"The King of Limbs" by Radiohead

Radiohead
The King of Limbs

Ticker Tape Ltd
2011

Review

Radiohead's "The King Of Limbs" is an inferior album to "In Rainbows". Still, it has some fantastic moments that make it worth your time if you are a die-hard Radiohead fan. For those of you that aren't that fond of Radiohead to start with, this album certainly isn't going to change your mind.

I loved "In Rainbows". It's probably my favorite Radiohead album of all time (yes, I own "The Bends", "OK Computer" and "Kid A", btw). For me, "In Rainbows" was just an amazing record in that I could listen to it over and over. It had such a broad range of emotions. I mean, I listen to "The Bends" if I'm depressed and "OK Computer" if I'm nostalgic. I listen to "In Rainbows" to listen to some music. Perhaps not as iconic as the other albums I just mentioned, it's still notable not just for the music but for the business model it helped to promote. Well, Radiohead's back with another album of music delivered straight to you, Mr. or Ms. consumer, without the "assistance" of a label.

Great, so we're all behind the whole "let's screw the label zeitgeist", but is the album any good? Well, it's not bad. It's not as good as "In Rainbows" though...for one it's a lot more somber. Case in point is "In Bloom" which is on some trippy, sparse, drum-and-bass type shit. Accept that fact, and there's much to appreciate here. I'd put this in the instrumental/electronic by way of jazz break beats category. At this point, you can almost always expect Radiohead to surprise you with a new sound and "Bloom" is a good example of that.

"Mr Magpie" is a more traditional Radiohead-Rock song than "Bloom" that could potentially grow on me, but after a few listens it didn't really grab my attention the way that "Lotus Flower" did. Maybe I need another crazy gyrating Thom Yorke dancing video to convince me. It's not that it's bad, it's just that it isn't terribly exciting. It almost approaches exciting towards the end, but it never quite gets there (neither does "Feral" which is a song that I really want to like but it's just not what I expect out of a great Radiohead song). So there's songs that don't really quite get there, and then there's songs like "Lotus Flower".

It seems to me that Feral's random feel was responsible for Lotus Flower's completeness as it is an actual complete song. It feels like there's a creative process here and the song have been presented in the order they were conceived. Therefore, it's not surprising that the album hits it's stride just after the halfway mark. "Lotus Flower" is a really good Radiohead song with an interesting video. However, up until this point in the album there really aren't that many really compelling songs. I STILL listen to "In Rainbows" regularly (I love "Weird Fishes" and "15 Step"). "The King Of Limbs" seems much more experimental and less cohesive than "In Rainbows" (it's only 8 tracks) . Radiohead have done experimental many times with great success ("Kid A" anyone?) but never have they lacked cohesion like they seem to do on their latest outing. I'm not saying that it's terrible, it's just less than amazing. And hey, as a fan of their work, it's OK by me. I see it as a momentary creative outburst in support of their next great record (Joe, ever the eternal optimist).

That stride continues on to the next track "Codex" which is a very quiet and complex track that seems deceptively simple. The track leads with two key elements: Thom Yorke's voice layered behind the lead vocals and a classical piano to carry the melody forward. There's even some brass accents to give the track even more somber volume.

"The King Of Limbs" is a mere 8-tracks deep and it takes about half of that to really hit it's stride. But songs like "Lotus Flower", "Codex", and "Separator" are especially worth checking out for longtime fans of Radiohead. Everyone else? Maybe check out "In Rainbows" if you haven't already.

4.000 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. Bloom (05:15) 4
2. Morning Mr Magpie (04:41) 3
3. Little by Little (04:27) 4
4. Feral (03:13) 3
5. Lotus Flower (05:01) 5
6. Codex (04:47) 5
7. Give Up the Ghost (04:50) 3
8. Separator (05:20) 5