Radiohead's King Of Limbs Unfocused, Fleeting

Categories: This Just In

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This morning, Rocks Off unwrapped Radiohead's newest release, The King of Limbs, an album whose existence was just announced this past Monday. In the old-school music industry, a record would be announced and you would suffer through months of interviews, video premieres, and reading reviews in Rolling Stone or SPIN before you would get to listen to anything for yourself. This is a delightful change.

As the follow-up to In Rainbows, 2007's extremely popular LP that was the band's first foray into unorthodox releasing methods, Limbs doesn't steer too far from that nearly four-year-old template. This is what Radiohead sounds like now. Gone are the guitars and drone, the swells of keyboards, the Kraut-y drums.

We downloaded our copy and recorded the results as they album unfurled. If you liked In Rainbows, you will see this album as a great continuation of that template. If you are new to the band's game and have been swept into the Internet hype the past week, you may find the results fitful and frustrating in places.

"Bloom" begins with Phillip Glass-style pianos before giving way to the band's now-trademark blips, and then into a mild electric frenzy by the three-minute mark.

"Morning Mr. Magpie" starts menacingly enough, for Radiohead at least. The chorus, or what passes for one in Thom Yorke and company's universe, bites off of The Beatles' "Within You Without You." Yorke's voice is more an instrument than anything now, capable of anything.

Spanish guitars open "Little By Little," a track reminiscent of Kid A's "The National Anthem." In fact, it reminds us of the same track, stripped down and replaced with organic guts.

"Feral" is almost stereotypical Radiohead, the sound that most ultimately confuses the uninitiated, the sort of people who scream "Who is Arcade Fire?!" Yorke plays his voice like a pipe organ, before rendering it back into the machine.


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14 comments
Dj Hero Disco Nightlife
Dj Hero Disco Nightlife

It is for this reason that I am extremely hesitant in calling King Of Limbs the weakest album that Radiohead has recorded to date because I realise fully that my initial perception of it could change at any moment. 

mansweater
mansweater

Upon first listen, I'll admit that I wasn't particularly moved. Now, not to be the conspiracy theorist here, but Radiohead's past history suggests that there is something to be discovered here. I won't be at all surprised if something hidden and incredible turns up out of this album which will probably confuse and/or disappoint some people.

Pop 'stache
Pop 'stache

I agree with the unfocused sentiment. This album is probably a 3/5 at best. Here's a good look at the "newspaper album" possibilities: http://bit.ly/f32fH9

Uninitiated
Uninitiated

'"Feral" is almost stereotypical Radiohead, the sound that most ultimately confuses the uninitiated...' This line right here just... wow, feeling a bit smug about your higher powers of musical appreciation today, Craig?

Radiohead should have stopped a decade ago. They went from an excited gasp to a not-this-shit-again groan.

Katy
Katy

I like Radiohead. I like everything I’ve ever heard by Radiohead.When I hear their last few albums, I think, “They’re still managing to release objectively good, interesting music.”

But then I don’t feel like listening to it anymore.

Which means it’s failed my test: No matter how good I think music is, if I never find myself wanting to listen to it… then I’m sort of done with that artist.

I’m glad Radiohead exists. Your review indicates to me that 20 years in, they’re STILL not Phil Collins. But I can’t picture myself wanting to listen to it.

pitchpatch
pitchpatch

Aha, I just reread the second page of the review. I think you might be right about the album not having an immediately evident focal point, but I'm not convinced that it's necessarily a bad thing. Ah well, though. If nothing else, I can jam the f*** out of the more appealing songs as singles.

pitchpatch
pitchpatch

Hey Craig, please revisit this review in about a week or so? It's always been the case for me that I really need to get familiar with the songs to get my lasting impression, especially for such an enigmatic band as Radiohead ... each group of songs on each new album have been pretty disparate for me right out of the gate, at least until I wore them around a little bit. I think that might also explain why you're not picking up the focus. To me, it sounds pretty aware of what it's attempting to go for in terms of a conceptual idea and general style. Thoughts?

Wootenanny
Wootenanny

I'm not convinced that isn't David Spade in that video.

Punch Up Kid
Punch Up Kid

The "Kid A" comparisons must stop! There is always going to be a comparison when a band comes out with a new album when they have a portfolio of acclaimed albums in their history. But if we need to compared King of Limbs to anything is to the Sound of Silver, you can hear baritones of Sound of Silver all through the album.

mansweater
mansweater

used "here" twice in the same sentence. oops.also i meant that the album as it is now will probably confuse and/or disappoint, but hopefully there is a giant easter egg buried somewhere.

Katy
Katy

I’d push the “decade ago” date up to 2005.

I think “Hail to the Thief” (2004?) was as good as “Amnesiac” (2001). The opener (don’t remember the title, but it had a Jello Biafra-tinged vocal), and the closer (“Wolf at the Door,” with the deeper vocals) were legitimately new RH terrain.

I think it was right around the time of Thom Yorke’s solo album (2006?) where I thought, “Oh. I think I have pretty much seen his whole bag of tricks now.”

CraigHlavaty
CraigHlavaty

Yeah, it's not awful, but as far as this version of the Radiohead sound goes, I will take in Rainbows. It was better paced.

Lauren Marmaduke
Lauren Marmaduke

This is true for me as well, more with Radiohead than any other band.

CraigHlavaty
CraigHlavaty

I compared one song to a song from Kid A, not the whole album. I see Limbs as more of a continuation of the track from In Rainbows.

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