The announcement of a new Radiohead album is like brain surgery. You don't ask what it will feel like. You ask what your life will be like afterwards. They are a supergroup akin to no other, having created some of the best, most inventive albums of the last two decades. Record companies don't tell them how to sell their records. They redefine what selling records means. (Maybe you don't buy a Radiohead album--maybe the album buys you.) All of this while bringing experimental music with pop sensibilities to a mass market.
So when hearing that Radiohead's latest release, The King of Limbs, would be a "newspaper album" that will return the idea of shared experience back to music, one can only sit back and wonder "what exactly does that mean?". If anybody can alter reality and social constructs on a global scale, Radiohead would be the ones to do it. But how precisely will they recreate this international Stonehenge for everybody to experience simultaneously?
Before that can happen, the album has already been released digitally along with a single for the track "Lotus Flower". The video of which consists of a solitary Thom Yorke dancing about a warehouse in a bowler hat. How exactly does this fit in with the ideals of the album's release? Does he represent the isolated listener, abandoned in an empty, unjust world, left to his own devices? Or does the bowler hat represent the masks that society makes us wear?
No, actually, it appears to be just Thom Yorke not-so-interpretatively dancing to his heart's content. The song is very much reminiscent of recent Radiohead releases in the vein of Kid A's electronica dub alongside quiet, opaque lyrics. The whole album is a complex patchwork of intricate sampling, composition, and song cycle. Possibly the year's best album to-date, it will take some time to decipher all of the layers, yet its Yorke's contortions that I keep coming back to.
I'm not sure if it's his Norwegian disco-robot dance, the hobo's delight jig, or the mime-in-a-windstorm-of-razors that I find most compelling. They all mesmerize equally. And the mashups only make it better.