Though I love Radiohead I would hardly call myself an expert on their music then again I wouldn’t call myself an expert on music in general. I often feel quite out of my element when it comes to talking about music, leaving it to other people, so-called “experts” or just people who live and breathe the stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I love music, but I admire those who seem at ease with the terminology, those who actually know what the beats and the notes are called. in 12th grade, I took a mandatory interdisciplinary course that combined literature, philosophy, (history of) science, art, and music, and this last was by far my weakest subject in the course. I would toss around musical terms without really understanding their meaning or application. The struggle has not improved any, so forgive me if I don’t feel exactly qualified to give a proper review, whatever that means. I am a fan speaking in layman’s terms.
Radiohead announced the upcoming release of their eighth studio LP on Valentine’s Day – a mere five days before the actual release of the album. The news spread quickly, becoming a trending topic on twitter within the hour. The album was released that Friday, a day ahead of schedule. if fans were expecting (or hoping for) a return to Radiohead’s OK Computer / Kid a style, they were almost certainly disappointed.
The King of Limbs is a ghostly acid trip, best described as the sonic representation of the images chosen for the album cover. Thom Yorke’s eerily high pitched voice coupled with the almost incomprehensible lyrics (then again, when has Thom Yorke ever been easy to understand?) and the creepy repetition that doesn’t sound quite human, The King of Limbs definitely feels other-worldly. Songs drip with melancholy and bleed into one another and into themselves. Yorke’s voice seems to be melting at times (an image I haven’t been able to get out of my head since Kid A’s “How to Disappear Completely”). overall the album feels rather abstract and a little inaccessible if only because it’s not always easy to decipher the lyrics.
Clocking in at just over 37 minutes, the album features only eight tracks. Though I was initially hoping for more (I’m sure most Radiohead fans were), the style lends itself to brevity I think – with the repetitive, loopy, echoic nature of many of the tracks, any longer would become tiresome. my favorite tracks are “Codex” and “Separator.” The former is a piano ballad, essentially sealing itself in my good books with very little effort (the song is gorgeous, but I’m referring specifically to my tendency to gravitate toward songs featuring heavy use of piano). The latter is a great final track, with the repetitive line “if you think this is over then you’re wrong,” either being used ironically or suggesting there’s more new Radiohead in the not-too-distant-future. I’m fine with either scenario. The beauty of Radiohead is the complexity of their music lends itself to multiple interpretations.
One of my friends called this album “a step back” but I disagree. I think it might be a step in a direction that some fans might not like (and don’t worry, I’m not judging – I’ve definitely been there with other artists) but the move does not come as a surprise to me given the progression of their style over the years. I can’t say this is the album I’ve been waiting three plus years to hear from Radiohead, but it’s still a beautiful effort, and I’m pleased to add it to my Radiohead collection.