First Listen: Radiohead ‘The King Of Limbs’ Reviewed
First impressions of the new Radiohead album.
Beginning with the classic, skipping beats that made 'Kid A' what it was, ‘Bloom’s rippling synths begin to cascade before Thom Yorke opens proceedings with a languorous “Open your mouth wide”. As layers of vocals begin to mount one on top of the other, the crescendo leads to faraway strains of violins and trumpets before fading away as slowly as it built up.
2. 'Morning Mr Magpie'
Staccato stabs of guitar punctuate the track, with Thom’s slurring vocals brought to the fore. Glistening electronics seep over the track halfway through, suffocating what lies beneath and leading to altogether more sinister affair, Thom’s breathy interjections becoming makeshift percussion before the song reassembles itself once more.
3. 'Little By Little'
A shambling intro marked by an incessant tapping beat leads to the archetypal sound of Ed O’Brian and Jonny Greenwood‘s interweaving guitars worming their way around one another. Thom’s keening chorus of “I’m such a tease and you’re such a flirt” (which couldn’t sound creepier amongst its off-kilter surroundings) is reminiscent of the opening line to 'In Rainbows'’ ode to lust, ‘House of Cards’.
By far the most “electronic” of the tracks so far (but more 'Amnesiac' than 'Kid A', perhaps), the shortest song on the album is a single razor-sharp beat surrounded by snatches of ambient synth noise and Thom’s ethereal, treated vocals.
5. 'Lotus Flower'
This morning’s surprise video release is easily the “cleanest” track here – bassy burbles juxtaposed with Thom’s relaxed falsetto intonations set the tone for a distinctly more gentle approach than might have been expected. It’s certainly not a track to dance to but we just can’t the image of Thom’s recently-electrocuted style of dance moves out of our head whilst listening to it.
A moment of vocal gets rudely interrupted as plaintive piano chords slow proceedings further. Thom’s vocals are brought intimately and mesmerisingly close and stay that way throughout, breaking only for moments of muted violin that are almost startling amongst the sheer quietness of the track.
7. 'Give Up The Ghost'
This could easily be an anthem if it weren’t so spaced-out. Peaceful diegetic noise fades in and out whilst a single acoustic guitar is strummed, leading to a measured, almost choral, build up of beautiful instrumental noise. As Thom says “I think I should get up and go” it becomes clear that this is about as happy as Radiohead have ever seemed.
The album’s closing track is also its longest – a steady walk through a soundscape not created through dense electronics, but chiming guitars, echoing vocals and a steady beat. There’s no build, no climax – just a dreamlike atmosphere only emphasised by the refrain of “Wake me up” and, all too soon, the dream’s over.