Radiohead – The King Of Limbs

Radiohead – The King Of Limbs



So they’re back. And in predictably unpredictable fashion Radiohead’s eighth studio album was announced five days before its worldwide internet release, and then of course released a day earlier than that, just to spice things up a little. It has been four years since In Rainbows gave the music industry a firm but fair shake, so has it really taken them this long to record eight songs?

Thom Yorke has been dilly dallying around with Flea and his Eraser side project, a circumstance that seems to have scared Colin Greenwood into playing more complex basslines. Drummer Phil Selway has released a solo-folk record inspired by Nick Drake and Jonny Greenwood has primarily devoted his time to Red Dead Redemption and film scores of varying stature: the Oscar winning There Will Be Blood to the fairly obscure Norwegian Wood from Japan. It’s surely only a matter of time before Greenwood makes the branch into video-game music.

Almost exactly a year ago Yorke played a one-off solo show at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, a benefit concert for The Green Party, and in the process showcased a shed-load of new material, an exercise he has always seemed to revel in since The Bends material first debuted at the now defunct London Astoria in 1994. It’s something R.E.M. do, and so Radiohead must naturally follow suit. The joy he gets from announcing “another new song”, complete with groan and insincere apology to the outright delight of the spoilt crowd is jocular. As they all reach middle-age, we simply roll our eyes with a smile, and engage in their consistency.

Three of the songs Yorke played at this gig were ‘Lotus Flower’, ‘Give Up The Ghost’ and ‘Mouse Dog Bird’, all three songs made the final cut with the latter renamed to ‘Separator’. A lot of really great tracks were left out, and this is the point where Radiohead’s ability to differentiate between the good and the mediocre is unflinchingly clinical and usually unexpected. It often alienates a lot of people or so called fans, but perhaps this is the formula behind that moment when their records totally transform after initial bewilderment. Kid A does that, but I’m not so sure The King of Limbs will.

Using an Akai Headrush E2 loop pedal, Yorke braided vocal hooks around each-other polyphonically, and whilst this is what Radiohead have always done better than most, it is usually limited to their instruments, but in TKOL it transcends to vocal experimentation without resorting to sonic manipulation. A vast constitute of different vocal parts work harmoniously in and around each other. But it’s not all about the voice, since the real “songs” don’t appear until the second half. The first half is fronted by an ear-watering haunting Philip Glass style piano loop and typically tricky rhythms throughout which may sound sequenced in the studio, but will be flawless when played live.

‘Little By Little’ is the worst one. And who sat in the garden recording bird song?

Flying Lotus released his critically acclaimed Cosmogramma in May 2010 and Thom Yorke featured on the track ‘And The World Laughs With You’. It’s difficult to deny similarities between FlyLo’s work and TKOL with the discernibly cut and paste drums. So if you wanted something to compare it to, that would be it.

Ever since the unrelenting electronica of Kid A, the band have constantly battled to find the perfect marriage of electronica and traditional rock instruments within the context of popular song. And they do write pop songs, just listen to this, they simply arrange them in more interesting ways than most. Have they mastered that desired fusion here? Not quite, but it’s still bloody good.

The band have often said they believe the optimum time-length for a record is 40 minutes, and whilst TKOL may seem short at just 8 tracks, there is 37.24 minutes of music here.

The clever thing about Radiohead’s own Internal Deviation, is that when a band like this line themselves up to be entirely associated with the leftfield, a basic song like ‘Codex’ is deemed a total eye-opener, completely necessary in its’ pure simplicity and beauty. If Coldplay did it, that appreciation would vanish, since that kind of style is expected from them.

The raging debate for this morning was the notion that there would be a second half, the catalyst being that the final track was titled ‘Separator’, and the concluding lyrics read “you think this is over, but you’re wrong”. Alas the day’s events have proved empty, but I wouldn’t write any possibilities off just yet…

-James Godwin, February 19th, 2011

Copyright © 2011. James Godwin. All rights reserved.