Radiohead: The King of Limbs

Somehow, they’ve managed to do it. In their eighth studio release, Radiohead invites listeners to dive into yet an even deeper atmospheric level of Thom Yorke’s brooding complexities.

The King of Limbs is Radiohead’s truest manifestation as a band to date, an album that completely sheds the responsibilities of super fame and embraces a trippy sonic experience that only Yorke himself could pioneer.

This intricate collection of songs comes over three years after the band’s 2007 mega-hit In Rainbows, which produced four highly received singles on top of two Grammies and wild praise from critics. The King of Limbs is in sharp contrast to this, which will leave newcomer Radiohead fans feeling alienated and disappointed.

For true fans of the band that relish in the staggering creativeness of past hits like “Kid A” and “Amnesiac,” this latest release offers new layers of intricate emotions.

The album’s songs rely heavily on the electronic, syncopated rhythms and productive bass lines of dubstep—a genre of electronic music that emerged out of London in the early 2000s. In this regard, it resembles a maturation of experiments in electronic music first set forth in 1997’s Ok Computer.

The electronic influence is deeply rooted from the start, with the quick-paced “Bloom” that focuses around a droning vocal performance from Yorke and carries a transcending synthesizer progression.

“Lotus Flower” is the album’s first single and most stereotypical Radiohead song of the bunch. The track’s addictive rotating bass line is the most recognizable part of the song, but Yorke’s vocal performance brings a satisfying roundness to the sound.

The tracks “Codex” and “Give up the Ghost” are paired together in the middle of the track listing and may be the clear-cut highlights. Both are beautifully crafted ballads that soar with instruments heavily saturated in off-sounding effects. “Codex” is an instrumental with a haunting conclusion of tangled strings and “Give up the Ghost” is a pleasant escape from the band’s heavy sound as Yorke sings closer to the sun than at any other moment on the album.

“Separator” is another gem that rounds out the album on a high note with a return to the pressing rhythms and infectious grooves of dubstep.

The album’s one failing point is its scarcity of soaring melody lines and catchy chorus hooks. In “Morning Mr. Magpie,” a fast moving guitar riff dominates the direction of the tune while Yorke ironically sings, “They’ve stolen all my magic and took my melody.” In classic Radiohead fashion, much of the songs deliver anxious feelings of conflict, twitching sounds that speak to our restlessness.

As is the case with most of Radiohead’s music, The King of Limbs possesses the relentless ability to grow on you. The initial listen will leave you in a sedated haze, only partially able to recollect the album’s qualities. It’s only after revisiting these tunes for a second, third or fourth listen that their merits are fully discovered. What at first may sound unnecessarily unorganized becomes beautifully twisted together; the appeal of Radiohead’s distinctiveness eventually becomes priceless.

With the release of The King of Limbs, Radiohead has made it even harder for critics to tack a label on them. Once again, they’ve positioned themselves far from even their closest contemporaries and left us with reason to think they’re one of the most significant groups of this generation.