2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 26 September 2014
When I first listened to this album, I found it a bit unfathomable as the band obviously revisited the direction they took for Kid A. I listened to it a few times, didn't really buy it and left it alone for a couple of years.
I revisited it recently and found myself getting it and actually rather liking it. Unlike Kid A, there is a coherence about what is here, whereas there are to much documented issues internally in the band following the success of OK Computer which comes across in the music.
This album is worth persevering with in my opinion as it is a band clearly not afraid to venture into a different direction, and it is a good thing to occasionally be taken on this type of journey.
Unlike some of their other works, there is not the high tempo hook or riffs to help you access what they are doing like with Amnesiac or Hail to the Thief, and it is fairly down beat throughout, but it is a strangely soothing and melodic experience as a result.
Not their most accessible work, which may be the point, but possibly their most grown up and definitely worth a go.
47 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on 21 April 2011
I've been listening to this album more or less constantly since it's release, and was interested to hear what others thought of it. I was a little sad to see people giving it poor reviews, so I thought I would add my two-penneth in. I think there are enough reviews giving song by song synopsis for me not to add to them so here goes!
This album reminds me of the Kid A/Amnesiac era.I find it extremely soothing oddly, and when trying to listen to other music, I keep finding myself coming back to it, and discovering new bits each time.Listening on headphones you can get a real sense of the marvelous use of sounds. In particular where Thom is using his voice as a instrument in itself, even using breaths as percussion. Many songs have a mantra feel to them, and a warmth that I really liked. I think I will be listening to this album for a long time.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 September 2014
An underrated and melodic offering by radiohead. Interesting beat running through the album, courtesy of Phil Selway's drums. Bloom is unlike anything previously by radiohead and sets the beat for the rest of the album. There are some instantly likeable tracks, for example Codex and Give Up the Ghost, and others that really grow after a number of listens, like Little by Little, which at first I found Thom Yorke's vocals a tad whiney, but after hearing it live with better vocals, started to really appreciate the song, especially the unusual out of kilter timing. The album has a dreamy trippy feel at times, summed up most by the final track Separator with Thom Yorke falling out of bed from a long and vivid dream to an almost George Harrisonesque twinkling guitar riff.
A great album that deserves repeated listens to really appreciate it. A definite 5 stars.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
As an early purchaser of the 'newspaper album' released via Radiohead's website, I was given the opportunity to download the MP3s the following Friday which I duly did. On first listen, I have to confess that I was pretty disappointed. I remember thinking how 'Bloom' sounded somehow 'detached', particularly with its strange drum loop, and that it didn't kick the album off well at all. 'Morning Mr Magpie' merely continued this trend by simply containing a sparse guitar/hi-hat/vocal loop, not much in the way of a chorus. In fact, 'Codex' was probably the only sign of Radiohead which I could relate to, the track having somewhat of a 'Pyramid Song' feel to it.
I fell in love with 'Separator', but the rest of the album just didn't work at all. Ten listens in and I still wasn't gripped, the music sounding to me like extended experimentation, sparse instrumentation and containing limited points of interest.
On the basis of the above, I would have probably given the record a 2- to 3-star review.
However, the 'newspaper album' duly arrived last week and I've not stopped playing it since. Here's why. I fast-forwarded straight to 'Separator' on the first listen, but as I ran through the rest of the album, something strange happened. I began to fall in love with it. Seriously fall in love with it.
It's just that The King Of Limbs sounds so incredible on CD. Where the MP3s sound sparse and lack focus, the CD contains bags of detail, a fabulous amount of bass and it really draws attention to the intricate nature of the songs as a very big 'positive' rather than 'negative'.
The King Of Limbs sounds simply amazing through my system, sound quality which my iPod can only dream about. Where the iPod misses out bags of bass and detail consistently (even when routed through my stereo), the CD comes up trumps every single time.
What about the songs? Well, where 'Feral' sounded somewhat disjointed listening via MP3, on the CD it has a wonderful feel to it. I also love the way that 'Feral' takes Radiohead into a sort of hybrid Dubstep/Jazz territory.
'Morning Mr Magpie' contains so many extra sounds on the CD which simply didn't come across on the MP3, that I quickly saw the song for what it is - a great song rather than an extended jam. Similarly I imagine that 'Lotus Flower' would sound amazing in a live setting and would comfortably sit alongside 'Everything In Its Right Place' in the setlist.
