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Radiohead ‘The King Of Limbs’ – As odd as it gets!

The wonderfully weird Radiohead is back with a new album. It is called ‘The King Of Limbs’ and the songs contained therein are just as strange as that album title. But what do you expect? It’s Radiohead!! Here’s a band who had all the success they wanted with 1997’s brilliant Ok Computer and then promptly turned their back to it all with a really experimental departure, which completely divided (read killed) their fan base! Yet, they have had a steady fan following through the years since ‘Kid A’. They’re really the biggest cult band in the world, aren’t they? … a title that once upon a time belonged to U2, until they actually became the biggest band in the world. But I digress. Let’s return to the subject at hand: The King of Limbs.

At first listen, one would probably wonder what the heck the band was smoking during the recording sessions. This album is ridiculously un-catchy even for Radiohead’s standards! Anybody that loses patience or interest after a single spin of this short album of only 8 songs, probably never understood how Radiohead albums work! You are meant to feel underwhelmed after the first run-through. Only after the third or fourth listen does this album reveal all its interesting sounds and layers. It’s a grower.

Okay, it’s time to talk about the actual songs. The album opens with ‘Bloom’, a fast-paced electronic number filled with a purposefully ugly repetitive beat, jazzy tones, prominent bass and Thom’s otherworldly voice stretching out over the soundscape going “Open your mouths wiiiiide, the universe will sigh…” The whole thing actually sounds like an outtake from his solo album The Eraser, which came out around 2006 or so. Actually, at least half of this album sounds like Eraser Pt. 2 because of the way the percussion is arranged in the mix. Track 2, ‘Morning Mr. Magpie’ with its beatlesque title sounds (unsurprisingly) absolutely nothing like the Beatles! In fact, it’s almost like a twin track to the opener, Bloom. Both songs have urgent percussion and similar vocal sections. The next one is called ‘Little By Little’ and finally there is some semblance of a melody! (although, it was discernible only by the second or third listen) Lots of falsetto here and a psychedelic sounding tune which gets more melodic as the track bounces along at a medium pace. Track 4, ‘Feral’ is a somewhat uninteresting instrumental with distorted vocal bits that don’t qualify as lyrics. The bass work here is quite awesome though, something that can be said for many of the songs! 50% of the album is already over by now but the good thing is that, the second half gets much better!

Track 5, ‘Lotus Flower’ is the one that is already out on YouTube and all over the net. There’s more of Thom’s falsetto here along with a heavy bassy groove and a somewhat catchy beat, which makes this song the first one that even has any hope of getting played on the radio. The accompanying video is hilarious yet difficult to watch at the same time as it shows a scrawny, shaggy looking Thom Yorke showing off some very odd dance moves. The next one is titled ‘Codex’ and as soon as it starts playing, one is reminded of the gorgeous Pyramid Song from the album Amnesiac. The piano chord arrangement on both songs are similar but Codex sounds a lot more dreamy and bright compared to Pyramid Song which despite its beauty sounds depressing. Track 7, ‘Give Up The Ghost’ is a mellow sing-along which is not exceptional but not terrible either. It continues the melodic theme of the second half, as opposed to the very rhythmic first half. The final track is a little gem that shines apart from most of the others. It’s called ‘Separator’ and has a very addictive beat along with light, airy keyboard sounds. It’s a song you can chill to, as the album comes to a close. Many fans on the net have speculated that the lyric “If you think this is over then you’re wrong” as well as the song title itself suggest that there is more material coming soon, but only time will tell.

So there you have it! Overall, I would say that The King of Limbs is a mixed bag consisting of some gorgeous fare like Codex and Separator as well as some difficult experiments such as Feral and the first couple of songs. Though I’m getting used to liking most of the songs now after my fourth listen or so, I cannot help wondering how much better and mind-blowing it could’ve been, considering it’s Radiohead we are talking about, a band that never ceases to amaze!

Rating: 3.5 / 5