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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
on 19 April 2011
I'm not a "Kid A" or "Amnesiac" hater like some reviewers here obviously are... to me those 2 albums mark one of the most powerful Radiohead periods in their career. A mark they never quite achieved again after Amnesiac.
King of Thieves was unbalanced and predictable in many aspects while "In Rainbows" was a great comeback of the band with great moments of genious here and there.
The band evolved from a "rock/indie with a twist" to exploring feelings, colors, sounds and even smells... music made abstract and getting shape in each owns feelings and emotions, that's the beauty of Radiohead, from "The Bends" to "Amnesiac" they are one of my top 10 choices for the greatest bands of all times.
The King of Limbs is a very strange album, difficult to get into (and that's not bad, on the contrary)... the problem is, when you start getting into it, you come out with the feeling it could be so much better (and even bigger).
My review track by track:
The opening track, setting the mood for the album.... i like to think of this as an intro, no genius here, some interesting voice/sound combos from middle to end.
Morning Mr Magpie:
One of the weakest songs in the album, interesting breath effects and rhythm, but gets tiring early with its weak lyrics and repetitive sounds
Little By Little:
Interesting rythm, again endless repetition.... nothing that stands out either in the lyrics or music variation.
Another "intro" track imo... just like in Amnesiac first track, but a mere shadow in creativity, nothing gained, nothing lost.
The "pearl" of the album, the beginning is simply genius and the one that defines the cover-artwork. The clap variations are priceless, the haunting sounds... underwater/extraterrestrial feeling... pure Radiohead here.
From this track forward the album starts gaining body and grabs my attention.
Another pearl... hair rising track... together with "Lotus" this are the best moments on the album. Tom's voice always worked with the piano... and this melancholic piece of genius is simply marvelous. If you can tame your emotions and exorcise your moments of pain with sad songs... this is one of those you wont forget easily.
Give Up The Ghost:
I love this song... the way the haunting voice gives space to the subtle guitar chords.. and hangs in there while Tom's voice leads the way to another burnt sunset feeling... desolate... sad... and yet so attractively beautiful.
A premature ending imo... nothing new here, most pop track on the album... cutting the tempo of the previous ones and leaving you with that sense of... lacking something.
All in all, if you loved "Kid A" or "Amnesiac" the second half of the album is worth a listen. If you only see "The Bends" or "Ok Computer" in front of you... you will hate this.
Since i like all the four albums (their golden age), its hard for me to see a band so important in my life giving us so little in terms of creativity and even size.
I think listeners deserved more, Radiohead deserves more.... 1 more year in production wouldn't have hurt, with a more elaborate first part and more tracks into it.
As it stands, its kind of a "Amnesiac" leftovers album, with 2-3 outstanding tracks and the rest just... bland... nothing standing out in remembrance (except for those 3 "pearls").
You can do better.... so much better than this.
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.
on 17 December 2012
The King of Limbs certainly feels like a fresh start for Radiohead.
The title of this review refers to 2 Halves, and I say so because the first 4 tracks sound experimental and at times somewhat repetitive, as though the band are trying to work their way into new musical surroundings. However, from Lotus Flower through to Codex, Give Up The Ghost and finally Separator, the quality reaches new heights. Haunting, emotional and beautiful.
Radiohead have a knack of being able to blend guitar music with electronica and other variables and produce quality music and the aforementioned 2nd half of the album is a prime example of this. If the next album is along the lines of the 2nd half of The King of Limbs, it'll be outstanding.