Review Summary: Radiohead are still leading the way modern music.
The aim of any piece of art is to create beauty in as true a form as possible. Radiohead have done this with such aplomb in the past that it is difficult to begin listening to any new song or album without a sense of enormous expectancy – you expect it to transform you in some way, to take you somewhere special, to stimulate some strange lobe in your brain to such an extent that it becomes addictive and you find yourself struggling to play anything other than that Radiohead album for months on end.
King of Limbs lives up to this expectancy but at the same time it creates a more natural, familiar beauty than the distorted futuristic dystopia of OK Computer or the angst ridden longing found in In Rainbows. No more is this seen than in the spine-tingling song about love that is ‘Give up the Ghost’ where Yorke surrenderingly sings, ‘gathered in your arms’ over the plea of ‘don’t hurt me’ in the background. It is an album that admits a vulnerability that you can easily connect to with every song.
Musically it is fascinatingly intriguing, adopting some of the sounds of post-dubstep, fusing it with ambient jazz, sprinkling engaging guitar riffs while playing with unorthodox rhythms and song structures over the sweet backdrop of a tweeting bird. The album is not as emphatically different to previous albums – it is not a giant change in sound in the way that Kid A was – but is instead a mature amalgamation of what can be heard in all of their albums since Kid A.
‘Bloom’ carries on where In Rainbows left of, replicating the flitting drums of ‘Videotape’ below the Philip Glass-like piano and the post-dubstep sounding baseline which leads into Thom Yorke’s ocean-like singing – the first sign of the naturalistic undercurrent to this masterpiece. In ‘Little by Little’ you hear a guitar riff that sounds as though it has come straight out of Amnesiac, while ‘Codex’ replicates the emotional experience that is ‘Reckoner’ and it will surely be used in many moving montages to come – it contains such emotion in the muffled piano and resonating horns that it cannot help but make your eyes well up just a little.
There is also plenty of influence from much of the musical innovations that have occurred in the four years that have elapsed since In Rainbows –the song ‘Feral’ in particular provides an example of the sound that the likes of James Blake and Pariah have been trying to achieve but Radiohead have almost perfected it with just one song. The main single from the album is going to be ‘Lotus Flower’ and it is a truly enjoyable song. The flowing bass under the most distinctive melody of the album creates a catchy but truly captivating song that is utterly cool and represents Radiohead at their very best.
There are many people out there who say that they just don’t get Radiohead and indeed some of these people will continue to say it. This album offers a decent chance of conversion for many though for it cannot be accused of the gloominess that has been noted of some of their previous albums. For those who do get Radiohead (especially those who like their newer stuff as well as their 90s rock anthems) this will be an album that they will listen to repetitively for many months and years to come.
Unlike Kid A it is not a revolution in style but it is instead a continuation that has enough quirks and innovations to sufficiently intrigue and stimulate. The album is of perfect length and works beautifully as a coherent piece. It is a piece of beauty, a wonderful piece of art.