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Alien on Acid said in Febbraio 18th, 2011 at 19:48

Radiohead – The King of Limbs: First review Guardian:
We’ve only heard it once, but Radiohead’s The King of Limbs hardly sounds like a band breaking new ground

Radiohead’s release schedule is not, you imagine, geared towards helping music critics. Minimal warnings, last-minute changes of plan and confusing announcements posted on Twitter in Japanese – does Thom Yorke not realise we have tight deadlines? The end result is a mad-rush by critics, bloggers and Tweet-freaks to be first to post their opinion on The King of Limbs’ eight tracks. Trouble is, Radiohead don’t make music designed for a hurried listen. A couple more plays down the line and the opinions you read here may be subject to change.

The King of Limbs begins in a manner that will no doubt make both Radiohead fans and critics smile – a looped piano riff reminiscent of Philip Glass is interrupted by crackly interference before disjointed rhythms and bleeps cascade over it. It’s an abstract, awkward introduction of the sort that has become so synonymous with the Oxford band that Vice magazine felt able to send them up this week with a spoof “first review” (sample line: “P£T£R P£PP£R is Thom Yorke’s deeply personal reaction to the events of the banking crisis, while Johnny Greenwood plays a timpani with a zither”).

Still, bands don’t become stadium-sized cult heroes if they’re nothing more than avant-garde soundscapers. And 30 seconds into Bloom, the track shuffles itself around and falls into place, haphazard noises settling down into a repetitive drum march as Thom Yorke announces himself.

There is much here that will please the ‘Head faithful, who will delight in the claustrophobic likes of Morning Mr Magpie and Little By Little. But you don’t have to be a diehard fan to see the worth in Codex, a beautiful melody brought into focus by the band’s decision to dispense of the usual trimmings in favour of piano and ghostlike effects. Closing track Separator – propelled by wandering bass and a bright guitar figure – ensures the album closes far more strongly than it opens.

These songs occupy an emotional terrain that Radiohead have mapped out as their own and – to their credit – others have failed to copy. What’s disappointing, however, is that the band – so often held up as musical mavericks operating in the mainstream – have failed to come up with anything that might surprise us this time. Early albums such as The Bends, OK Computer and Kid A carved out a radical new direction. Since then Radiohead have settled into a sound – abstract lyrics, jittery rhythms, echoes of leftfield electronica – meaning that this teeters on the brink of self-parody.

Their last album, 2007’s In Rainbows, was perhaps the best of Radiohead’s later releases, incorporating a more human (not to mention melodic) touch. Any hints that some light and shade was beginning to appear in the Radiohead canon have been largely snuffed out here, which is disappointing. Yes, you can still marvel that one of the world’s biggest bands are releasing music totally lacking in commercial concerns. And yes, they’re still leading the pack when it comes to releasing music in an exciting, innovative way. But whereas their business model is unusual, there’s a nagging feeling that The King of Limbs is more like business as usual.
The Telegraph
Radiohead: King of Limbs, album review
Neil McCormick reviews Radiohead’s new digital download album ‘King of Limbs’ track by track.

1. Bloom – An (almost literally) offbeat, understated, atmospheric opening, with stilted, jerky electronic percussion, a repetitive Glass-ian piano figure, swirling orchestral ambience over which floats Thom Yorke’s ethereal mumble. Simultaneously deeply weird and inviting, Bloom leaves me tingling with delicious anticipation. Which is, oddly enough, just about what you might expect.
2. Morning Mr Magpie – The lightness of the percussive drive seems to cross a kind of African marimba groove with an almost blues rock guitar chug, breaking down intermittently with flashes of south London dubstep ambience. “You’ve got some nerve coming here / you stole it all, give it back” sings Yorke, his sweet melodiousness giving the lie to the later accusation. “You took my melody.” Sinister and upbeat at the same time. They are (as ever) masters of musical dichotomy.
3. Little By Little – Tumbles down and spills out of the speakers, like an accidental collision of country music and free form jazz constructed around a climbing and falling bassline and more tingling toybox percussion. “I’m such a tease and you’re such a flirt” sings Yorke in a broken falsetto. Indeed. Even with reversed guitars and ghostly monk choruses humming deep in the background, there is a tenderness to this Radiohead album, so far, that suggests seduction rather than attack.
4. Feral – Instrumental that maintains the late night post-dubstep ambient intimacy blended with a light almost jazz-African percussive groove.
5. Lotus Flower – The single, and it’s a beauty. The bass lopes elegantly over a gentle, loose limbed drum pattern. Yorke’s singing is light and mellifluous, almost floating above the groove as he promises “I’ll set you free.” Spacey echoes lend a Pink Floyd trippiness, if you can imagine the Floyd remixed by Burial for a post clubbing chill out in an urban underground car park.
6. Codex – Sweet, sensitive piano, at a ballad pace, with the harmonic notes of horns and orchestra so distant as to barely intrude. Again, Yorke’s vocal is gentle and mellifluous, as he invites us to dive into clear waters. “No one gets hurt” he promises. Once Radiohead sounded like the last band standing after the apocalypse, but this has the lovely optimism and bold use of space as the most wide eyed future pop.
7. Give Up The Ghost – A campfire lullaby for the end of the world. Gently plucked acoustic guitars and a tremulous, distorted backing sample pleading “Don’t hurt me” like the faint spirit of a forgotten gospel singer echoing down the ages. Yorke bids us gather for a last stand, surrending himself into the arms of a lover. It’s a beauty, whirring and clicking in the musical half light, a ghost in the (OK) computer.
8. Seperator – Ending neither with a bang nor a whimper, Yorke and co carry us gently into that good night. The percussive flows is tip tap light, the minimalist bass carrying just the hint of a groove, while guitar notes fracture and multiply all around. Yorke sings “Wake me up” like a sleepy somnambulist. It’s a perfectly understated ending to Radiohead’s most mellifluous collection, not so much a chill out as an exhausted cigarette break in the eye of the hurricane, down time from a disaster. If Radiohead are still a rock band, then no one has told them. This is something else entirely. The sound of the future calling.


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