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ALBUM REVIEW: Radiohead - King of Limbs

6th March 2011

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Radiohead’s eighth studio album has sprung out of nowhere, being released a day earlier than announced and available for instant download, leaving us bewildered and ecstatic. Radiohead have clearly maintained their ability to surprise at every turn.

The King of Limbs shares similarities to Radiohead’s previous work in that it completely establishes its own style. The Oxford quintet’s ability to make each and every album define itself so effortlessly is the reason why they have become one of the world’s most successful and influential bands.

‘Bloom’ opens the eight-track album with a twisted piano melody and erratic drums, Yorke sings “Open your mouth wide, a universe inside” with a signature powerful eeriness; this all culminates in a quiet frenzy of soft brass, a captivating start to the relatively short 37 minute album. ‘Morning Mr Magpie’ retains the snapping drums, which are prevalent throughout the album, but increases the tempo and adds a metallic quality that compliment the agitated guitars, making it one of the more hyperactive songs on the album. ‘Little by Little’ shows itself to be a haunting alt rock nursery rhyme, followed excellently by a shift to the thumping waves of bass and strange electronic vocal rushes of ‘Feral’. 

Lyrically, The King of Limbs is closely tied to nature-associated imagery, Yorke entwines the personal and political with the absolute abstract, this is most apparent in ‘Lotus Flower’- “Slowly we unfurl, As lotus flowers, 'Cause all I want is the moon upon a stick“. This gem also boasts an incredible bassline akin to the likes of ‘Myxmatosis’ or ‘The National Anthem’, and a beautiful vocal air accompanied by oddly cheerful sporadic clapping. Thom Yorke’s weird and wonderful dancing on the music video attracted substantial attention, inspiring a multitude of copycats and the creation of many internet video-meme’s which have since been scattered across Youtube and the social networking community.

‘Codex’ is a soft, mournful piano ballad that oozes tranquillity and beauty, a real treat for fans of a slow, immersive Radiohead. ‘Give up The Ghost’ also accentuates the themes surrounding the natural world fairly explicitly by having birdsong accompany a harmonious acoustic rhythm. The closing song, ‘Separator’ starts simple and builds on a flickering drum beat, progressively moving towards the peaceful echoes of Yorke’s voice resonating the words “Wake me up”, provoking an almost dreamlike state as it fades to silence...

‘The King of Limbs’ is electronic, yet organic, and unquestionably fantastic. However, adoring fans may feel that the sound and style doesn’t surprise them quite as much as its announcement did. It appears that Radiohead have travelled in a somewhat predictable direction, the music is still utterly original and brilliant, but it doesn’t shake as many foundations or push their own creative limitations as far as earlier albums such as ‘OK Computer’, or the sublime ‘In Rainbows’. This is a band capable of completely reshaping contemporary music and redefining genre, and although they may not have gone all the way on this particular occasion, they remain one of the only British groups that even come close.

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