Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Album Review: Radiohead – The King of Limbs


Positively the last review of Radiohead’s latest most of you will have to endure. I decided not to join the deluge of reviews which were published in the aftermath of its release in the hope that I’d come up with a more considered opinion.

Shouldn’t have bothered waiting. I’m still none the wiser a month or so later. Admittedly I have found the album a little bit of a chore to listen to. The first 5 tracks are not the most inviting, composed mainly of beats and Thom Yorke’s voice (which I’m not a fan of) floating in and out of occasional guitars, keyboards etc.
Bloom starts like standard-issue, modern day Radiohead, all skittering beats and nonchalant vocals. Occasionally we get some almost Eno-like keyboards rising from the maelstrom. Morning Mr Magpie is very similar tempo and feel wise. Yorke sounds anything but content on this one, though what’s interesting about it is repeated listening reveals the layers of instrumentation underneath, it’s quite complex.

The tempo drops a notch or too as the sonic atmosphere clouds over for Little By Little, which if anything, is the most traditional Radiohead track here, whatever that means in 2011. After the almost random bunch of noises which make up Feral, Lotus Flower is in a similar vein to Little By Little, though possibly a little more groove-orientated.

The heart of the album follows in the shape of the final 3 tracks, which are far more enjoyable to listen to than anything which has gone before. Codex is arrestingly sparse, certainly in the context of that has preceded it. It’s mainly keyboards, with no percussion, giving Thom Yorke’s voice a welcome chance to breathe. It’s a wonderfully simple-sounding spooky melody, further enhanced by some brass which works brilliantly, ending with birds chirping.

It’s followed up by the acoustic guitar strum Give Up The Ghost, which again frames Yorke’s voice superbly over guitar and bongos, before Separator floats on by on a bed of keyboards, twinkling guitar and gentle beats to conclude the album.

It’s no In Rainbows, and for that I commend them. It’s a more difficult beast which may well become a classic by the end of the year, if only for the last 3 tracks.