My advice to anybody listening to this album wondering why they bothered purchasing it on MP3 is ditch the MP3 player (320kbps compared to CD's 1411kbps - go figure!), buy the CD (or the 10" vinyl from their website which also sounds incredible through the right equipment) and enjoy the album for what it is - a great album.
on 1 April 2014
I am somewhat puzzled by several people’s reactions to this album. Perhaps these stem from the fact that it is not as instantly appealing as 'In Rainbows', but that to me is part of its charm (and just goes to show that you shouldn’t judge an album on just a couple of listenings). To my mind it is only after repeatedly listening to it that the magic of TKOL becomes apparent. I think this comes from the multi-layered arrangements, and especially from the deceptively simple drum patterns. (In a Mojo interview after In Rainbows was released, Phil Selway commented that with the band’s turn to electronica and use of programming after OK Computer he feared he was becoming redundant. It is thus ironic that, with a partial return to electronica, one of the highlights of this album is Selway’s drumming.) From the minimalist piano intro to ‘Bloom’ to the gorgeous and multilayered ‘Give Up the Ghost’, this is by my standards simply a superb album; in ‘Codex’ it contains an exceptional piano-based ballad as good as earlier Radiohead examples of this genre (e.g. ‘Pyramid Song’, ‘Sail to the Moon’), and others tracks as good as anything in their back catalogue. All I can say is, if you’ve been put off by other people moaning that it’s not as good as In Rainbows (or for that matter people who haven’t ‘got’ Radiohead since The Bends or OK Computer), ignore them and give it a go. If you already own it and don’t play it, get it out again and listen more carefully.
28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on 20 May 2011
It may be a strange thing to say, but you have to say that the majority of criticism levelled at Radiohead stems from the fact that they have set such high standards for themselves. Listeners (including myself) expect so much from them, as we all know what their capable of producing.
I have listened to the album about five or so times now, and all I can say is that I find it sublime. All the tracks flow into each other with an ease that is so pleasing to listen to.
I've heard it often said that Radiohead veer unto the realms of pretension with their so called experimental musings. I beg to differ. Beneath all the button twiddling, there is still that undeniable sense of beautiful melody.
Nobody sounds like Radiohead, because no one can.
I love this album, and I for one am thankful for their continued existence.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 15 July 2011
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!
23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
On the first listen to "King of Limbs" over a month ago mixed feelings were the order of the day. Certainly Radiohead eighth album send yet another "interstellar burst" into the record industry and by doing so frustrated those who "leak" new albums onto the Internet. The panic and exasperation of music critics around the globe trying to pen words of profundity on an album that had appeared out of nowhere on the web was an equal joy. Indeed it probably garnered some bad reviews on the part of the bands failure to send out promotional copies.
Alternatively there was also a sense in some reviews that the album was a bit of a let down with the band stuck in a post "In Rainbows" rut of drab, cynical self-importance driven more by computer programming than any real emotion. Not so much wilfully difficult as just rather cold and grey. This reviewer felt that on occasions it sounded more like a Thom Yorke solo album and appeared a mixed "game of two halves" with an anxious weak opening but building to a strong finish.
Repeated listens have revealed alternatively a delicious album which while not quite on par with "In Rainbows" is a splendid addition to the Radiohead oeuvre. It is an album where you could happily locate all of the songs individually onto the previous seven Radiohead albums with the synth rhythms and percussive drum loops of the opener "Bloom" harking back to Rainbows while the brilliant "Little by Little" is a song of darker hue and could happily sit on "Amnesiac". "Feral" alternatively is one of the album highlights and could soundtrack the darkest of movies as an urban soundscape; a bubbling bass led sonic adventure in the tradition of "Kid A' . Throughout the "King of Limbs" there is a notable absence of Jonny Greenwood guitar wizardry other than in a rhythmic sense. It is noted that a couple of reviews on US Amazon site have already stated this is Radiohead's worse album since Pablo Honey. Frankly this is an absurd and premature comparison not least since all Radiohead albums are the aural equivalent of a new pair of shoes. You have to wear them for a while to get the proper fit and there shape forms around you. But more than that the "King of limbs" is a reflective and sometimes impressionistic album full of shifting micro beats, weird sound effects and on occasions almost dupstep style backdrops. It is as if Flying Lotus has just bumped onto DJ Shadow or UNKLE, had a word with Burial and Four Tet who then invited the German noise masters Tangerine Dream to the party
The presence of the wonderful stellar ballad "Codex" alone justifies the price of entry, as a Radiohead classic "ballad" its up there with "Sail to the moon" and "The Tourist" and may well turn out to be one of their greatest songs. The single "Lotus flower" is a song that shape shifts into a haunting, eerie electronic lament underpinned by scattered beats and percussion. The gentle acoustic "Give up the ghost" proves yet again that on his day Yorke has no peers when it comes to articulating and combining alienation with sublime beauty with a songs that attaches itself throughout to a ghostly simple vocal loop ("don't hurt me, don't hurt me").When it comes the sole guitar driven song on KOL "Morning Mr Magpie" the ghosts of Can and Neu are resurrected while the album finishes in peerless style with "the Separator" which plays the role on this album which "Nude" performed on "In Rainbows".
