Radiohead
The King of Limbs


3.5
great

Review

by Nick Butler EMERITUS
February 18th, 2011 | 411 replies | 49,578 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Radiohead revisit their weakest albums and sharpen them up to gold standard.

In the wave of surprise and excitement that greeted last week's sudden announcement of this album's release, it would have been easy to miss the sighing and eye-rolling that greeted it in some quarters. The cynics had a point, too; surely a Radiohead album is enough of an event in itself to make all these cloak-and-dagger manoeuvres just seem like attention-grabbing? And yet, maybe the surprise element serves another purpose. Maybe Radiohead's aim is to cut as short as possible the period of speculation about the album's sound, thus forcing people to go into the album with no real idea what to expect? If that's the case, then it's not just a success, but also an important way to give The King of Limbs the time it needs to make its mark.

The when, and the how, of the release of The King of Limbs mean that the immediate temptation is to make comparison with In Rainbows. Yet, even after one listen, it becomes obvious that the two Radiohead albums that this bears the closest resemblance to are Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief - their only mature albums not to enjoy the kind of universal acclaim that Radiohead albums tend to. It also shares common ground with The Eraser, the Thom Yorke solo album that remains a divisive release amongst the band's fanbase. Worrying? Yes, of course; at first it seems like The King of Limbs offers neither consolidation nor innovation, and instead take a couple of steps backwards into the middle of the band's most uninspiring period. That may be where the sudden release of this album works its magic - how many of the people that excitedly scrambled to download this today would be put off even listening to this if they read a review that marked out the likes of "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors" and "Backdrifts" as the closest antecedent for it?

You might think that this retreat is a result of Radiohead losing their spark, falling back on what they know because it's the safe thing to do. Yet the more and more you listen to this album, the more it seems that Radiohead have done this deliberately because they have a point to prove. The King of Limbs, to these ears, is an attempt to set the record straight about those three albums, to prove that they weren't just failed experiments. Retreading old ground? More like righting old wrongs. As close as "Bloom" comes to the atmosphere of Amnesiac, and as much as "Feral" sounds like it might belong on Hail to the Thief, it's hard to imagine either having been on those albums and been as good as they are here. The conversion works in reverse, too - it's hard to imagine a King of Limbs version of something like "I Will" being as mediocre, simply because the quality control on this album is ridiculously tight.

Despite that, Radiohead are, as ever, taking cues from the music around them that most excites them. There's a strong and obvious influence from Burial's self-titled debut on "Feral" despite the frantic drums, which hark back to "Sit Down, Stand Up" - it's a hypnotic combination between serenity and nervous energy that carries through into the excellent "Lotus Flower", which is surely the song here that most deserves the title of 'Radiohead classic'. "Give Up the Ghost" seems to be informed by How to Dress Well too. To contrast those, there's "Bloom", which opens with a loop that calls Terry Riley to mind, and the piano ballad "Codex", which sounds distinctly Beatles-esque when compared with "Videotape" and "Sail to the Moon". Flying Lotus and Can are other touchstones, if ones that are harder to pin down to individual tracks.

For all this, perhaps the defining feature of The King of Limbs is that it doesn't feel like a 'big' album. In fact, it feels exactly the opposite - this album mostly feels and sounds like the work of a niche band with thousands (rather than millions) of listeners, and I can't help but think that's deliberate. It's something that Radiohead have never really done before - every other album has at least two or three songs that were included primarily to grab the attention of the listener first-time, and this album doesn't have any like that. Even the running time - a brisk 37 minutes or so, not one of them wasted - doesn't tally with the attention this album will garner in the coming months. For an album that's a real event, it can't be co-incidence that it sounds about as much like an important album as Airbag / How Am I Driving? and the bonus disc from In Rainbows. No, The King of Limbs is not a world-beating album, and it was never meant to be; it's an album about Radiohead trying to iron out their own creases and fix their own flaws, and judged on those terms, it's another success.

One final thought - this was meant to be released tomorrow, and the final song - named "Separated" - repeats the refrain 'if you think this is over, you're wrong'. Could there be more to come?



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user ratings (2400)
Chart.
3.5
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
pedroia55
February 18th 2011



1458 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice review. Not quite what I expected but still a great album.

fsharptrit0ne
February 18th 2011



4628 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

4 years and 37 minutes of material. Its great stuff, but im with you on the Seperator theory.

AnotherBrick
February 18th 2011



9768 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Thought it wasnt coming out until tomorrow

AnyColour74
February 18th 2011



1054 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Lot of people are down on this album. I think it's really great. Good to see some of the solo stuff that Thom played with Atoms for Peace last year make an appearance on the album. Also, glad they brought back Magpie. It was never one of my favorite b-sides, I definitely like the version on this album more.

Good stuff overall. Don't see why it took so long to release, but still. Hopefully there's more to come in the near future.

porch
February 18th 2011



8390 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

not sure if any song on this rivals the standouts from amnesiac or even hail to the thief

still alright though, probably a 3.5 for me at the moment as well

Slum
February 18th 2011



2579 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Probably should have waited until tomorrow or sunday to post this incase they release another half of the album

cvlts
February 18th 2011



8917 Comments


still dont curr

Digging: As Cities Burn - Come Now Sleep

OutOfMyself
February 18th 2011



688 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

someone shoutbox me a leak link i am poor ty

mmadden
February 18th 2011



14 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This was released just a few hours ago. I don't think that's long enough to have already reached a verdict on an album, let alone a Radiohead album.

Curse.
Contributing Reviewer
February 18th 2011



7762 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this has been released for about 24 hours in some places

alachlahol
February 18th 2011



7425 Comments


damn 24 hours there should be at least 5 reviews by now

Drsmith4
February 18th 2011



1697 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm really curious to see how this record will translate in a live setting.

OutOfMyself
February 18th 2011



688 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm really curious to see IF SOMEONE WILL GIVE ME A GODDAMN LINK SO I CAN LISTEN TO SOME FUCKING RADIOHEAD.

fr33convict
February 18th 2011



11678 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

me too i'm poor n stuff

UnnamedOcean
February 18th 2011



3932 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Same rating I gave it. Kind of what I expected. I'm actually reviewing this right now. May post it later.

porch
February 18th 2011



8390 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

do you need someone to hold your dick while you piss too

how difficult can it be to find this

iarescientists
February 18th 2011



5863 Comments


tribestros

OutOfMyself
February 18th 2011



688 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

actually yeah itd be pretty cool if someone would do that for me maybe me n u could work something out


JamieCTA
February 18th 2011



146 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Really good album. On the level with HTTF and Amnesiac. IOW, not as good as In Rainbows, Kid A, or OK Computer. Hard to compare to something like The Bends of course. I'd put it right in the middle of their catalog as far as quality. Another solid album from a solid band.

SowingSeason
Emeritus
February 18th 2011



14513 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Havent heard this yet but the single sounded decent



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