[Review] Critical Feedback Of Radiohead's 'King Of Limbs'

radiohead john shearer getty images [Review] Critical Feedback Of Radiohead's 'King Of Limbs'

Photo by John Shearer//Getty Images

As a testament to their perpetually elusive, mysterious and undoubtedly mischievous ways, after releasing their new album King of Limbs a day early, [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Radiohead [/lastfm]sent music critics and fans into a frantic race to be the first to download and churn out a “fresh” review.

Well, KROQ has done better. We not only have our first impression review on each track of the King of Limbs and the video for their first single “Lotus Flower,” we have the whole album available for you to stream and critical feedback from major news sources.  Listen to the album and see if you agree!

[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Radiohead[/lastfm]-“Lotus Flower”

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To see some pretty funny parodies of this video, click here.


Our First Impression:

1. “Bloom”

Trippy, spastic, dub-ish Taiko drum beat layered over ethereal, organic piano riffs. Thom Yorke’s voice cuts through with an eerie, warbled croon like a melancholy bird in a dark forest, as a sweeping orchestral transports Yorke from sonic shadows to a sunshine-laden moment interlaced with actual bird chirping. Avant-garde and spooky, it ends with a sound almost like a whisper, a heartbeat, and rain drops.

2. “Morning Mr. Magpie”

Playing up on the thieving tendencies of the magpie bird, Radiohead tells the magpie “now you’ve stolen all the magic” and ”You’ve got some nerve coming here/you stole it all/give it back.” With a highly punctuated beat, an echoing siren, the jangle of jittery cymbals, an audacious bass line, and a funk-fueled almost-danceable rhythm, “Morning Mr. Magpie” is a track full of dark dichotomies and dreary, dreamy beat.

3. “Little By Little”

With the clinical percussion of synth-fused New Wave and the organic pull of primitive instinct implied in both Yorke’s voice and in his lyrics (“I am such a tease and you’re such a flirt”), “Little By Little” takes a vibrant play on primordial mischief  and swampy slithering reptilian thought with a seductive, yet coy backbeat, ethnic guitar touches and a few lashes of old-school [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]U2[/lastfm] and[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”] Nirvana[/lastfm]. So far, a favorite.

4. “Feral”

Seemingly trying to mimic all the sounds of the forest, Radiohead’s previous bouts into melodic experimentation are obviously not enough. Summoning up the chaotic crashing of atoms with heavily-produced ghostlike vocals and a glitchy, technological driven tic, “Feral” is exactly as titled–a jerking, practically rabid ditty with a psychotic percussive shuffle.

5. “Lotus Flower”

As if in counterpoint reaction to “Feral,” “Lotus Flower” is like being wrapped up in a lush, warm jungle of sound, due in part of Yorke’s subtle, sensual vibrato, his actual adherence to a melodic chorus, and evocative lyrics like “slowly we unfurl/as lotus flowers” punched up with tongue-in-cheek mischief  of animistic urges being tended to while the king of the jungle or “while the cat is away/we do what we want.”

6. “Codex”

A modern, sophisticated piano-based track, “Codex” is full of glistening echos and groans, stunning silences that give way to sonic epiphanies, almost New Age-y traces of culminating violin and the brassy swoon of a meditation bowl. Yorke indulges a naturalistic spirituality, asking you to “jump off the end into a clear lake/no one around.”

7. “Give Up The Ghost”

Visceral and moving, “Give Up The Ghost” started with bird chirps and forest sounds, making Yorke sound like the wandering minstrel, beckoning the fairies and sprites with a halcyon acoustic guitar, and rich dirge echoed by both melancholic background vocals and a soothing buzz. It almost has an old[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”] Goldfrapp[/lastfm] Felt Mountain-era feel.

8. “Separator”

Funky and fresh, “Separator” is like the “sweetest flower” in the forest with dreamlike reverb, playful echo, and the striking, practically alien-esque sitar-sound of the lead guitar. Stunningly psychedelic, “Separator” is the song on King of Limbs that proves the organic and inorganic, the animal and the human do not need to separate for harmonious peace. Like a flock of hippies dancing through the forest, “Separator” is a perfect ending to the overall metanarrative of the album.

Thanks to Radiohead for allowing us to stream the entire album for a few days, we now encourage you to purchase it at kingoflimbs.com.
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The King Of Limbs CD and LP in stores everywhere March 29th on TBD Records.


