It’s always been Radiohead‘s way of doing things. Even when they were travelling through strong guitar rock and creating long-play albums with a substantial amount of music, they were always going against the grain, on their distinctive path. It’s that trail-blazing approach that has always made them far more engrossing, far more innovative and far more rewarding to all of their fans. And building such a diverse discography, with continuing methods in not just marketing but of course, their new dynamic forays into music, has left everyone always stunned and amazed with whatever they create next. The King of Limbs is still, everything you could possibly expect from a Radiohead album made in the 21st century: brilliantly composed with magnificent styles and sounds, the kind of music that demands attention and care, and an album that is, like all other Radiohead albums, essential.
I guess it’s wrong in this day and age to flower something so much; I’m sure all superlatives for Radiohead have been well spent. But it’s interesting to note some of the critics’ knee-jerk reaction to the music on The King of Limbs. Surely the way the album was recorded, in contrast to In Rainbows, had a lasting effect on the album’s overall recording. Eight albums in, with eight songs and just over 37 minutes long, this is Radiohead’s shortest album. Also, the songs on In Rainbows lived with the band prior to being recorded and thus, many of the songs were formed and aligned through their touring schedule. So while both albums are obviously different, they are albums of their respective times. Thom Yorke has always made it well known that going into a studio is one of the least favorites tasks to partake in so we must’ve known we weren’t getting In Rainbows Part Two right? And with all the hints the band drops, I think it’s safe to say that everything always seems to fall into place.
So yes, at first and simply because it’s still been less than a week, sure, the album is still a lot to take in. Someone said that it was a ‘hard album to review’ but I’m not sure what that’s really supposed to mean. There’s nothing to wonder about with something as electronically-glittered as “Feral” and its spellbinding rhythms, while a song like “Give up the Ghost,” showcases the band’s influences and neatly places a focus on them. Raw and sounding like it was recorded in a wide open space, Neil Young is easily the most distinguished nod and Yorke’s vocals stretch a wide range. Buried deep towards the end, it’s definitely the album’s most daring move and probably why it’s so downright memorable. Yorke’s voice has always been the star – to be cliché: the voice of the band – and once again, things are no different here.
There’s also nothing entirely gloomy about The King of Limbs either. Working with longtime collaborator, Stanley Donwood, the artwork depicts scenes from the woods which are neither gloomy nor uplifting. Donwood took inspiration from old English tales and how they all had similar settings and became fascinated with the idea. And so while the album is probably named after the old oak tree in Savernake Forest, the album is equally dense and filled with amazing sounds. Opening with a jazz polyrhythm, “Bloom” shines with a traverse beat and an opening line (“Open your mouth wide”) that is by far, a superbly fitting way to open The King of Limbs. And to end everything, there’s the space-y, ethereal feel of “Separator,” as Yorke poignantly sings “If you think this is over…then you’re wrong.”
Like every other album, there are the trademarks we’ve all come to grow and love from the band and by the end of this, all of the most loving adjectives one could shower on an album will be spread all over The King of Limbs. It’s definitely an album you can sink your teeth into and as time passes, with more passing listens and as more guided ears catch on, there’ll be no denying its place in the band’s prestigious canon. The beauty of the album is deeply rooted in creating significantly gorgeous music with impeccable results and so in the end, it’s still just like we thought it would be: Radiohead coming up pure rainbows.