Producer: Nigel Godrich
If you’re still on the fence about Radiohead, the insanely popular and talented British rock group of OK Computer (1997), The Bends (1995), and In Rainbows (2007) fame, then their latest effort, The King of Limbs, will not be the record to kick you on to the believer side. Though rich in skill and diverse in sound makeup, the alternative rock gods that are Radiohead have never been the easiest band to listen to on the first few tries. Much like how I was with Nine Inch Nails originally, it took me a long time to understand and appreciate Radiohead, but once I finally came around, there was no going back.
As for The King, it’s not Radiohead’s finest outing, but given their immense talent, it’s still a high quality record that delivers when it should. The musical layering of every track is fantastic as expected, and Thom Yorke’s vocals are as hauntingly beautiful as ever. However, the first half of the album is difficult to listen to, even if you’re a long-time, die-hard Radiohead fan. I don’t mean to say that the first four songs are bad, by any means, but their percussive elements and weird electronic wiring make for idiosyncratic tracks. Things get much easier once the lead song, “Lotus Flower” comes around at the midpoint of the album. From then on out, the album soars on a variety of gorgeous soundscapes and catchy riffs.
An additional plus with ‘Limbs’ is that the album is both diverse, with each song sounding different than the one before it, but the album still manages to maintain a consistent, singular sound that binds all the tracks together. Furthering this grouping benefits from the fact that, this time around, Radiohead is not bothered by extreme angst or any politically fueled ambitions. As one of my friends once jokingly summed up the album, the only thing that ‘Limbs’ is “about” is Thom Yorke “pretending to be a tree for thirty-seven minutes.” This absence of any sort of angst-ridden agenda feels freeing rather than dry in this instance, as TKOL takes on a purely abstract artistic experience. It’s simply music for music’s sake.
In these ways, Radiohead’s ‘The King of Limbs’ is a success, if not a smash hit like some of their earlier albums. It doesn’t try to do anything too ambitious, and it seems perfectly aware of its sublime nature, and also feels content with its abstract, almost experimental nature. It certainly won’t convert any new fans who were hesitant to join the Radio party, at least not if they haven’t been trying hard for a long time already. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Radiohead, though rightfully considered a legendary band, is not an easy artist to listen to for first (or even second or third) timers. This latest record is not a game-changer in that respect, and its first half is especially difficult to understand. With that said, like virtually all other Radiohead releases, if you give it some time and patience, you will grow to appreciate and love the layered sounds and deep percussive elements that make up the bizarrely beautiful King of Limbs.
–> The King of Limbs comes RECOMMENDED.
Standout Tracks: “Lotus Flower,” “Codex,” “Separator”
? Thom Yorke can dance like it’s nobody’s business.