Saturday 19 February 2011

Today's Review: Radiohead - The King Of Limbs

I love Radiohead. When I was but a mere teen I figured they were just as boring and depressing as many people said, but as I started to get into them I realised there's a mastery behind their music that you just can't deny. Their songs may be depressing at times, but they're also beautiful, and they've made a few outright rockin' tracks too. Even their venture into a more electronic style with Kid A was near flawless.

The King Of Limbs, the first album since 2007's In Rainbows was announced on Valentine's Day. It was available to download 4 days later. Despite the short pre-release time period, the buzz among fans was intense. It trended on Twitter in an age where only Gaga and Bieber can accomplish that feat on a regular basis. When the album finally dropped, 4 of the top trending topics on Twitter were about Radiohead. That's special. But is the album actually good?

I, like most people, have to listen to an album a few times to really come to a final opinion on it. At this moment i'm on my fifth playthrough. To be honest, on my first listen I was disappointed. This album is short (8 tracks, 37 minutes), it's dark, it's dreary. Radiohead's last album had, in my opinion, the perfect balance of dark, energetic and downright beautiful songs. The King Of Limbs, however, never seems to stray out of the low key darkness that it dwells in. In a way it plays like a downtrodden, acoustic version of Kid A, scatty drumbeats populate a lot of the tracks, Thom Yorke's vocals are often incomprehensible moans. From the beginning I was hoping for more songs along the lines of Nude, Reckoner or 15 Step, but instead, I found the new album, dare I say it, boring.

But that was the first listen. Things have now changed. But not as dramatically as i'd hoped. The opener, Bloom, is still quite weak in my eyes. But the next track, Morning Mr. Magpie, has really grown on me. It's probably as upbeat as the album gets, but still has a menacing, dark tone. "You've got some nerve, coming here" Yorke growls. He always sounds at his best when he's threatening people. The first half of the album is a strong offering, but the buzz seems to tail off in the latter. Across the board it's a low key affair, nothing too masterful going on instrumentally, it's more about the atmosphere. But Radiohead are masters of their craft, and the atmosphere is captured perfectly. It's just not something I expect from a Radiohead album to retain the same feel throughout. Many people have noted that the first half of the album is more depressing, while the second half is a lot more upbeat, but in my view it sounds like someone going to bed depressed and angry, and waking up no longer angry but only slightly less depressed. The end of the album is certainly the weak point. Without the almost electronic feel of the first tracks it feels like something's been lost.

The King Of Limbs is definitely not Radiohead's crowning achievement. There are some seriously good tracks in here, Lotus Flower and Morning Mr. Magpie especially, and while i'm a lot less disappointed than I was after the first listen, it still feels like something's missing. While I know I can't expect Radiohead to stay the same, I have accepted their other different styles with open arms. This album, unfortunately, hasn't captured my heart.

My rating:

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