By Álvaro García Montoliu
Great marketing strategists that they are, Radiohead proved once again that they’re all about innovation and causing a fuss because that’s what’s needed every now and then. They already left us speechless when they announced that their album “The King Of Limbs” (XL, 2011; officially on sale as of last week), would come with a newspaper, “ The Universal Sigh”. Yesterday at noon the first copies were distributed all over the world (from here to Novosibirsk) for free, although it isn’t the one included on the special edition of the album. We don’t know if they ran out of copies in the end, but we can say that, after some trouble, we got several of them. If you couldn’t escape from class, if your boss had scheduled a meeting at noon or if you couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed, here’s what’s in the (revolutionary?) publication.
Along with the newspaper, which on its back cover includes a code that takes you directly to the official website, they handed out a flyer with a number that we don’t know the meaning of yet – we advise you to keep it somewhere safe, just in case. The pages inside are filled with illustrations of ghosts, viscous creatures and scary woods, much in the vein of “The King Of Limbs”, which is a creature that looks like an amphibian. More fear is generated by the Codex (as you’ll know, also one of the most precious and intimate songs on the album), a being with six arms on its head. There’s also some vegetation that looks like it’s been taken from a Japanese video game like Ragnorok (sure they didn’t mean to say Ragnarok?) or Urpflanze.
Flipping through the pages of “The Universal Sigh”, we find three signed articles. And no, none of them is written by Thom Yorke. It’s a series of one or two-page stories by Jay Griffiths, Robert Macfarlane and Stanley Donwood. All of them are British and, in the case of the first two, reputed writers of travel books. So it’s no surprise that there are so many details about nature in the writings. It’s obvious that the leitmotiv Radiohead was going for with this album is the exaltation of Mother Earth and the trees in particular, reason for former Oasis man Liam Gallagher to have a good laugh at their expense. You’ll be more familiar with the third name. Apart from a writer, Donwood is a graphic artist who has always been linked to the British band. The artwork of “The King Of Limbs” is his and so is, we imagine, the graphic design of the newspaper. He writes the third story, “Sell Your House And Buy Gold”.
The start of “The Universal Sigh” is dedicated to poetry and the album lyrics. Although we couldn’t find any references to the texts on “The King Of Limbs”, they do quote the name of the newspaper in one of the tracks. Regarding the central pages, what stands out is its design, which is much indebted to Russian constructivism and all propaganda publications in general. After taking a breath after getting several copies of the Radiohead newspaper, it’s time to meticulously dissect it, in case you haven’t been able to get your hands on one for your collection.
" The King Of Limbs"