Friday, July 1, 2011

Album Review: Radiohead - The King of Limbs

It's always an unenviable task reviewing a Radiohead album.  Just where do you start??  
For starters, it still amazes me that there are some out there who don't "get" the music. 
On second thought, they have never been literal post-OK Computer; with each album further pushing the boundaries and experimenting with new shapes.  Employing elements of jazz, Krautrock and the electronic glitch of IDM, topped off by Thom Yorke's emotive vocals and a Kafkaesque approach to lyrics makes one heady mix.

Human rights campaigners, "multimedia darlings" since the birth of internet, they have been a constant voice for one disenfranchised generation.

It must be said that they have a great marketing team behind them too.  
Each pre-release has been presented with inventive promotional hype, with expectations whipped up into fever-pitch frenzy upon release.
Little wonder then, that some spoilt fans suffer from a perceived letdown.
They have no idea just how good they have it.

Bloom starts proceedings with a glimmering piano line set off to a skittering drum backbeat, swirling synths and jazz horns embellish disembodied lyrics:
Open your mouth wide
A universal sigh
And while the ocean blooms
It's what keeps me alive
"So why does it still hurt?"
Don't blow your mind with why
Whilst Morning Mr Magpie continues in much the same vein, Yorke here takes on an accusatory role with bile in his veins.  Is this anger aimed towards his lover?  The people in government?  God?

Castanets add to the busy pea-soup that is Little by Little with stream-of-consciousness non-sequiturs.

Feral being the only bass-bothering instrumental.

On lead single Lotus Flower, Yorke morphs into some falsettoed spirit as he inhabits his lover. 
(Then again, you may inetrpret this totally differently).

Codex is by far my favourite track.  Stunningly beautiful vocals accompanied by piano and more(!) right-brain lyrics.  At once ghostly and enchanting.

In sharp contrast, decay effects on vocals and a repeated refrain makes Give Up the Ghost entirely hypnotic.

Syncopated beats jolt the listener back on closer Separator. 
The beginning of this track somewhat resembles I Ain't Gonna Stand for It from Hotter Than July -
I half expected Stevie Wonder to start singing!
Mellifluous, multi-layered vocals, lone guitar twirls around a simple bassline like tendrils amidst skittering beats.
Ladies and gentlemen, we've come full circle.

To conclude, Radiohead's music has always been more about feel. 
Let it wash over you. 
Apply a soft focus, and the inherent beauty reveals itself akin to those magic eye 3D optical illusions that were popular not so long ago.

Masters of aural illusions.  9.0/10

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