The King Of Limbs

Written by: DR on 08/03/2011 19:18:58

Many will have hoped to wake up to a surprise on Valentine's Day, but who was expecting what came? As soon as we were greeted with a simple message of 'THANK YOU FOR WAITING', that was that: 14th February 2011 became the day Radiohead announced "The King Of Limbs"; everything else extraneous. Three years of hanging on every sporadic word since "In Rainbows" abruptly became nothing, yet the six days until the release day on the 19th an eternity away. No album should be an event, but it was. There is no accounting for Radiohead, the music they make or the hold they have over you.

Ultimately, they gave it us a day early. This news came accompanied with a video for "Lotus Flower" - which consists of Thom Yorke, alone in a tunnel, and dancing as though he's tripping. The song is a surprise, in the sense that as far as Radiohead go, it's not much of a surprise at all. We've become accustomed to, maybe even expectant of, their unrestrained ambition previous works boasted that when this lead single dropped, and on first impression sounding like an "In Rainbows" b-side, questions were asked and some fans even disappointed. The words 'first impression' are everything in that sentence, and in a way are the key to understanding "The King Of Limbs" as it's a record you'll have to be patient with. There will undoubtedly be those demanding of work equal to "Ok Computer", "Kid A", or, even "In Rainbows", who may give up on this after barely becoming acquainted with it. More the fool are you.

The production is utterly spectacular. There's a spaciousness about everything, perhaps even an emptiness, which serves as a platform for the likes of Jonny Greenwood, who is a famed composer of film scores and clearly an expert in the art of doing so much with what seems like so little, and Phil Selway with his microscopic attention to drum machine patterns to build upon. It is such meticulous care in the construction of the small details that result in slow-burning ballad "Codex" and stripped-down, rootsy acoustic track "Give Up The Ghost" being the stand-out moments. The first three songs have a little more life to them than the rest of the album: opener "Bloom" continually grows layers, liking it is itself blooming; "Little By Little" loops a clunky riff and deserts from the post-dubstep-esque electronica, making it the closest they get to an actual rock song; "Morning Mr Magpie" repeats the same riff for the most part, but as the song grows they introduce subdued ringing of what sounds like sirens in the background to create an atmosphere of anxiety.

One of the final thoughts presented in strangely glorious and uplifting closer "Separator" is "If you think this over then you're wrong", so could there be more to come? Or would it even surprise anyone if there was?

At thirty-seven minutes and eight tracks it lurks the uncertain territory between EP and LP, making it their shortest album to date. Oddly, and somewhat contradictory to my second paragraph, this makes it more immediate than some of their more recent efforts; or at least, it gives that impression. On the face of it it feels like a Thom Yorke solo-album given how prominent he is in the midst of minimalistic soundscapes, and while he is his usual magical and haunting self, make no mistake, "...Limbs" is defined by its subtleties, and Radiohead don't yield them easily.

It's bound to polarise fans; some will lap up how they've found a new gloomy realm for themselves yet remain familiar, while others will bemoan that it's just not brilliant enough. As far as Radiohead go, it isn't up there with their best albums, however, it's still sure to be one of the best releases of 2011, such is their careful and considered attention to detail, their affection for the small nuances that can affect entire moods of songs, and, most importantly, such is their quality. It won't redefine music like "Kid A" or "Ok Computer" did, it merely serves as a reminder that Radiohead are, quite simply, on an entirely different planet to everyone else.

Download: Codex, Give Up The Ghost, Separator
For The Fans of: Radiohead
Listen: YouTube channel

Release Date 18.02.2011

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