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Radiohead - The King Of Limbs CD (album) cover

THE KING OF LIMBS

Radiohead

 

Crossover Prog

3.33 | 235 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Once again, Radiohead decided to release an album with a minimum of lead warning (reducing the lag from weeks to days), and once again, they initially offered the album in mp3 form before the CD release (avoiding the name-your-price practice of In Rainbows, though). It shares something else in common with In Rainbows as well: the feeling that the band is absolutely, 100% in the "coasting" part of its career, and that the chances of the band producing any more material that feels essential are close to none.

What's especially fascinating to me is how much better In Rainbows sounds right after a listen to this album. There was a big todo in leadup to this album about how the band wasn't about making full albums again as they'd done them before, but this isn't an EP, and while this may only be 37 minutes, In Rainbows was only 42. In Rainbows might have been the ultimate Radiohead-by-numbers album, but it still felt finished and polished and was only disappointing in relation to my own sense that they should have been reaching higher. If the difference between In Rainbows and this isn't so much the length, then do comments made by Yorke and others about not wanting to make another album "like that" tacitly amount to an admission of not bothering to finish and polish the songs they were working on? Does it mean not caring about creating an album flow that makes sense? Maybe that's not what was meant at all, but it sure feels that way a lot of the time in listening to this.

After more than a few listens, I like this album enough to give it an above average grade, but it took a whole lot of effort to get there. This is a much more confused feeling album than even, say, Amnesiac, yet it manages to be a good deal more boring than that album as well (which is a shame, because an album more confused than Amnesiac should be bizarre enough to work off that alone). The tracks tend to have interesting (if very familiar in spots) ideas, but the ideas don't always work together to make the track better, and the tracks don't work together to make the album better. And yet, when I look at the track listing, I can't think of a track on here that I come close to actively disliking or that I'd ever skip. After all, "Bloom" does have that haunting synth bloop covering and that drum loop, and Yorke's vocal part is atmospheric (though I don't know to what end). "Morning Mr. Magpie" has that up-tempo skittish guitar part and a pleasantly warm chorus (nice enough that it's probably my favorite of the album). "Little by Little" does have all of those familiar elements in the guitars and production that probably could have made it fit on Hail to the Thief (and no, the lyrics don't bother me; if you were ever dependent on Radiohead lyrics for life meaning, you deserve what you get from "I'm such a tease and you're such a flirt"). "Feral" does have that decent drum loop and some well-crafted synthesized vocal processing. "Lotus Flower," well, has lots of elements you'd want and expect to hear in a Radiohead track. "Codex" does have some haunting echoey piano (a la "Videotape" and others) that makes for nice atmosphere. "Give up the Ghost" does have a fascinating vibe thanks to Thom's repeated "don't hurt me" backing vocal part and the lulling acoustic lines under the standard instrumentation. And "Separator" is fairly uplifting when Thom is singing, "Wake me up, wake me up."

As you can see, I just namechecked all eight of the album's tracks, and found something positive about all of them. The problem is that only about half of them could even approach the possibility of entering the second tier of the band's material (and even then it's debatable), and they don't work in aggregate in a way that would elevate all of them. There's just nothing necessary about this album, and when even a maddening album like In Rainbows could seem necessary just because of how good the material was despite itself, that makes this all the more frustrating. If I were more of a fan and more in love with the band's sound, I could probably find more enjoyment in this album than I do, but because Radiohead has always been somewhat on the outside looking in with my tastes, this is an irritating development more than anything. It's really far from a bad album, and it's not even a mediocre album, but meticulous craftsmanship of this kind of sound can't really win me over.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |

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