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.