In the midst of a record industry becoming extinct, Radiohead managed to make the unveiling of an album a genuine event by announcing the rush-release of their eighth LP The King of Limbs on Valentiness Day. The shock of a group of Radiohead’s ilk releasing an album at such short notice created a media buzz and both the Brit Awards and NME Awards were over-shadowed. Now the hype is over, all that is left is the music.
Before Radiohead brought out their iconic experimental record Kid A, frontman ThomYorke announced that “I completely had it with melody. I just wanted rhythm”. This certainly seems to be the path that was taken on The King of Limbs, released eleven years after Kid A. Many of the tracks on the new record are more rhythmic than melodic, featuring heavy bass lines and syncopated drum loops. On ‘Morning Mr Magpie’, Thom laments that “You’ve stolen all the magic/Took my melody”, perhaps a cheeky riposte to those hoping for more music in the vein of OK Computer.
The King of Limbs features more outgoing, personal lyrics than is custom for Radiohead, even verging on the seductive. Thom claims “I’m such a tease/And you’re such a flirt” on the psychedelic ‘Little By Little’. Showcase track ‘Lotus Flower’ is dangerously close to being a love song, with Yorke ethereally crooning “I would shape myself into your pocket/Invisible/Do what you want”. Not only is ‘Lotus Flower’ a charming and beguiling slice of music, but Thom Yorke’s unique dancing technique as featured in the promotional video has created an internet meme, showcasing Radiohead’s proficiency at using the internet instead of record companies.
Radiohead’s eighth record seems inspired by the natural world, with samples of birdsong, lyrics referencing lakes and forests and the album named ‘The King of Limbs’ in reference to a thousand year-old tree. Even their new publicity shot shows them standing in a forest. Musically, this seems appropriate as the organic-sounding rhythm section seems to coexist symbiotically and peacefully with the synthetic electronic instrumentation used on this record.
In addition to sounding brilliant, it is also exciting that a group with the stature of Radiohead can release music so devoid of commercial aspirations. The King of Limbs shows a band on their eighth album, still unafraid of the unknown and still able to avoid cliché.
Nine out of Ten