Gigwise editor Jason Gregory gives track-by-track guide...
Jason Gregory

12:53 18th February 2011

Such was the demand that Radiohead brought the release of their new album ‘The King Of Limbs’ forward to today (February 18) - and that means Gigwise is the first to bring you a track-by-track guide review.

Below you can read editor Jason Gregory’s thoughts as he gives the album a first listen. At the bottom of the page please leave your comments and thoughts about ‘The King Of Limbs’, Radiohead’s follow-up to 2007’s ‘In Rainbows’.

1) ‘Bloom’ - By now we’ve come to expect the unexpected from Radiohead, so it’s no surprise(s - sorry) that ‘The King Of Limbs’ gets off to a typically eccentric start. Off-kilter drum beats collide and fall over each other, while background bleeps buzz ominously from start to finish. Singer Thom Yorke sounds equally as menacing, singing about “what keeps me alive”. It’s an ominous opening.

2) ‘Morning Mr Magpie’ - Yorke's voice retains its menacing tone: “Good morning Mr Magpie,” he sings. “How are we today?” The musical backdrop is again one of controlled panic: frenetic guitars, a rumbling bassline and another seemingly out-of-sync drum beat, this time leaning towards drum and bass.

3) ‘Little By Little’ - A true testament to the almost innate bond between Radiohead’s guitarists - Greenwood and Ed O’Brien - the instruments interplay with each other circa ‘Go To Sleep’ era Radiohead, while drummer Phil Selway provides a drum section that seems to drop by accident at the start of every bar. Come the chorus the song feels like its being pulled back in reverse, as Yorke’s vocals keep the song going forward.

4) ‘Feral’ - Almost an instrumental interlude (bar the odd vocal yelp from Yorke), the song plays on the technical prowess of each Radiohead member. The layered drumming is intense, while in the background an ear drum bursting bassline creeps in, probably earning the song the tagline: “Radiohead go dubstep.”

5) ‘Lotus Flower’ - The song with “that” video (click here if you don’t know what I mean), ‘Lotus Flower’ is arguably the most traditional song on the album. Following the intensity of ‘Feral’, the tempo is brought down, the music made more spacious and the emphasis instead is placed on Yorke’s vocals. “Slowly we unfold,” he sings, with all the warmth and tenderness that came in abundance on ‘In Rainbows’, and in the process opened the band to a whole new fan base. “There’s an empty space inside my heart.” Beautiful.

6) ‘Codex’ - Having a tough day at work? Nothing going right? You could probably do with putting this one on repeat. With the drums reduced to the gentle patter of a raindrop, Yorke steps in armed only with a piano and a vocal performance that could melt your heart. Think ‘Pyramid Song’, only with an ending of bird song.

7) ‘Give Up The Ghost’ - Yorke debuted this one at his one-off solo gig in Cambridge in 2010. Then he built it using sampled loops, and the song has retained the same feeling of a puzzle being slowly pieced together even now that the rest of Radiohead have joined him on the track. “Don’t hurt me,” he sings, as another layer - “In your arms” - unhurriedly emerges in the background. Everything about it is gentle, serene; like the start of a new day.

8) ‘Separator’ - After all the mind-bending highs of the opening four songs, there’s a definite comedown as ‘The King Of Limbs’ reaches its climax. ‘Separator’, the final track, is again more traditional in its construction (or as traditional as Radiohead can ever sound). The bass line seems to purr like a cat, as Yorke sings about being a “fish now out of water”. It’s unhurried perfection, and as the guitars join the fray during the final third, accompanied by swirling harmonics, Radiohead have somehow subconsciously transported you into another world once again.

Conclusion: Radiohead’s ‘The King Of Limbs’ might only be eight tracks long but there’s not a single moment that hasn’t been painstakingly constructed, de-constructed and put back together again. With all the ingenious ways the band are now choosing to release music, it’s easy to forget just how inventive, avant-garde and, at the end of the day, emotionally touching the songs they make are. ‘The King Of Limbs’ is an engrossing listen, an album that sends you to an emphatic high before wrapping you up in a blanket to recuperate. Masterful. 

 

Radiohaed - A Tribute
  • Radiohead’s members first met at the boys-only public school Abingdon, Oxfordshire in the mid-1980s. Thom Yorke and Colin Greenwood were both in the same year, while Ed O'Brien and Phil Selway were one year older and Jonny Greenwood was two years below his brother.

