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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Radiohead -- The King of Limbs

Radiohead sound like they are taking a really nice nap at the start of eighth studio album, The King of Limbs. The first track, "Bloom," sounds like it might build to something huge...then ends. Unfortunately, the nap continues into track two, "Morning Mr. Magpie," which spins its sleepy wheels until it stops. The band groggily get up to pee on "Little by Little" but still seem to just be dreaming about songs they have already recorded.
The twitchy blips (all the percussion on this album sounds electronic...c'mon, Kid A at least had a little bit of real drums) of segue track, "Feral," lead into lead single,"Lotus Flower," and the band gets back into bed. Don't worry, though. As they settle back into sleep they only think about mundanity. "Lotus Flower," despite being a lead single, is nothing you will remember much of later. It is pretty, as is most of this album--just like floral wallpaper.
Going back to sleep finally produces something interesting, though, as sixth track, "Codex," actually works as a gratifying piece of music. While Radiohead have ventured into plaintive, piano-led territory before, the sombre beauty of this song truly makes it a highlight, not only for The King of Limbs, but for the band's entire repertoire as well. When the slow, straining trumpets come in, they are only icing on the cake (and actually mean something, unlike their purely aesthetic appearance in the first track). Radiohead actually use the momentum built up by this song to lead into another stand-out track, "Give up the Ghost," whose gentle resignation is reminiscent of In Rainbows' "House of Cards," but not to a derivitive degree.
This leads to "Separator," which announces itself by really sounding no different from the previous tracks. The bass is prominent and leads the song, along with vocalist Thom Yorke's falsetto, and the same kind of glitchy, slightly annoying beats that have accompanied the majority of these tracks. A jolly little guitar pops up a little way in as if to announce "oh yeah, this is an album" but a few minutes later, the song ends. That's it. The last words Yorke sings are "wake me up." I'm serious.
Radiohead have been accused of many things in the past, but never of being boring. The King of Limbs is boring. For the first time in almost fifteen years, no boundaries are pushed, little of interest is said. I actually tried to skip to "The Eraser" at a few particularly dire moments, but then sadly realized that song is on Thom Yorke's solo album, from which these largely guitar-less tracks seem to be B-Sides.
If Radiohead were attempting to achieve something they have never done before, they have certainly succeeded. They have disappointed. They have created an album that can be considered, at best, inconsequentially lovely.

LAZY COMPARISON: Like a Thom Yorke solo album, or a Radiohead album where all the members of the band are on Ambien and watching Thom Yorke record music while he copiously pops capsules of Ambien and also the engineer and producer are on Ambien and there are robotic sheep gliding in the air in gentle arcs above the studio stuffing Ambien into their mouths with their little hooves.

2011 Self-Released
1. Bloom 5:15
2. Morning Mr. Magpie 4:41
3. Little by Little 4:27
4. Feral 3:13
5. Lotus Flower 5:00
6. Codex 4:47
7. Give Up the Ghost 4:50
8. Separator 5:20

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