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Polaroids Of Androids

Record Reviews

8.7

Radiohead
The King of Limbs

Radiohead are probably the only band that could get me out of bed before 7 to listen to their new record. Except maybe a Jack White/Tom Waits collaboration or a new Genesis album. Point is, in my eyes Radiohead are the most important band in the world.

So I'm out of bed, I wait at my computer as it downloads The King of Limbs, I listen through, and then I have the same thought that I've had with every first new Radiohead album listen since Kid A came out. It's something like — "yeah fuck...dunno". Then I go back to sleep for a few hours. I sleep easy because in no way am I worried that my favourite band have finally let me down. I guess you could be forgiven for listening to The King of Limbs through once and thinking that it's okay and then not going back to it. But if my Radiohead experience has taught me anything it's that their albums require a chunk of your time in order to sink in. And The King of Limbs is no exception.

It's a strange thing but Radiohead records seem to find you in a way. They are elusive beasts. I remember when Kid A came out and after the fan fair and immediate brilliance of OK Computer I initially felt let down by what, at the time, I misconstrued as it's inaccessibility. I was a determined 15 year old listening to it over and over on my discman trying to feel something, but I just couldn't get it. Then I remember driving to Sydney with the old man and I put it on towards the end of the trip as we'd exhausted his Springsteen collection. It then just hit me all at once. I noticed parts that weren't there before and the whole thing just fell together, changed my musical outlook and now lives in my mind as the greatest record of the last 20 years.

The King of Limbs hasn't eclipsed Kid A, but in the same vein, it's another elusive and incredible beast. At first it's jagged, glitchy and a bit confounding. Then after a day or two the quality of standout tracks like Lotus Flower and Codex cut through and introduce themselves. After about five days I start to feel and understand the new style apparent in tracks like the amazing Separator. Then on about the seventh day my mind has a grip on it, it has come to terms with another Radiohead reinvention, it has accepted that they have again come along and upped the level, and it feels that after a week of piecing it all together, The King of Limbs makes beautiful sense.

The album's first half is intentionally cold and immediate, with the heavy reliance on short loops giving an overall unsettled feeling. These four tracks sound like the band have taken the beauty and simplicity of In Rainbows and squashed it through a big digital beast. This will more than likely leave most Radiohead fans torn, half wanting to hear a clean and stunning O'Brien/Greenwood guitar fight it's way to prominence from it's position deep in the mix, and the other half reveling in the way all signs of natural life are obscured and shredded by the surrounding clammer. This apex of uneasiness is Feral, which skips and crunches it's way through 200 seconds of musical seizures, never fixating it's attention on anything for more than a millisecond. The track is the borderline between the record's two sides, slowly spinning itself into a mess, clearly out of control, it's the climatic finale to the confronting, loop-driven first half.

Side B opens with Lotus Flower, which is undeniably the culmination of Radiohead's ambition on this record. While still based around short loop snippets, it's much less frantic in it's approach, with the electronic clutter finally losing the war to Radiohead purity as it's replaced with more of a defined composition, as well as Yorke's unrivaled vocal delivery and sense of melody. By the time we reach the amazing Codex Radiohead are as clean as they get and after the record's first half, this bare bones combination of loose piano and Yorke's vocal fragility sound more pellucid than ever.

The King of Limbs is a record of two halves, perfectly suited for what was more than likely it's intended medium — vinyl. It's also completely plausible to assume Radiohead had planned for either half to be listened to individually. The playing order seems flexible as well, with the challenging nature of the first four tracks either dragging you into the record or pulling you down further into the abyss, depending on your chosen starting point.

Despite only clocking in at 37 minutes, this is an album in the truest sense of the word. Nigel Godrich's largely electronic based production approach and the band's heavy reliance on loops, along with this condensed running time, serve in some way to remind us of the age we live in. Immediate, restless and, for lack of a better word, unfocused, The King Of Limbs is a different side of a band which still remains determined to continually investigate their own sound. It feels like a battle at times, both from a listener perspective and with the band themselves seemingly fighting against their own urges of comfortability but, as always seems to be the case, there's a clear winner in the end — Radiohead.

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Record Reviews
Radiohead

 

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Comments

Lochy

"Nigel Godrich's largely electronic based production approach and the band's heavy reliance on loops, along with this condensed running time, serve in some way to remind us of the age we live in. Immediate, restless and, for lack of a better word, unfocused"

So true, great review.

7 years ago

Rav

This is everywhere but fucking funny and fucking true:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/clips/p00fhw6y/spout_radiohead_fan_speaks_out/

7 years ago

Spoona

Nailed it. Quality album, great write up.

7 years ago

Rav

But did you watch my great vid Spoona? That is the question!?

7 years ago

Spoona

Haha. Special.

7 years ago

Spoona

Haha. Special.

7 years ago

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