It's hard to imagine how this paradoxical album will be viewed in five years or so. It manages to be simultaneously surprising yet predictable, up yet down, and percussive yet restrained. And perhaps that is the biggest challenge of all; for all it's multi-layered drum patterns, shakers, bells etc. it never actually 'kicks in'. The mix doesn't help matters either; vocals and bass cut thru nicely, but beneath the blur of discreet electronics and guitar so subdued you'd think they were trying not to wake the neighbours, the drums feel lost, powerless, and rooms away. This perhaps above all else makes The King Of Limbs unique to Radiohead's catalog but 'difficult' for fans to digest. There is great music here, but it feels deliberately obtuse and underplayed. It also feels like it was created on a computer rather than the 'five guys bashing it out' thing that they do so well.
My advice is to get hold of the audio from their King Of Limbs Live From The Basement performance which is a complete revelation. Suddenly these songs sound alive and full of character, dynamics, power, and raw Radiohead brilliance. I, for one, can't stop listening to these versions as they surpass the originals in almost every way.
There is no doubt Radiohead still have 'it', just frustrating that sometimes they choose to keep 'it' to themselves!