Album Review: Radiohead – The King Of Limbs

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Thank you for waiting. This is how Radiohead announced on their official site the release of their brand new and highly anticipated album, The King of Limbs.And I can bet on whatever you want that for several people Valentine’s Day tasted better than ever. The band initially announced the release for 19 February, but then suddenly they changed their minds, and fans were able to download the album on 18 February. They never cease to surprise us, don’t they?

Yes, “surprise” is an appropriate term one should use regarding Radiohead’s work. Their musical approach changed dramatically since the release of Pablo Honey back in 1993, as they always tried, and most of the time managed, to enrich their sound and come up with something new each time. In spite of this, the essence remained the same. Their music talks about feelings: about love, sadness, despair, fear, alienation, about vulnerability. It is a never-ending ode to human nature. It raises questions, puts people in doubt and makes them feel. And this new release makes no exception from the rule.

Speaking in terms of sound, we could say that The King of Limbs is the logical follow-up for In Rainbows, as it’s based mostly on electronic sounds, but it would definitely be wrong to label it as just a follow up. While listening to it, I remembered a Chinese story I once read about an emperor who hired a painter and asked him to paint two dragons: a yellow one and a blue one. The artist agreed and retired in a cave, to prepare himself. After a couple of years, he returned and painted two stripes on silk, a blue one and a yellow one. The emperor got annoyed and put him into jail, but that night he saw the stripes turning into two fighting dragons. Next day, he visited the cave and found thousands of dragons painted on a wall. At the end of it, there were just two stripes, which held all the beauty and strength from the previous pictures.

This is pretty much the impression you’re left with after listening to this album. It follows a really simple and, at the same time, weird pattern, but the simplicity is only apparent, as there’s so much more there than it seems. Now, it would be really easy to talk about the obsessive bass line on Bloom, or about the catchy rhythm on Little By Little (the “I’m such a tease and you’re such a flirt” line is epic), or about the sharp mixing of different pieces of sound and vocals on Feral. It would be really easy to praise the “I completely forgot there’s a world out there” feeling given by Lotus Flower (my personal favourite) or about how nostalgic Separator is. But something would be definitely lost in process. Short as it is (the shortest Radiohead studio album, actually), The King of Limbs is the kind of album that simply cannot be described using your every day words.

The only problem you might have with this release is that, just when you’re about to enjoy it the most, it comes to an end. At this point I will quote Yorke’s statement from Separator and say “If you think this is over, you are wrong”.  You can always push play again, and actually, it is strongly required. This is the kind of music that sounds differently with each new listening, that brings into your attention a lot of aspects you missed on the previous plays. Therefore, don’t trust what you read now, as this is only a pale sketch comparing to the reality. Trust what you hear.

Thank you for waiting, they said. And we’ll answer Don’t mention it. It was worth it.

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