  • The group was originally called On A Friday, but were advised to change their name to Radiohead after securing a deal with EMI. The name came from the title of a song on ‘True Stories’ by Talking Heads.

  • Radiohead’s debut 1992 single ‘Creep’ failed to find success.and was originally blacklisted by Radio 1 for being “too depressing”. It was only the release of the band’s debut album ‘Pablo Honey’ transformed it into a worldwide hit.

  • After their debut saw them labelled “Nirvana-lite”, Radiohead went more introspective with 1995’s ‘The Bends’, which earned them critical acclaim, and, according to Jonny Greenwood, made them feel like “we made the right choice about being in a band”.

  • In late 1995, Radiohead solidified their working relationship with the then up-and-coming producer Nigel Godrich. Together they recorded 1997’s ‘OK Computer’, which debuted at number one, and the rest, as they say, is history.

  • Before the release of 1997’s ‘OK Computer’, Radiohead road-tested songs from the album during a support tour with Alanis Morrisette.

  • Despite the worldwide success of ‘OK Computer’, Radiohead disappeared from the spotlight following the completion of touring the album in 1998. Thom Yorke, who was suffering from writer’s block, has since said that the band came close to splitting up.

  • Although Yorke in the predominant songwriter, all of Radiohead’s songs are credited to ‘Radiohead’ because the writing process becomes collaborative when the band are in the studio together.

  • The band eventually returned in 2000 with the spare, minimalistic ‘Kid A’. The album earned them a number one in America thanks largely to the interest generated by ‘OK Computer’ and its advance leak on the then popular illegal file-sharing website, Napster. Still, much to Yorke’s confusion at the time, critics were left divided the what they saw as the band being “intentionally difficult” with their music.

  • Radiohead’s commercial success continued quickly the following year with the release of ‘Amnesiac’. The album contains a number of songs left over from sessions for ‘Kid A’.

  • Radiohead’s influences have changed vastly depending on which album they have been recording. Early in the band’s career, they cited Queen and Elvis Costello as inspiration, but those changed radically as their music became more electronic. ‘Kid A’ and ‘Amnesiac’ were both heavily inspired by Yorke’s new-found interest in ambient techno, including the music of Aphex Twin.

  • Radiohead’s 2003 album ‘Hail To The Thief’ was their fifth straight release to be nominated for a Grammy for Best Alternative Album. It didn’t win, but Nigel Godrich and engineer Darrell Thorp did collect the Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album.

  • In between his work with Radiohead, Jonny Greenwood has become an acclaimed film composer, and was behind the scores for the movies There Will Be Blood and Norwegian Wood. He is also a "composer-in-residence" for the BBC Concert Orchestra.

  • The Oxford five-piece shock the foundations of the music industry when they sold their 2007 album ‘In Rainbows’ via their website using an honesty box policy, meaning fans could pay what they wanted for the record. It worked, the album shifted 1.2million copies on its first day of release before being sold through traditional mediums.

  • Radiohead have always been supportive of charity. One of their most recent contributions was in aid of Harry Patch, the recently deceased last surviving British soldier to have fought in the First World War. The track ‘(In Memory Of) Harry Patch’ was sold online for £1.

  • As well as Godrich, Radiohead already have a close relationship with the graphic artist Stanley Donwood, who has produced all of Radiohead's album covers and visual artwork since 1994.

  • In February 2010, Yorke launched a new band Atoms For Peace, whose line-up includes Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on bass, R.E.M. all-round session drummer Joey Waronker and Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich on keyboards and treatments.

  • Yorke is a spokesman for Friends of the Earth and has been vocal in their campaign to reduce carbon emissions, The Big Ask.

  • Ed O’Brien is one of the founding members of the Featured Artists’ Coalition (FAC), which aims to help established and up-and-coming musicians. He was influential in securing the On Air, On Sale initiative with Universial and Sony.

  • Radiohead will once again push boundaries with new album ‘The King Of Limbs’, which they have billed as the world’s first (possibly) newspaper album. The digital version was released in February 2011, while the newspaper is set to be delivered in May.

  • The album’s title is thought to refer to an oak tree in Wiltshire's Savernake Forest aged over 1000 years old.

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