mon 08/08/2022

Download: Radiohead - The King of Limbs | reviews, news & interviews

Download: Radiohead - The King of Limbs

Download: Radiohead - The King of Limbs

The Oxford enigmas retreat to a tiny world of microscopic details

What's weird about the reams of commentaries that have already sprouted around The King of Limbs is the way they try to tell you what it resembles, but not what it actually is. Apparently it's like Miles Davis, Foals, Autechre, dubstep, Talk Talk, Philip Glass and Charles Mingus, among others. But is there an essential Radioheadness at its core?

Perhaps what says most about its authors is its method of delivery - by digital download now, followed by a plush multi-format "newspaper" version in May. Audio-wise, its unifying characteristic is Thom Yorke's voice, a baleful and fragile presence that hovers protectively over these tracks as they skip from layered mosaics to airless pseudo-funk to exquisitely moping balladry.

It takes a while to get comfortable with the teeming cross-rhythms of "Bloom", the opener, and its jungle of stuttering percussion and string-like tones, but over it all Yorke paints legato phrases of almost operatic elegance. He finds clear vocal space again above the blipping guitar pulse of "Morning Mr Magpie", and squeezes out a keening soul man's falsetto in "Lotus Flower". In "Give Up the Ghost" he suddenly steps out as an old-fashioned singer-songwriter, singing plaintively against an acoustic guitar which is both strummed and rhythmically thumped to provide a makeshift beat.

But The King... rarely sounds like a band, and could almost have been cooked up by the solo Yorke with a Macbook and a copy of Logic Pro. Only the subtle and slightly ominous guitar and bass interplay that propels the White Album-ish "Little by Little", or the funk-like bass motif and twinkly West Coast guitar in "Separator", suggest the physical presence of musicians playing together. The drumming sounds almost entirely synthetic.

Those who yearn for the stridently rockist Radiohead of The Bends or the intrepid collective effort of OK Computer might as well forget it, since in the 'head's world the "rock band" has gone the way of the compact cassette and Dave Lee Travis. The King... is subtle and often haunting, but the music has retreated to a tiny world of microscopic details. If it weren't for their collective history, would many people notice Radiohead now?

Watch Radiohead's video for "Lotus Flower"


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Comments

Great review! I completely agree about it not sounding like a band driven album! After the critical success (at least amongst me and my friends) of In Rainbows I would have thought they would continue along that path - sadly not. I love Kid A and Amnesiac, the two albums I feel most resemble this new one, but the cohesion and 'band-ness' of In Rainbows was really like a relevation for me. A poignant question to close your article too Adam, who would notice them now?

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