Album Review

Radiohead "The King of Limbs"

Chad W. Lutz
Please keep all hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times. Are we at an amusement park? No, but we are listening to the new Radiohead album, and you never quite know how fast and furious this band might bring it. Although it’s not the same Radiohead we’ve all grown to know and love, when are they ever? Picking up right where they left off with 2007’s In Rainbows, the British band that brought you The Bends (2005) is at it again. Released through the American label TBD Records, King of Limbs is the eighth installment in one of the most celebrated discographies in music history.

Just when you think you have Radiohead pegged down and divided into nice little neat boxes of audio organization they go ahead and throw another monkey wrench into the mix. For a career that started out heavily influenced by rock n’ roll in the albums Pablo Honey (1993) through OK Computer (1997), the band has taken a digital dive into the near-techno realm, especially on with their latest release.

With the electric guitar making almost no appearances on the album, King of Limbs is a much more mellow Radiohead, offering listeners a continuation of the synthetic-driven elements that Kid A first displayed back in 2000. King of Limbs, right from the very get-go, is enigmatic and entrancing. The first track, “Blossom” (5:15), starts off the album with a melodic pulsing and erratic drum signature. “Open your mouth wide,” calls a dissonant and longing Thom Yorke; and then the chills set in.

The rest of the album continues on in this fashion with highly cascading melodies mixed with unstable time signatures, a vocally distorted and frequently manipulated Thom Yorke, and a heavy use of synthesizers and electronic drum beats. Styles range from the up-tempo feel of “Mr. Morning Magpie” (4:41) and “Feral” (3:13) to the brooding “Codex” (4:47). The album seems to have a little bit of everything Radiohead. As you listen to the album, you can almost hear a little Kid A here, and a little In Rainbows there, with a spot of Hail To The Thief (2003) right there for good measure. Each album comes through in it’s own way throughout the eight-track listing. Good for those who love the post-OK Computer-era Radiohead, bad for those crossing their fingers for the band to return to their rock roots anytime soon.

After listening to the album a few times through, I realized that as the final track faded to black time and time again, I kept thinking to myself, “that’s it?” The album lacks a severe punch; that one song you just can’t stop listening to. Even though I was mostly satisfied with the album, it is by far the shortest out of any in their discography (37:29) and it kind of leaves a bad taste in your mouth when it’s finally over. True, it’s hard to please everybody, and maybe it’s too early to tell, but King of Limbs might not appeal to people looking for “Paranoid Android” magic. If you’re looking for a rocker, you might be left “High and Dry.”