scenes the Libyan leader didn’t want the rest of the world to see.
On February 8, before the new album was announced, Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien posted an entry on the band’s website saying “I have become increasingly excited over the last 3 months about the possibilities of this form of communication. Yes I am very slow out of the blocks. It’s in the arena of public protest that it seems twitter and facebook are increasingly the means by which popular movements throughout the world are able to come together and mobilise.” Radiohead self-consciously launched their album, which was publicized largely through those same media outlets that were enabling the revolution in the Middle East, into a world that was witnessing the power of social media to bring about political change. The release strategy was an unequivocal political gesture. The question, though, is what the politics of this gesture were. What does it mean for a band, whose success depended on the corporate structures of the music industry and the comodification of musical talent in the mid-1990’s, to simultaneously take up an aggressive anti-capitalist stance, while championing social media networks that themselves enabled the overthrow of political regimes that were most resistant to advances of capitalism? (While it is not always clear that anti-autocratic demonstrations are explicitly pro-capitalist, the repeated refrain is the desire for “liberty,” a term that in the twenty-first century has become synonymous with the freedom to consume; political liberty and economic liberty have collapsed into a point of non-differentiation). Continue reading “Bloom” »