Quick Review (LP): The King of Limbs by Radiohead

Radiohead
The King of Limbs
2011

My Rating: A (86/100)

Best Tracks: "Bloom", "Lotus Flower", "Codex", "Give Up The Ghost"

It’s a Radiohead LP – Fussy and Brilliant

Well, this one was bound to be a divider, but it has won me over. Yes, I’ll admit it was lost on me after my first few listens, but then again it took me several months to breakthrough with Kid A. Maybe I’m just one of those suckers who will fall for anything, but I really dig the fact that the overriding theme of this record, for all of its electric and industrial sheen, is the natural realm, pure and simple. (I can just see Thommy boy strolling through the post-apocalyptic forest with Mr. Bluebird on his shoulder.) Sonically, Limbs is a fantastic offering. True, it’s only 8-wide, but its octave of tracks forms a delightfully dense and spectral aural mist. Side B really steals the show, kicking off with the truly brilliant "Lotus Flower", followed up by the chillingly gorgeous "Codex," which might just be a better piano ballad than "Videotape." At this point, any one who expects Radiohead to make a predictable record needs to get a clue. While I’d love to get the guitar-heavy follow-up to OK Computer that I’ve been thirsting for since 1997, I’ve also learned to love the fact that Radiohead will never make the same record twice. The King of Limbs’ payoff is anything but immediate, yet for those who are willing to listen closely for the tender, the nuanced, and the elegaic, it is without a doubt one of the most rewarding records in the band’s catalog.

RANDOM NOTES:

– Perhaps The King of Limbs is the avenging angel of death on the cover, ready to get back at mankind for the mess we’ve made of things?
– Their most mellow record for sure.
– Reminds me of the Amnesiac b-sides, esp. "Kinetic" and "Fog."
– "If you think this is over then you’re wrong…" Please let that mean a follow-up is coming soon!

ATTRIBUTES

Consistency (4.5/5) – second half def. superior to first half
Cohesion (5/5) – frantic blended brilliantly with the slow and ominous
Consequence (4.5/5) – not as big a bang as OKC, Kid A, In Rainbows, but this IS Radiohead
Concept (5/5) – thematically excellent with nature motif
Songs (4.5/5) – too few!

OTHER REVIEWS:

Pitchfork
AMG
Josh Hurst
Metacritic

Suspending Judgment: The King Of Limbs by Radiohead

Radiohead fans have learned to bear patiently with the band over the course of their career. Ever since they trampled all over the “one hit wonder” label with The Bends, they’ve been completely defying the expectations of their audience with each successive album. Their last full-length, 2007’s In Rainbows, went far beyond expectations, proving the band was anything but short on inspiration. And so, at this point, waiting three and a half years for a new collection from the world’s greatest anti-rock band doesn’t seem like much to ask. We are assured that when Radiohead gets around to releasing something new, it will be brilliant, and well worth the wait.

Only I’m not so sure about The King Of Limbs yet…

I will stick with it for a long time before I give up on it, but I’ve listened to it a good seven or eight times since it was released last Friday, and I’m not convinced it measures up. A few thoughts:

  • It sounds more like what I would have expected from Thom Yorke as a second solo record, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The problem is that it doesn’t have the “massive” feel of the other Radiohead albums. It’s certainly not a “guitar” record.
  • There isn’t a “fireworks” track on this record. Think of “The National Anthem” or “Pyramid Song” or “There There” or “Reckoner.” There’s no moment of unfathomable greatness that explodes from the speakers, blowing your mind. Perhaps The King Of Limbs is more about restraint than catharsis.
  • Eight tracks? Surely there’s more where this came from?
  • I hate to say it, but many of the tracks seem like they would have been better as b-sides. Of course, Radiohead are a great b-sides band.
  • For crying out loud, will they ever release “Follow Me Around” and “Lift” as studio recordings?

I will say that The King Of Limbs is growing on me though. I don’t think it will ever measure up to In Rainbows or Kid A in my mind, but there’s at least one track that’s undeniably brilliant (“Codex”), and a handful of other lovely moments (“Give Up The Ghost”). I’m going to suspend judgment on this one until I’ve given it the hearing that Radiohead deserve.

Listening Log: New Radiohead Saturday

Thom Yorke Jonny Greenwood LP8

New Radiohead = Live-Blogging Event

I’ll be live-blogging my first-listen experience of Radiohead‘s new LP, The King of Limbs, on Saturday. Stop by and leave your thoughts!