"King of Limbs" is probably not as startlingly original as some of their past records and feels like a consolidation rather than a boundary challenging new chapter in the bands career. While it is easily the shortest thing Radiohead has ever produced it equally is not an album to come to grips with overnight and some will bemoan its lack of hook-laden songs and predominance of skeletal electronica. But persist with it since its proof that good things come in small packages. The wonder of Radiohead is to misquote Darwin that they are the band that are most responsive to change and even on this "stock take" record they are by any standards the most inventive and original rock band on the planet.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 14 March 2012
For a long time now i've considered Radiohead a classic band, a band whose consistancy, experimentation and influence in rock music is probably unparrelled by any of their contemporaries. I don't think i'm alone in thinking this and i would also wager the band themselves are aware of the high esteem in whcih they are regarded by fans and critics alike. Bearing that in mind it might suggest there's been a weight of expectation hanging around the bands neck probably post Ok Computer, that maybe they got a little weary of carrying as they stepped into the studio to make their eighth album in their 20 plus year career. If i'm correct, it may account for why King Of Limbs feels less toiled over and maybe a little threadbare in comparison to previous efforts. The band don't seem to be trying to deliver any grandiose statements this time around, they seem to have placed more emphasis on the enjoyment of making the music, having fun in the studio, opposed to meticulously slaving away in an attempt to craft another masterwork. Being a long time fan of the band i for one am happy for them, even if the music isn't quite as earth shatteringly great as a result of this new approach.
There are still pleny of reasons to give this a listen though, as the band are so seasoned at what they do even when they're not pushing themselves to the absolute limit they can produce evocative and distinctive music anyway. Take opener Bloom with it's repeated piano loop, sonorous horn arrangement and electronic effects, it all coalesces into an intoxicating wall of sound to provide a great opener. Or the brilliant single Lotus flower which features animated bass lines with Thom's serpentine falsetto married to minimal percussion producing a mesmerizing experience. There's beauty to be found too with the dazzling piano ballad Codex, laced with shimmering strings and another impressive vocal perfomance by Yorke, the song almost feels like a modern day paean. It bears more than a passing resembelance to Amnesiacs Pyrimaid Song but that only slightly takes away from it's allure.
Little By Little and morning mr magpie both feature intricate guitar playing and looped percussion, giving them a weightless feel that'll tickle you're pleasure centres but fail to really stimulate them. The vocal harmonies on Give Up The Ghost feel genuinely heart warming and the guitars have an effortless tranquility to them. The final song Seperator has the band sounding liberated with Yorke singing "Finally i'm free of all the weight i've been carrying" accompanied by a neil young inspired guitar riff. The band have removed the shackles of expectation by releasing this album, It's engaging, quirky and maybe a little slight at just over 37 minutes, It won't cause a seismic shift in the way rock music is made like Kid A did and it's unlikely to be regarded as the greatest album of the decade in 2020 either. But that shouldn't stop these talented musicians from releasing future gems like this, especially if their digging the process of making music now, more than ever before. If King Of Limbs is anything to go by, these guys will still be worth following in the future they just won't be leading the pack anymore thats all.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 16 October 2011
With their 2007 album In Rainbows, Radiohead showed they can still make beautiful, largely unpretentious rock music. It was melodic, romantic and a lot of fun. Never a band to rest on their laurels, they return with The King Of Limbs, wherein unpretentious rock music takes a holiday.
