HAIL TO THE RAINBOWS KING Radiohead

With the stealth release of The King Of Limbs, the British band vaults – well, slithers –
back into the spotlight.

 

BY MAX
BLAU

Last
Sunday, no one could shut up about how this year’s Grammy award had turned the
tide around for the music industry. For once the Grammys got it right, right?
But the Arcade Fire and Esperanza Spalding had less than a day in the spotlight
as the industry’s beacons of hope before Radiohead completely stole their
thunder by announcing that their eighth record The King Of Limbs would
be released five days later. By the time anyone actually came to some sort of
conclusion about the relevance of those Grammy wins, it was a moot point.

 

For four days following the album
announcement, Radiohead captivated the minds of fans worldwide with their
cryptic secrecy with no supporting hype machine, virtually no record
information, mysterious Japanese Tweets about potential secret performances and
an earlier than expected release date. As a result, The King Of Limbs became
a blessing and a curse for the British rockers. On one hand, Radiohead’s
unsurprising surprise had no pre-formulated expectations attached due the fact
there were only a few days between the initial announcement and actual release
date. At the same time, however, this short notice made everyone pay all the
more attention when the record dropped a day earlier than its announced target
of Saturday, on Friday morning. (“It’s a full moon,” quipped the band, via a
note on their website
, by way of explanation.)

 

So what does The King of Limbs hold in store for Radiohead four years after their brilliant In Rainbows came out?  For starters, it’s an undoubtedly a challenging record –
the closest thing to Kid A that the band has created since. It makes
senses given that some of these songs have been performed live dating back to
that period of time. With that in mind, The King of Limbs seems like a
patchwork of the band’s musical journey from Kid A, Hail To The
Thief, In Rainbows
and beyond.

 

The new record offers a varied
collection from the group, surveying the modern electronic climate. Jumping
around from dubstep to ambient, The King of Limbs is not Radiohead’s
most cohesive effort, but still offers an abundance of moments exemplifying
their brilliance. Bloom” opens the record with a seemingly solo Thom
Yorke effort, as the frontman’s voice and frenetic drum samplings showcases the
band’s return to left-field experimentation. Radiohead provides a more than
ample supply of previous examples from the bands previous repertoire. “Morning
Mr Magpie” resonates as a Hail To The Thief offering, while “Little By
Little” sounds like a B-side to Amnesiac’s  “I Might Be Wrong.”

 

While the first half of The
King of Limbs
is a scattered assortment of songs that may or may not work
together, the second half of the record resonates with several of Radiohead’s
most delicate moments thus far. In particular, “Codex” glows as an absolutely
stunning, heartrending gem, surpassing the group’s haunting trio of melancholic
ballads found on In Rainbows. “Codex” is downright brilliant,
echoing as one of the most beautiful tracks the band has ever coined.
“Separator” closes with an intriguing combination of Yorke’s floating vocals
and Phil Selway’s crisp drumming, recapturing some of the haunting magic found
on the band’s Grammy-nominated track “House of Cards.”

 

Once you get past all the hype and
flash-in-the-pan hoopla surrounding the record, The King Of Limbs ultimately
emerges as an album filled with shimmering glimpses of what Radiohead
could have done if they created a new record, rather than revisiting much of
what they have already accomplished. With that in mind, the album still carries
plenty of weight and reason to listen. While this record only holds a few
transcendent moments, at the end of the day all Radiohead is good Radiohead–an
easy thing to lose sight of amidst the enormous amounts of current musical
skepticism and judgment surrounding The King of Limbs.

 

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