The King of Limbs
First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2011, Volume 18, #9
Written by John Metzger
Wed December 7, 2011, 05:30 AM CST
It is impossible to digest and assess one of Radioheadís albums within moments of its release. Nine months after The King of Limbs was sent into the digital ether, there are still countless rewards lurking within its eight tracks, waiting for the right frame of mind to turn the key that unlocks the outingís secret passages. Despite its textural arrangements, the set undeniably is more accessible than most of the groupís experimental endeavors. Initially, it seems plausible that this is because The King of Limbs ruminates upon the atmospheric excursions of the groupís past. Still, there is something new, something fresh that emanates from the albumís core. In truth, the band just now has discovered how to make the strange twists and turns of its arrangements appear friendlier without diluting its adventurous approach.
Much commotion has been made regarding the brevity of The King of Limbs. Considering how bloated albums have become, many fans are referring to the set as an EP rather than a full-length album. It is worth noting, however, that although its songs are longer ó as a result, only eight of them appear on the endeavor ó The King of Limbs is roughly the same length as the efforts made by The Beatles. It is, then, for all intents and purposes, a feature-length affair, albeit one that contains significantly fewer distractions and diversions than is typical of a modern-day recording.
Prior to its release, Thom Yorke suggested that Radioheadís album-making days were over. Instead, he put forth the notion that the band would embrace the digital age by focusing solely on crafting standalone songs. Based upon the cohesiveness of The King of Limbs, Yorkeís comment is something of a red herring ó one that was designed to temper expectations and alleviate the pressure that has been weighing on the band since the days of OK Computer. For a long time now, Radiohead has been assembling conceptual works, and by this point in its career, itís doubtful that the group could function in any other way.
Radiohead has spent the past decade fine-tuning the electronic buzz that graced Kid A and Amnesiac. With each album, its songs have become increasingly ethereal. Aside from the skittering rhythms that rush beneath the surface of the melodies, The King of Limbs often feels as if it will simply dissolve at the slightest touch. On Bloom, Yorkeís vocals frequently vaporize and fall into the slipstream of the songís propulsive undercurrent. The rippling echoes magnify the aura of tired delirium that hangs over the track. In effect, Bloom ó like many of the other tunes on The King of Limbs ó is reminiscent of an old movie that has been recast in a digital dreamscape. Much like Miles Davisí jazz-fusion forays from Bitches Brew to On the Corner, Radiohead finds beauty and grace in the strangest of places.
And so, The King of Limbs goes: The album winds through the ominous threats of Morning, Mr. Magpie as well as the fidgety seduction of Little by Little; it fades into the intoxicated shimmer of Lotus Flower, the baptismal calm of Codex, and the haunted folk of Give Up the Ghost. As for the lyrics, the stories they tell are as cunningly nebulous as the sounds that surround them. Many fans might take issue with Radioheadís insistence on slipping deeper and deeper into its work. Nevertheless, the impressionistic portraits it paints with sound throughout The King of Limbs are so colorful and vibrant that one canít help but be enthralled as it hears the band rearrange its music from the inside-out. Ĺ
Of Further Interest...
The King of Limbs is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2011 The Music Box