February 20, 2011

Album Review: Radiohead's The King of Limbs

Radiohead, the world's (Pick one: "greatest" / "most overrated") band unsurprisingly has taken the music world by surprise with the short-release of their 8th full-length album, The King of Limbs. We haven't heard anything from England's biggest alt-rock innovators since 2007's acclaimed In Rainbows, an album that arguably marked the band's most grounded-breaking effort to date since OK Computer and Kid A, so where would Thom Yorke lead Radiohead next? It's apparent through the band's Office Chart and a 2010 collaboration with Flying Lotus that Yorke is a huge fan of dubstep, so the safe assumption would be to expect the sub-genre penetrating it's influence on LP 8. Taking into account Yorke also just recently set out on a solo trek supporting his 2006 debut, The Eraser, it's wasn't far-fetched to believe that album's electronic identity was very fresh on Yorke's mind during The King of Limbs writing process. Ultimately, The King of Limbs is a widely inspired natural progression from where In Rainbows left off. In typical Radiohead fashion, it veers away from that album's accessibility yet maintains it's abstract, angular core. Yorke's fellow bandmates' efforts are no less critical in forming this album's sound. Phil Selways's trippy percussion and Johnny Greenwood's multi-instrumental avante-jazz compositions steer Radiohead into a state of fractured, quiet rhythm-based minimalism ("Bloom," "Feral," "Separator") while Colin Greenwood's bass lines get nuanced in manipulation, making them somewhat unrecognizable ("Morning, Mr. Magpie," "Lotus Flower.") Meanwhile, Jonny Greenwood is kept preoccupied throughout by manning the keys and synthesizers to give The King of Limbs a post-modern sound that's more organic than futuristic compared to everything the band has done to date over the past decade aside from Hail to the Thief. The word "organic" also can be applied to the guitar work done here by Yorke and Ed O'Brien, as the two weave psychedelic folk into chords and progressions seemingly recycled from past Radiohead efforts ("Little By Little," "Give Up the Ghost.") After In Rainbows brought these five Brits back down to Earth while keeping their innovative credibility in tact, The King of Limbs expectantly pulls away from commercial appeal and continues forth with Radiohead's artly alt-rock aspirations. It's transitionally foretelling on where the band is moving next, yet The King of Limb's real time release captures Radiohead still comfortable in the present.

Radiohead's The King of Limbs is available now as a digital download at TheKingofLimbs.com and will be released physically March 29, 2011 on TBD Records.

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