A close-reading of “Bloom”

A thought on the endangered sea turtle, while visiting Cincinnati Zoo: Radiohead’s dim glimpse through its eyes

The train circles round to the waterfowl exhibit. My girlfriend and I point out the ducks to her children. Their faces fill with excitement, seeing the typical white birds and green mallards. Annabel grabs my attention and shows me turtles she spotted on a tree limb fallen out into the water. I begin thinking of sea turtles. I didn’t even think about how Radiohead’s The King of Limbs had been influencing me. I’ve listened to the album many times. It was just this week the lyrics finally hit me–such a rhythmically intricate album, how the percussion shines over the words. The main idea of the opening track is to be informed of how sea turtles are impacted in their environment. Seeing many bulletins about conservation in the zoo, seeing the turtles in the wetland exhibit, and the song cause me to stop and think about the animal, though there was no specific exhibit on green sea turtles.

“Bloom” is written from the perspective of a sea turtle. “So, why does it still hurt,” Thom Yorke asks, while he sings about the turtle drinking the ocean? Red Tide may be responsible for many sea deaths, and the title is interrelated to another type of food the green sea turtle eats: algae. The title of the song could also suggest a discoloration or pollutant present in the water. The audience knows some damage has been inflicted because the turtle is “moving out of orbit” and “turning in somersaults” in which listeners witness a part of its death–unable to feast on passing jelly fish.

Much of this correlates to the damage humans inflict on wildlife, which would suggest a negative connotation of why humans are king, pointing to the title of the album. While it may be ambiguous what is killing this particular creature in the song, one thing that is made important is for the listener to educate themselves on the many causes attributing to the species being on the endangered list.

The day is hot and my girlfriend and I sweat profusely as we move between one exhibit to the next with the tiring kids. We see a sea turtle in an aquarium exhibit where it isn’t the centerpiece, but a part of the ecosystem. One thing I note is how large the sea turtle is–looking like a rock underneath the water, not moving, and covered with algae. How smart the animal is to camouflage itself with food that sustains its need for sustenance. Food is overly priced at the animal park, so we leave for sandwiches before we make the trip back to Richmond, exhausted, hungry, but happy.

Work cited

Radiohead. “Bloom.” The King of Limbs. XL, 2011. LP.

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