Radiohead: The King of Limbs (Ticker Tape/XL/TBD) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Radiohead

The King of Limbs

Ticker Tape/XL/TBD

Mar 07, 2011 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


(We're running multiple reviews of Radiohead's The King of Limbs. Read one written by Jim Scott here and below is Laura Studarus' take on the album.)

Radiohead, as we know it, is dead. The English quintet that blossomed from early '90s rock poster children to new century electro weirdos, has returned after four years in the studio with The King of Limbs, their eight full-length. But rather than shake up fans by delivering either a truly terrible album or an innovative collection (or even a terribly innovative collection), we’ve been given a standard workhorse album—eight songs of expert, paint-by-numbers Radioheadness. Fourteen years later and the entirety of Ok Computer still sounds fresh and jarring, Kid A’s “Idioteque” sounds downright punk, and even the self-deprecating ennui of Pablo Honey’s “Creep” has aged well. But after a few spins of The King of Limbs, it’s difficult to tell where the album’s eight songs begin and end, let alone recall individual characteristics. 

All tease and no payoff, The King of Limbs is an exercise in tension, as songs build promisingly, and then fail to deliver the goods we’ve come to expect. Dynamic opener “Bloom” promises greatness, its terse percussion and glitchy electronics sounding not unlike a dialed-down version of In Rainbow’s “15 Steps.” Although, rather than act as a prelude for things to come (as “15 Steps” did), it’s a bellwether, signifying that, sometimes, less is simply less.

Instead of an out and out qualified successes, high points all come with an asterisk. “Give up the Ghost,” perhaps the album’s most touching ballad, succeeds on the strength of Yorke’s voice, looped into a ghostly backing choir, but its minimal production is mirrored on shockingly similar track “Codex.” Elsewhere their now-trademark combination of interwoven electronics and rhythmic guitars momentarily prevails, painting back-to-back tracks “Little By Little” and “Feral” in identical, minor key, white noise cacophonies. 

This should not be read as an indictment of Radiohead’s fundamental sound. But (as mentioned by fellow critic Jim Scott) one can’t help but long for anything signifying the fire in the equation still exists. Rock band, experimental pioneers, or somewhere in between, what has marked Radiohead in every incarnation hasn’t been so much proficiency (although that has been there from the start), but rather passion. While it’s too soon to accuse the band of drifting, it would be nice to know what their game plan is with this downbeat, one-size-fits-all outing. Provocateurs no more? Have they really come to the end of their experimentation? Here’s hoping it isn’t so. Maybe next time Radiohead should make a smooth jazz album. Now that would be shocking. (www.radiohead.com)

 

Author rating: 6/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10



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TK
March 7th 2011
6:37pm

Consider this band a human being.  Sometimes an un recognized side of a human comes into light.  A quieter, mellower…sleepy, dreamy on a rainy Sunday side.  The King of Limbs is a crystalline clear glimpse into an un-noticed side.  It is brilliant, different and RH owns this.  Be more flexible and open-minded.  People change, bands change.  Remember the Beatles?