Radiohead - 'The King Of Limbs' (UK Release: 18 Feb '11)
Few bands have anywhere near the level of expectancy that comes with a new Radiohead record. The past week had been an event, with the band announcing last Monday their plans to release 'The King Of Limbs', their eighth studio album, on 19 February. Of course, the band would make another surprise by bringing the release date one day forward, wrong-stepping the media.
I wish more bands did something similar – fans get to hear the record at the same time as the critics, which not only encourages more people to buy the record but helps develop a more loyal relationship between a fanbase and the musicians. There’s no unnecessary spend on marketing and fans are not waiting for months for the album to be released.
So what about the record itself? Although there is an initial disappointment that the album is only eight tracks, the production is flawless and it’s clear a great deal of attention has gone into each track. After the opening track 'Bloom', you quickly realise this is going to be one of the less immediate and more abstract Radiohead albums with its chopped, stuttering rhythms, akin to 'Amnesiac'.
The initial tracks, characterised by electronic clicks and glitches, struggle to register, with the exception of 'Little By Little', which finds Thom Yorke singing "I am such a tease and you’re such a flirt". The nagging feeling is this kind of music has been done better (e.g Burial’s 'Untrue') and it’s disappointing the same level of innovation which went into the launch of the album is not reflected in the music itself.
The second half of the album is far stronger, with 'Codex' a particular highlight. It’s a gorgeous song, very much capturing the tender intimacy displayed in the likes of 'Nude' and 'Pyramid Song'. 'Lotus Flower', the song with *that* video, is a subtle, propulsive number with Yorke singing in a deeply affecting falsetto, while 'Separator' is a strong album closer, bringing the record to a calm, dreamy conclusion. The theme of nature, demonstrated by the album cover, comes through strongly on record as well, for example a number of the tracks use bird-song.
Many will complain about the lack of guitar on the album and will pine for the days the band knocked out anthems with ease. Whether they can make another 'OK Computer' or 'The Bends' is a moot point. Radiohead are determined on making music which challenges them and keeps them entertained, and they’ve certainly earned the right to do this. Whether their audience will continue to accept this is another matter.
'The King Of Limbs' is available to purchase worldwide via thekingoflimbs.com.