Album Review: Radiohead – King Of Limbs

As a music critic one of the biggest schoolboy errors you can make is to write off a Radiohead album as rubbish because those same songs that went over your head completely on the first few listens can become your favourites given time.

It is for this reason that I am extremely hesitant in calling King Of Limbs the weakest album that Radiohead has recorded to date because I realise fully that my initial perception of it could change at any moment.



Still though, at 20+ listens I’m usually batshit over their albums and sadly that’s not the case with King Of Limbs.

Sure, the production is slick and Thom Yorke’s vocals are as dexterous, haunting and fresh as ever, especially on the album’s first single “Lotus Flower”, but there’s something quintessentially RADIOHEAD that’s missing from this album.

The opening tracks “Bloom” and “Morning Mr Magpie” float past in a stuttering, meandering arrangement of pianos, customary post-OK Computer shuffling drum beats, blaring horns and repetitive melodies that don’t have a single hook to share among them.

“Little By Little” is a great track though and sounds like it would be right at home on Hail To The Thief with its full, multi-layered percussion, catchy basslines and ingeniously subliminal guitar parts. It’s the Radiohead we know and love and one of the few rays of light on this album.



“Lotus Flower” is also a phenomenal track. It hangs in the balance between the sinister and the sublime, finally breaking free in a moment of catharsis as Yorke’s vocals soar above the stratosphere as the song reaches its climactic chorous.

“Slowly we unfurl / As Lotus flowers / And all that I want is the moon upon a stick / Dancing around the pit / Just to see what it is” Yorke sings in a voice so pure and unrestrained it gives me chills every time I hear it.

In comparison the rest of the material on King Of Limbs is pretty mediocre. “Codex”, for all its glorious melancholy sounds like a recycled version of “Pyramid Song”, “Give Up The Ghost” sounds like a bad cover of “Nude” and the instrumental track “Feral” is pure, unadulterated filler.

And that, bar the echoey, limp closing track “Separator” is that. Eight tracks that are almost all pretty much instantly forgettable and it’s over before it ever really started.

There are rumours of a second King Of Limbs album being released shortly and all I can say is I hope they’re true and I hope that the second one is better in every conceivable way than the first because if this is the best this band can do then I sense an imminent hiatus on the cards.

Final Verdict: 6/10

0 Responses to “Album Review: Radiohead – King Of Limbs”

  1. 1 Gerald
    March 9, 2011 at 9:42 am

    Listen to it for 3 months, and then please give it another rating.

  2. March 9, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Nice review my friend. I have to agree with you for the most part. The album comes across as relatively unfocused. Even if it is a major departure from conventional Radiohead hallmarks, I’m not sure it is too successful in its own right. With almost every Radiohead release, I have never truly appreciated their groundbreaking music until months, even years after first listening to it. It may be the same with this album, however, with previous albums I knew I was listening to something amazing, even if I couldn’t fully comprehend it at the time (Kid A, Amnesiac), yet with this album my tendrils have yet to be hooked.

    So far, I would say it’s a commendable album, but not a great one. It comes across as a mix between Thom Yorke’s, ‘Eraser’ coupled with elements of, ‘In Rainbows’ and yet it is not as successful as either. The highlights are ‘Bloom’ which immediately creates an incredibly intricate atmosphere, yet imminently listenable. ‘Lotus Flower’ is Thom Yorke at his most sultry and is the highlight of this track. The perfect comedown song to a long weekend. ‘Codex’, whilst coming off sounding like a bed-partner of ‘Videotape’ and ‘Like Spinning Plates (‘I Might Be Wrong’ version)’ there’s, no denying it’s minimalistic composition and evocative beauty.

    However, the rest of the tracks are not overtly memorable. Whether it’s the lack of expected hooks, melody or structure, I doubt I will be shelving this album along with ‘Ok Computer’ and ‘In Rainbows’ as modern classics. The production is faultless and the performances are up to the usual Radiohead standard, but this review may come off as cynical, it’s not. It’s just one of mild disappointment, but that’s not to say the album isn’t worth your time. It is. Listen to it now, as there are some truly sublime moments, just not enough of them.

    Let’s cross our fingers for, ‘Part II: The Queen of Appendages’.

    • March 10, 2011 at 8:43 am

      Glad to see we’re pretty much on the same page on this one dude becuase I think if there’s one person whose passion for this band exceeds my own, it’s always been you.

      And yes, I definitely hear the ‘Eraser’ influences on this album, in fact if you’d told me this was a collection of ‘Eraser’ B-Sides I wouldn’t know the difference.

      I got to thinking about it the other night and I think what’s missing from this album is Radiohead’s quirky and often dark sense of humour. That dark undertone that makes tracks like “Where I End You Begin”, “MK1” and “You And Whose Army?” great is missing entirely from The King Of Limbs.


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