Moving Out of Orbit

Radiohead like to turn heads with something bizarre and something new.

Written by Deepika Nath | Published: February 26, 2011 11:14:48 pm

The King of Limbs

Radiohead

Available on: http://www.thekingoflimbs.com

Rating: ***

Radiohead like to turn heads with something bizarre and something new. Their new album The King of Limbs was released on February 18,a day earlier than expected,and fans and critics exploded on the Internet,trying to formulate a coherent opinion about it. But with a band like Radiohead,who make an effort to prevent exactly this kind of analysis,critics stand divided. They have,ever since the band’s 2007 stunt when they used a pay-as-you-please business model for In Rainbows. The new album is available on their website thekingoflimbs.com,and will be out on May 9 in a “newspaper album” format,possibly the first of its kind: it will contain “two clear 10 inch vinyl records,a compact disc,and many large sheets of newspaper artwork,625 tiny pieces of artwork and a full-colour piece of oxo-degradable plastic to hold it all together”.

With the self-released The King of Limbs,Radiohead are taking bigger risks. A generous mix of traditional instruments and manipulated sound,much of the album is haunted like its cover. Taking inspiration from an old oak tree near their studio and Russian fairy tales of enchanted forests,the limbs of the songs cling on to you,but not very forcefully. Less than 40 minutes long,the album progresses quickly. Its eight songs are somewhat cryptic and use several layers of instruments and fewer vocals in the background.

The album opens with Bloom,which has a dense electronic clutter of drum beats,more or less irking the listener into paying attention. Most tracks like Separator,Codex and Morning Mr Magpie tease you with a slow build-up of tension,as they get louder and more aggressive,but they don’t reach a crescendo. Only Give up the ghost reaches a musical high,and is not as jarring as some parts of the tribal-like chant of Feral. Codex is the only song that comes closest to the band’s signature sound,using a slow-paced reverberating piano,less percussion and more emphasis on vocals. Most of the album leaves you half way between a mesmerising trance and a crinkle in the forehead. Radiohead dare you to like them.

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