Your first reaction to the latest Radiohead album will be based almost entirely on what you expected from it. This is true to some extent for every album (and every movie, television show, novel, meal, etc.), but it’s particularly the case for Radiohead. The band has built a reputation as the most daring and innovative band on the planet, and it has now gone over three years between albums twice in a row. In other words, these guys have a lot to live up to.
I suspect that Radiohead knows this, and that it at least partially motivated the quick release of The King of Limbs. Just over a week ago the album had no official name or release date; then last Monday the band announced not only that the album was complete, but that it would be released in five days. To top all that off, the band released the album on Friday, a day before they had initially planned.
The general effect of this was both to preempt any long, anticipatory buildup to the album, as well as to shift focus from The King of Limbs itself to the manner of its release (something Radiohead has done before).
Not that fans need or ought to be “distracted” from The King of Limbs: The album is quite good. Continue reading »
OK, this is kind of cheating. “Nashville Skyline Rag” isn’t really a song, it’s more like an album interlude. It’s completely instrumental, and mainly serves to pace the album, like Radiohead does with “Treefingers” or “Fitter Happier,” or The Beatles do with several songs on The White Album.
The difference between those songs and “Nashville Skyline Rag,” though, is that OK Computer, The White Album and Kid A are all generally considered “high concept” albums. The interludes are (hypothetically) necessary to maintain the album’s sense of flow. Nashville Skyline is really just a simple country album. It’s only 27 minutes long, and three of those minutes are a pretty basic country beat without lyrics.
I don’t profess to be a country music expert, but this is a pretty humble, some might even say trite, composition.
What makes the song forgivable, and the Nashville Skyline album as a whole interesting, is the sense that Dylan is having fun. After his seminal work of the mid-60s and a debilitating motorcycle accident, this album, combined with The Basement Tapes, sounds like Dylan has moved beyond the pressure of trying to be brilliantly innovative and unpredictable with every album. And sometimes, I guess, the only way to get beyond that pressure is to do something completely unbrilliant and predictable like “Nashville Skyline Rag.”