hat kind of world do we live in when the biggest band of our generation leaks a highly anticipated album very quietly—a week before it’s out, at that?
It seems Radiohead doesn’t really care.
Radiohead sent a special love message to their fans on Valentine’s Day by subtly announcing their new album “The King of Limbs.”
The band advertised that fans could download the album that Saturday; however, that was pushed back to Friday because, evidently, Radiohead felt like it.
The full album, advertised as the first “newspaper album,” (without an explanation of what constitutes a “newspaper album”) comes complete with 2 10’’ vinyls, a CD and over 650 pieces of tiny art work and will be shipped in late May/early June.
For other bands, this might seem gimmicky. Not for Radiohead. Even without all of the nifty artwork, “The King of Limbs” seems like what I would guess a newspaper album would be.
Like a good newspaper, nothing about “The King of Lambs” is particularly flashy or eye-popping, but a close examination will reveal the complexity of the album. Also like a newspaper, the album is short. At 37 minutes with only eight tracks, Radiohead’s shortest album does not at all skimp on content. “The King of Limbs” is perhaps one of Radiohead’s most complete or wholly realized albums.
The album beautifully shifts from a cacophonous electro-beat beginning gradually into a softer second half.
It begins with “Bloom.” A disorienting piano and drum loop that slowly bleeds into a jazz-influenced bass line and Thom Yorke’s eerie “Open your mouth wiiiiide.” The song is difficult to wrap your mind around at first, but—in traditional Radiohead fashion—a couple more listens will reveal its nuanced coherence.
Radiohead is at their most experimental with “Bloom” and “Feral.”
The latter song is completely different direction for Radiohead. Both tracks appear to have been influenced by Flying Lotus—an artist Thom Yorke has worked with recently—but “Feral” also has a strong dubstep influence.
The two songs sandwiched in between “Bloom” and “Feral,” “Morning Mr. Magpie” and “Little by Little,” also have a strong electronic influence reminiscent of “Amnesiac” and Yorke’s solo work “The Eraser.”
The first half of the album eases from its claustrophobic opener, relenting until the bridge of “King of Limbs,” “Lotus Flower.”
The smooth bass line accompanies an electronic chorus, which gives way to a more commanding (and sexy) bass, with Yorke’s playful lyric, “I will shake myself into your pocket.”
“Lotus Flower” may be the most playful Radiohead song since “The Bends.”
Yorke seems to be a giddy, yet poetic teenager writing about sleeping with his love only to “slowly unfurl like lotus flowers.” Yorke’s playful dancing in the song’s music video says everything about its meaning.
“Lotus Flower” is followed by the deceptively simple sounding “Codex.” It’s a beautiful song, but it’s not the typical Radiohead beautiful. Normally the band’s “beautiful songs,” like “Fake Plastic Trees,” “How to Disappear Completely” and “All I Need,” are gorgeous, but filled with a heavy, alienating sadness.
“Codex” is different.
While it’s certainly not a happy song, “Codex” has a relative lightness to it; even though it’s about drowning yourself in a lake.
“Giving Up the Ghost” is a similarly beautiful, light song. A simple acoustic guitar drives the melody along with Yorke’s haunting refrain of “Don’t Hurt Me.”
It seems that Radiohead may have finally let go of the demons and paranoia that dominated them in “OK Computer” and “Kid A.”
While these two albums are still the band’s greatest (and overall greatest) it is cathartic for the listener as much as it must be for the band to banish the heavy burdens of previous albums.
“The King of Limbs” is stripped bare of the typical Radiohead worries: our overcrowded, overworked and over-stimulated society. It’s an album that looks inward for the simple things like love, fun and fantasies involving jellyfish.
“King of Limbs” ends appropriately with “Seperator,” which nicely ties the album’s electronic beginning into the latter half’s melodic guitar and piano. It grows from a simple drum machine beat into a warm swooning guitar riff that seems to slowly cascade from the rafters.
This warm song only gets warmer as Yorke coyly sings, “If you think this is over then you’re wrong.” While it is no “Kid A” or “In Rainbows,” “The King of Limbs” is another great addition to this band’s legendary legacy.
Let us hope that Yorke is right when he says that we’re wrong to think that Radiohead’s amazing journey is over.