King of Limbs reviewed
That shuffling stampede of adoration and outrage you might well be hearing is the posse of music writers desperate to get out the first knee-jerk reaction to Radiohead’s new album, which the band helpfully sent out into the world a day early today. Who better, then, to earn your opprobrium with his hasty words, or give early voice to you inner monologue than this newspaper’s Arts Editor, Shane Hegarty? Who indeed, so here is his review of The King of Limbs.
The King of Limbs, Radiohead
SHANE HEGARTY, Arts Editor
Radiohead’s new album The King of Limbs jumped out of listeners’ inboxes with a surprise early release – brought forward a day, after they’d only this week announced a release date.
Eight songs – 37 minutes – long it begins with the chopped beats and fluid brass of Bloom, over which Thom Yorke drags his vocals with that familiar affected-exhaustion.
On Morning Mr Magpie, his quick breaths add percussive energy to a funk bassline while the lyrics, as is common, are there primarily to add layers the sound. This one ends with “Good morning Mr Magpie/How are you today/ Now you’ve stolen all my magic/Took my melody.” That reads far more naff than it sounds.
Melody, though, hasn’t been taken out. Even if The King of Limbs makes fewer concessions than In Rainbows, it is not as deliberately challenging as the extraordinary but polarising Kid A or Hail to the Thief.
Still, the next tracks Little By Little and Feral are absorbed in the kinetic, looping pulses that became dominant several albums ago – but on early listening these two tracks bring a certain flabbiness to the centre of the album.
But then it unfolds into the ethereal Lotus Flower, before the rich piano and more conventional vocal on Codex (echoing earlier Radiohead tracks Pyramid Song and Videotape) brings the album’s high point.
The comparatively flat Give Up the Ghost seems an interruption rather than a progression, so it is up to the closing Separator to epitomise a tenderness and optimism that infuses the album.
There is darkness, but The King of Limbs is one for the dawn.