Press Coverage:

Rolling Stone‘s Will Hermes goes track-by-track, saying that “with eight tracks spanning 37 minutes, ‘King of Limbs’ is surprisingly short – but it’s also typically rich with electronic texture.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, Radiohead was supposed to have a rogue performance in Tokyo last night, but instead they decided to gift us with King of Limbs a day early:

It all started with a mysterious tweet from the band’s official Twitter account about 24 hours earlier. On Thursday night, in a Morse-like code staccato in Japanese, the band chirped “Shibuya Hachiko Friday 6:59.” The crowd went wild: Did this mean Radiohead would appear at the intersection in downtown Tokyo made famous to many indie music/movie lovers by Sofia Coppopla’s “Lost in Translation”? One of the busiest intersections in the entire city? (The tweet has since been taken down.)

Later on, Wall Street Journal reviewed the album and had this to say:

[pullquote quote=”Balances beautifully the band’s gift for melodic rock, energetic electronic rhythms and crafty musical experimentation.” credit=”Wall Street Journal”]”‘The King of Limbs,’ the new Radiohead album, balances beautifully the band’s gift for melodic rock, energetic electronic rhythms and crafty musical experimentation. Quietly assertive, engaging and accessible, it’s a worthy successor to ‘In Rainbows,’ their 2007 release. It’s a short album – eight songs; a little more than 37 minutes – but the music is richly textured and complex.”

Capitalizing on Radiohead’s moon-fueled mysterious actions, the Los Angeles Times said that “It’s not uncommon for an act to rush an album out once it has leaked, but simply posting it because everything is “ready” is still something of a rarity. The band, of course, had a slightly more cryptic reasoning: ‘It’s Friday… It’s almost the weekend… It’s a full moon…'”

The Guardian in the United Kingdom decided to live-blog their listening experience with King of Limbs. Their verdict? Radiohead hasn’t evolved from In Rainbows.

“Their last album, 2007’s In Rainbows, was perhaps the best of Radiohead’s later releases, incorporating a more human (not to mention melodic) touch. Any hints that some light [pullquote quote=”There’s a nagging feeling that The King of Limbs is more like business as usual.” credit=”The Guardian”]and shade was beginning to appear in the Radiohead canon have been largely snuffed out here, which is disappointing. Yes, you can still marvel that one of the world’s biggest bands are releasing music totally lacking in commercial concerns. And yes, they’re still leading the pack when it comes to releasing music in an exciting, innovative way. But whereas their business model is unusual, there’s a nagging feeling that The King of Limbs is more like business as usual.”

Vanity Fair put forth a convoluted review wherein the author talked mostly about himself, but ran through each song briefly. Overall, his impression of King of Limbs was that it was “Well worth the $9 download and will get several plays on headphones during Manhattan errand runs. But if I hear someone raving about it in line at the movie theater, I might just have to pull a Marshall McLuhan from Annie Hall: “Oh, really? Well, I happen to have the members of Can here.”

In the UK, The Telegraph did a simple, but masterful breakdown of each song and here is what they had to say about the first single, “Lotus Flower”:

“The single, and it’s a beauty. The bass lopes elegantly over a gentle, loose limbed drum pattern. Yorke’s singing is light and mellifluous, almost floating above the groove as he promises “I’ll set you free.” Spacey echoes lend a Pink Floyd trippiness, if you can imagine the Floyd remixed by Burial for a post clubbing chill out in an urban underground car park.”

NME gave King of Limbs rave reviews, with one of the most in-depth and accurate summaries to date:

“The title ‘The King Of Limbs’ (which refers to an ancient tree in Wiltshire) convinced some people Radiohead might deliver a more organic-sounding, even pastoral album. But it’s not like that at all. Admittedly it’s crammed with images of the natural world – cool inviting lakes, flowers, fish, fruit – but it’s hardly a folky, Bon Iver-style affair.”

Alternately, SF Weekly was not impressed with their first listen of Radiohead’s King of Limbs:

“Only half the grooves-not-songs were good on first listen, and none were great. The very little guitar is welcome when there is any, and judging by the same old rhythm tricks and dull James Blake rip, Radiohead no longer sounds like innovators thinking three steps ahead of us.”

According to Pitchfork and Some Kind of Amazing, here are the logistics Radiohead gives on the physical and digital packaging of King of Limbs in stores everywhere March 29th on TBD Records.

“Radiohead’s new record, The King of Limbs, is presented here as the world’s first* Newspaper Album, comprising:

  • Two clear 10″ vinyl records in a purpose-built record sleeve.
  • A compact disc.
  • Many large sheets of artwork, 625 tiny pieces of artwork and a full-colour piece of oxo-degradeable plastic to hold it all together.
  • The Newspaper Album comes with a digital download that is compatible with all good digital media players.
  • The Newspaper Album will be shipped on Monday 9th May 2011 you can, however, enjoy the download on Saturday 19th February 2011.
  • Shipping is included in the prices shown.
  • One lucky owner of the digital version of The King of Limbs, purchased from this website, will receive a signed 2 track 12″ vinyl.