This shouldn't come as a surprise. The band has often responded to success by veering off in a different direction, most notably with the guitar-eschewing Kid A. The King Of Limbs sets out its stall on this immediately: Bloom features piano loops, echoes of electric keyboard, a ponderous bass-line, off-kilter drumming and no vocals for the first minute. It all comes together in inimitable Radiohead fashion, and it's impressive and strangely beautiful, but the message is clear: no more simple melodies. This is music to be returned to, considered, then reconsidered. (Well, most of it. The album's reputation as odd and difficult is almost entirely defined by its first half.)
Some of these songs focus more on presentation than melody. Certainly Little By Little, which is all about the percussion, and Feral, a twitchy electronic piece that recalls weird synthy collages like Paperbag Writer. This is prickly, not instantly loveable music, and it's difficult to imagine the band behind the pretty In Rainbows producing it. That is the point, of course: eight albums in, Radiohead must fight to remain relevant and interesting, and this can only be achieved with as much change as possible. Their next album will probably sound nothing like this.
Ardent fans will recognise Good Morning Mr Magpie, a jaunty oldie dating back to the early 2000s, and the previously acoustic ballad Lotus Flower. Both are totally re-imagined: Magpie has a latter-day Radiohead sneer and cynicism, its guitar-picking infectiously playful against choruses gloomy and ghostly, and drums clattering like machines. Lotus Flower is dance music Radiohead-style, and is clearly a product of the band enjoying themselves. Just listen to Thom's sassy delivery of 'So now I've set you free' - pure confidence drips from it. Expectations are torpedoed throughout this short album, and in particular I doubt anyone expected Radiohead to produce something like Lotus Flower. Although oddly arranged, with samples and strange noises galore, these songs are great fun.
After the tricky first half, the final three tracks seem much more conventional. Piano ballad Codex was the only thing about Limbs that I initially enjoyed. A dreamy, beautiful piece like so many of the band's other piano gems, Codex's melody is acutely affecting, but it's not quite that simple: the piano sounds as if it's melting and bubbling, and brass is gently applied along with backwards birdsong for one of the album's emotional highs. Give Up The Ghost is arguably even better, its light falsetto vocals optimistic and gently pretty, and its crescendo enormously relaxed. All this is quite a turnaround from where Limbs begins. For eight songs, it's certainly got range.
Ghost might have made a more impressive closer than Separator, which must rank among Radiohead's most unassuming songs. It seems an odd choice for the (generally prestigious) spot at the end. But The King Of Limbs is out to frustrate expectations, and the apparent carefree attitude adopted here is not what you'd expect: gone is the emotional catharsis of Videotape or Motion Picture Soundtrack, replaced by something slight and oddly charming, like one of the lesser cuts from The Bends. Along with Codex, it's one of the least unusual songs here. This helps to remove the stigma of importance surrounding Radiohead's work, which is arguably part of the reason for Limbs: as if to say, this is just where we're at, it's no big deal. The King Of Limbs was meant to seem spontaneous; to some, unfortunately, it seems contemptably slipshod.
It can be hard work adjusting to the band's latest glacial shift. Personally, I felt Limbs tried a little too hard at wrong-footing its listeners, something that might cause others hooked by In Rainbows to give up entirely. Feral in particular seems so obscure it borders on parody; fans of Bodysnatchers may find themselves unpleasantly bewildered. I still think Little By Little, Feral and Separator are less-than-impressive songs rendered interesting by the overall production. In general, after the sublime In Rainbows, it can seem irritating to once again have to concentrate on Radiohead's music in order to enjoy it. Fortunately, this is Radiohead, and even their more prickly tracks are fascinating enough to draw you back.
Limbs marks another important stage of Radiohead's career. It rewards your patience eventually and is, apparently, quite carefree music by the band's standards, recorded in about five weeks. Still, the initial frustration did have me hoping their next effort wouldn't take so much getting used to, or four years to arrive (and frankly, next time I'm hoping for more than eight songs, which isn't very much however you cut it). With the continued buzz, numerous new songs and a tour in the works, I might be in luck. But then, I really should learn that one cannot predict Radiohead with any accuracy.