Radiohead surprised everyone today and released their new album The King of Limbs. Fans in the states cheered to have the album a full day early, from scheduled release, to celebrate an unusual warm snap. Spring had come early, complete with it’s own soundtrack. Somehow it felt right.
However not all people were as happy as the fans. Reviewers, surprised by the sudden release, scrambled to have some sort of reviews online. Some snarky reviews even pointed a finger at the band.
“Radiohead’s release schedule is not, you imagine, geared towards helping music critics. Minimal warnings, last-minute changes of plan and confusing announcements posted on Twitter in Japanese – does Thom Yorke not realise we have tight deadlines? The end result is a mad-rush by critics, bloggers and Tweet-freaks to be first to post their opinion on The King of Limbs’ eight tracks. Trouble is, Radiohead don’t make music designed for a hurried listen. A couple more plays down the line and the opinions you read here may be subject to change.” – Radiohead – The King of Limbs: First review
The truth is, while Radiohead may not have shattered every soundscape ever conceived with The King of Limbs they did do one thing which is an innovation in the music industry, not one solitary copy of The King of Limbs was leaked to file-sharing services. Not one review came out ahead of time. This album came out at the same time for everyone – you, me, reviewers, and the thieves. I have never heard of in the past 15 years any major album, by a major band no less, not get ratted out by some unscrupulous reviewer’s copy finding it’s way on the net.
This was a media blackout in the best way possible, and I for one was glad not to have reviewers barking their opinions at me. When did we as music listeners stop making our own decisions about what music we like or dislike by how it effected us upon our first unfettered listen. Why must EVERYTHING we consume need to be put in context by some know-it all who tells us why and how we should appreciate it. Art is about making your own mind up about what you are experiencing and no professional who spent years at journalism school is going to change that.
Today was an amazing day not just because of what I heard, but mostly because of what I didn’t.