The King of Limbs

I’ve been listening to this record for quite a few months now (since practically the hour of its release) and I gotta say I’m still not totally sold on it. A lot of the usual nomenclature of reviews becomes useless when we talk about a fairly non-traditional group like Radiohead, but I’ll do my best.

To begin with, saying something along the lines of ‘it’s a departure from their previous work’ is kindof a pointless comment. Radiohead albums are nearly always marked by a distinct (and often radical) evolution in sound from album to album, so no surprise there. I guess in the past though, I always eventually warmed up to the new thing, and despite my best efforts, that’s not happening here.

In my defense, I’m not trying to like the record because I think I should. This tenacity is based on my personal experience with Yorke and co., wherein I have almost without fail disliked every one of their records upon my initial listen, but slowly grew to love each of them quite a lot. Still waiting on that for TKOL.

Why? Geez, man. I think I just don’t really like dub-step? Maybe? Who knows. Let’s start with what I did like. In a nutshell, it’s this:

      Little By Little - Radiohead

Little By Little‘ is the track where I feel that this ever-present rattle of fast-paced percussion that pervades the album works best. It makes the most interesting use of Yorke’s voice, and seems to have a more intricate layering of instrumentation than the other songs. I like that it’s a dark track, with intentions tending towards ill rather than good. Having something sound malevolent without being outright evil takes some subtlety, and the craftsmanship it praiseworthy.

But then you get dumped from that right into a track like ‘Feral’ which sounds like random tones bouncing around in some echo chamber where a drum machine was left on. It was tracks like this that I found difficult to access and almost impossible to process or comprehend. Radiohead has always taken out typical song elements and replaced them with unorthodox sounds to achieve something new, but it seems as if they finally took out one two many things, and that stands in their place is often not enough.

‘Lotus Flower’ is our only other real anchor on the record, it has the bizarre tonality of the rest of the album, but it also has some substance, giving it weight and dimension, and therein making it a really enjoyable track to listen to.

A song I’d characterize as ‘wraith-like’, haunting in it’s emptiness, is the cinematic ‘Codex‘:

      Codex - Radiohead

And for a closer, ‘Separator’ isn’t bad, but it’s also a little underwhelming, and a little stupid. “If you think this is over / then you’re wrong.” Really? By my count, ‘Separator’ is track 8 of 8, and the album is a short 8 at that.

Anything not mentioned here isn’t bad, but just didn’t seem noteworthy to me. But I don’t wanna harp on Radiohead. Far from it.

Every record of theirs I view as an experiment to push the boundaries of music, laughing at the very notion of genre. This one did exactly what its predecessors did in that regard, and I’ve no doubt that the group will take what they learned from The King of Limbs and create something even weirder and more amazing on their next outing.

I’ve just got my fingers crossed that it’s more fun to listen to than this was (and a few minutes longer, too!).

Radiohead – The King of Limbs