*”perhaps”

In the U.S., the mp3 version of the newspaper album is $48 and the WAV version is $53. In the UK, the two sets are £30 and £33; in Europe, €36 and €39; and in the rest of the world.

A digital-only presale version is also available:

“Radiohead’s new record, The King of Limbs, is presented here with a choice of two digital formats:

  • MP3 version is a 320K constant bit rate file.
  • WAV version is a full CD quality uncompressed digital audio file.
  • One lucky owner of the digital version of The King of Limbs, purchased from this website, will receive a signed 2 track 12″ vinyl.

The King of Limbs can be pre-ordered now and downloaded on Saturday 19th February 2011.”

In the U.S., this version is $9 for mp3s and $14 for a WAV version. In the UK, £6 and £9; in Europe, €7 and €11.

What People Are Tweeting About King of Limbs:

http://twitter.com/mereannephoto/status/38710310034612224

Here is some of your feedback from the comments:

Positive

From Orlando: “Conventional ‘Rock’ music will never be the same, with so many fantastic bands already doing so well in the genre, why not branch out and master un-marked territory? Radiohead are trying to explore new ways to make music, they are one of the worlds greatest rock bands, but there is only so much they can do within that genre before consumers, and the band them selves begin to get bored. This album is dope. And to all the self proclaimed ‘Oldies’ perhaps broaden your music tastes.”

From Russ: “Dark, haunting, spine tingingly beautiful… it really is those. (cant wait for the album package now) I doubt it will sit easy on some people’s ears tho…”

From Grady:It happens every time a new Radiohead album is created: everyone compares it to their previous work. No, it isn’t OK computer. No, It isn’t Amnesiac. No, it isn’t In Rainbows. That’s why it was given the title the King of Limbs, and not OK Computer part II. Try forgetting about their previous work when you evaluate this. Judge it based on its own worth. Its actually very beautiful music. Like one of the reviews said it is very richly textured, complex music. I agree there isn’t many instruments to be heard here, but I hardly think that it is comparable to a set of casio beats. This is really profound, interesting, well-arranged music. I think the only complaint one could have in making a fair analysis of this cd is that it is so short.”

Negative

From Ryan:“This album is boring as sh*t. Get back to playing rock please. Radiohead is dead.”

From Not Impressed:This is far from ok (computer)…A collection of 8 tracks with casio drum loops shows how little effort they are putting into their music. At one point I was a huge fan, always in aw of the musicianship, the dynamics, and the brilliance of their collective songwriting. Further down the line I am left disappointed…again. This is just not very good. I can’t wait to hear and read the rave reviews of the sheer genius they posses by the teenies who attach themselves to the name only to appear current within their social circle. I am now convinced this is an on going joke just to see who will continue to buy their records…”

From Awesome X: “It would have been nice to hear…you know….Instruments….I heard some acoustic guitar and piano but that was only in 2 tracks. Maybe I’m just getting old but I remember back when Radiohead would play songs with steady beats, they would play Instruments, and have some songs that would rock out. This album is like their other new ones, it sounds like Whales having sex with a beatmaker in the background. I’ll stick to my OK Computer, thank ya very much! :)

  • What do you think of King of Limbs? Let us know in the comments below or tweet at us @kroq and we might feature it here!
Comments

One Comment

  1. arne says:

    I love it like it is Radiohead now & ‘King Of Limbs’ it’s just the best
    best from bilbao!!!
    ar

  2. Manleeka says:

    Over the years It has felt to me like less collaboration and more Thom. With Radiohead’s King of Limbs, the first half just sounds like a continuation of The Eraser. It seems like less emphasis on songwriting as the albums go on. I feel that each album since Kid A has only had a few bright spots to feast on. I feel that the band found their true niche and style with Kid A. I have always supported the band breaking new ground, but with their latest effort it sounds like they’re in a rut. Codex and Give Up The Ghost are the highlights for me. It always takes several listens for a Radiohead album to fully reveal itself, but I just can’t seem to ever get past Thom’s version of Techno. I can only hope that the rumors about a KOL2 are true because two songs hardly made it worth the wait for me. I read a long time ago that Thom said “Radiohead is not a democracy”. It seems that the world has a new thirst for change these days. Time for the band to take notice.

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