Radiohead’s “King of Limbs” Review
Matthew, Staff Reporter
March 8, 2011
Filed under Arts & Entertainment
Before I begin my actual review of Radiohead’s new album, The King of Limbs, I need to get something off of my chest. Radiohead is one of the best and most innovative bands of the past two decades. Although normally classified as a part of the rock genre, much of Radiohead’s work is notable for transcending the confines of rock, incorporating elements from other genres and moving music in a positive direction.
Their 1997 effort OK Computer differed from the pop-leaning rock music of the time by including elements from jazz and electronic music, but was nonetheless a huge success and spawned the careers and musical style of bands such as Coldplay and Muse. Their 2000 album Kid A, highly influential to both the rock and electronic music of the 2000s, flipped the script again as the band moved almost completely away from a rock sound and crafted an album primarily from electronic music. Now that I have said this, I feel I can criticize The King of Limbs without being shunned by avid Radiohead fans.
The King of Limbs, named after a 1000-year-old tree in the Savernake Forest of England, is an album in two halves. The sound of the first half, made up of songs “Bloom”, “Morning Mr. Magpie” and “Little by Little,” is hectic and unruly, somewhat similar to the roots of the tree that the album is named after. “Bloom” begins the album with frantic-sounding drums and keys in the foreground, while Thom Yorke’s wail is somewhat pushed into the background. Next is “Morning Mr. Magpie” which features a hectic guitar loop similar to the drums in “Bloom.” To round out the first half of the album is “Little by Little” which, although including jazzier elements than the two songs before it, still pertains to the frenzied theme of the first half of the album.
Then comes the turning point point of the album. The song “Feral,” a word which means “existing in an untamed state,” perfectly summarizes the wild sounds of the first half of the album as it bridges into the second half, where the sound is more tame but retains its elements of musical freedom. The instrumental begins with elements similar to the frantic first half of the album, but as the song progresses, more ambient noise comes to the forefront. By the end of the song, a much calmer atmosphere has been developed in comparison to the earlier songs on the album.
Beginning the second half of the album is “Lotus Flower.” This song sets the tone for the rest of the album. Thom Yorke’s vocals have come into the foreground while the wild noises of the first half have been pushed far to the background and replaced with calmer and more ambient electronic noise.
Next is “Codex,” my favorite song on the album. The same three keys are repeated throughout the whole song mixed with some electronic elements while Yorke sings over the arrangement. Next, “Give Up the Ghost” follows in the same vein as “Codex.” However, while “Codex” was based primarily on keyboard and piano sounds, “Give Up the Ghost” is most notable for its guitar.
Last is “Separator.” Similar to “Feral,” and aptly named, “Separator” seems like a bridge or separation between this calm part of the album and another non-existent part. Thom Yorke sings “If you think this is over, then you’re wrong.” Is “Separator” possibly a bridge to King of Limbs 2?
My main criticism of The King of Limbs is that it lacks a distinct element that makes it special and different than Radiohead’s other albums. It sounds very similar to their 2007 effort In Rainbows, and it seems that their sound has not progressed much since then. The King of Limbs lacks the discriminating element that earlier albums, such as OK Computer and Kid A, featured. While The King of Limbs is a very good album and would be exceptional if it had come from anyone not named Radiohead, it just seems like the band did not put as much effort in to this album as they should have and it lacks the edge that many Radiohead fans have come to expect.