Radiohead - King of Limbs

Album cover
Radiohead
King of Limbs
Radiohead - King of Limbs Review rating:
3
User rating:
Average: 3.5 (6 votes)

Think about this for a moment. Radiohead have been at it for over 20 years. Now ask yourself this. When was the last time Radiohead made a mediocre album? You’ll be hard pressed to find anything that reaches that definition other than their debut, Pablo Honey. And to no fault of the group or most artists, the debut is a starting point of a group’s sound, a springboard for an audience or an eventual realization of their direction. Pablo Honey was none of that for Radiohead, but once they released The Bends people took notice. Instead of mimicking that same grungy, straight-forward alternative style most would tread towards in the wake of Nirvana’s demise, it was Radiohead’s ambition an album after The Bends that nobody knew they had when they released OK Computer. Even if they played in the hands of what Alternative was within The Bends; it still was completely symphonic in sound, where each layer of music was far more fleshed out and lyrically far more mature anything on Pablo Honey. King of Limbs marks their 8th album and once again they’ve managed to meld more genres with their post-OK Computer experimentation then most would manage or even dare.

Radiohead have become the entrepreneurs of their generation. They’ve held their ideas firmly without hesitation in their grasp, far surpassing what we come to expect on many albums. They twist the definition of whatever connotation anyone places on them. Melodies are warped with mysterious substance voiced by Yorke, yet it is their unwillingness to conform to one sound that allows many to still feel they’re one of a kind. King of Limbs hops from one tune to the next without much direction and that is wherein the problem lies. The cover art is could be a definition of the album, that it spirals and branches in many directions throughout the album it’s hard to keep up. It reminds us that despite those cryptic lyrical messages that are soft-spoken through whispers and those immediately puzzling metaphors that Radiohead are still vulnerable to pitfalls that they’ve completely evaded most of their career. What may be more underwhelming as a whole on King of Limbs are the parts comprised of it - Yorke’s demeanor and even subject matter sounds lazy at closer look, but despite this King of Limbs still carries weight as it moves along.

King of Limbs isn’t off-putting or inaccessible as any of their other material, in fact its almost plays into what some would say is their strength of avante-garde mixture; the problem is apparent when there is a lack of connection or any type of elegance within most of these songs. They’re almost forcibly melded in one entity, yet they feel so apart. “Bloom” works on those elements and looks to be a glimpse of what is to come. Radiohead still uses a post-punkish attitude within it, but along a piano introduction more experimental ground is brought in with an excess amount of electronic pandering, clicks of obscurity and orchestration that comes and goes at will. It is a lot to take in, but it comes together when Yorke sprawls in with a somber plea to open your mouth wide. Strikingly it completely falls off from this point. “Morning Mr. MagPie” , “Little By Little”, and “Feral” fall in the realm of emotionless drifting, by far what is the key problem with King of Limbs. Despite, “Feral’s” infectious electronic circling and building walls of high-pitched bass as it moves along, its dubstep nature is killed by Yorke’s unenthusiastic feel that swamps the song from what life it had. When they keep it simple, as seen in “Codex” and "Seperator" the band sounds better for it. But the most palpable moment is revealed within “Lotus Flower”. The elements and grooves within the song finally match up with the band’s aspirations. The synths move with purpose from a lowly bass as it paces forward, plus Yorke isn’t an impassive drone under them; instead he raises the bar on a new level. The anonymity of what begins and what ends is masterfully done, where electronic minimalism passively moves in without a whim.

What may be King of Limbs greatest strength is with each track we see Radiohead go further down the rabbit hole and for it the material is better. The atmosphere within the album coincides with the style they try to force, but it becomes far too jangled, obscure and littered for most to appreciate enough. It may be that Radiohead were bound to slip up at this point, but it isn’t nearly as bad as anyone would expect. It still becomes painfully apparent that the lack of fervor within most of the album brings it down.

1. Bloom
2. Morning Mr. Magpie
3. Little By Little
4. Feral
5. Lotus Flower
6. Codex
7. Give Up The Ghost
8. Seperator

Radiohead are an English alternative rock band from Abingdon, Oxfordshire. The band is composed of Thom Yorke (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, piano, beats), Jonny Greenwood (lead guitar, keyboard, other instruments), Ed O'Brien (guitar, backing vocals), Colin Greenwood (bass guitar) and Phil Selway (drums, percussion).

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