Review: Radiohead - The King of Limbs
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4/5A new offering from restless Oxford quintet Radiohead is a fairly unique event in the musical universe – no need for massive pre-press, advertising, radio play just a simple announcement and the faithful millions jump on the opportunity without a inkling of what they might receive. Radiohead are so engraved into the world musical consciousness that they don’t need to play the ‘game’. Their eighth album, whilst being wilfully experimental and obtuse, could well be claimed to be the group’s most instantly listenable experience. A true companion to In Rainbow’s, The King of Limbs is late-night Radiohead (downbeat, ethereal and trippy) – the power and eventually brilliance of this record comes in its innate subtleties. Despite opener ‘Bloom’s blippy, scattered jazz-like poly-rhythms and underlying sense of unease it is instantly likeable and enjoyable. This kicks off an album which represents a band comfortable in the space they have created for themselves and one which understands their strengths. It is their ability to forge a wealth of disparate ideas into a fully-formed whole. The King of Limbs is Radiohead’s rhythmic album built on a percussive undercurrent of jazz and African beats. But for all its illusions to funk, the beats are voiced as a whisper with Phil Selway’s microbeats anchored to Colin Greenwood’s spacious, post-dubstep bottom-end bass shudders. The band’s fascination with the post-dubstep work of the likes of Burial and the experiences of Thom Yorke’s love of (and collaboration) with Flying Lotus runs through this release. There are no big guitar-numbers, no indie-anthems – just beautifully constructed adventures in sound.
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The record sees the band once again tread the fraught emotional-terrain that they have made their own – a terrain that many have tried to also inhabit but have largely failed. But where once Radiohead were the prophets of apocalypse there is something wonderfully optimistic about this output. No longer the bringers of despair, hope runs through The King of The Limbs. If this is what the future sounds like – we have nothing to worry about. On first listen it would be easy to have dismissed this as the band treading on familiar ground, sticking comfortably to the sound they have honed over the last few years – it hardly signals the massive sonic steps taken with Kid A and Amnesiac – but repeated listens reveal layer-upon-layer of sonic texture as you become lost in the bands total immersion music. This is not a new direction but simply a band doing what they do best, and adding another brilliant album to a discography that, in quality terms, can be barely be matched by anyone. You have to marvel at one of the world’s biggest bands, one that fills stadiums, having complete disregard for commercial concerns, never resting on their laurels and doing things on their own terms. This is business as usual for Radiohead, it is just that Radiohead are in a completely different ‘business’ to everyone else.
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