zappa phaze two
Essential Zappa: Phaze Two
ween comp
Understanding Boognish:
The Best of Ween
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Drag: A Witch House
Essential Zappa: Phaze One
Radiohead Album Series
It Took the Night to Believe
Killing in Style
Cadillac Casanovas
A Night in the Box
Brasil, Para Sempre!
Same As It Ever Was:
The Best of Talking Heads
Universe Dirt
The Best of
American Music Club
The New Dance
Cut the Kids in Half
Machines of Canterbury
Archimedes Said It Best
The Early Rock of
West Germany
Music from
the Republic of Iceland
Take Me Back:
The Best of M. Ward
The Best of...
Of Montreal
Dust & Diamonds
The Best of
Sigur Ros
The Hall of Mirrors

Review: Radiohead - The King of Limbs

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Whether it was their intention or not, Radiohead have created their own mythology. 

Theirs is a catalog that represents a style and uniqueness bordering on brand identity. You may not like their music, but you know the kinds of imagery, feelings, and moods attributed to them. They created two of the most lauded albums in alternative music back to back: 1997s OK Computer and 2000s Kid A. As with anybody who would pull off such a feat: there were expectations afterward. Somehow they've consistently released material that borrowed the spirit of those two albums while never sitting still or getting comfortable. 

Since Kid A Radiohead has played with an unpredictable seesawing between organic instruments and electronics. In tKoL we hear that contrast continue in songs like single Lotus Flower, which features some of the most interesting drumming from Phil Selway in a while but is propelled along by the dubby synthetic bassline. Many of the beats on the album seem sourced from organic means but are repetitive to the point where you have to assume they are looped--which is a minor problem that pops up throughout the whole album. These loops do help to give openers Bloom and Morning Mr. Magpie a locomotion and frantic sense that is a wonderful new addition to Radiohead's ever evolving pallet. The first side ends with Feral, an interlude that plays something like  Flying Lotus and Burial collaborating on an In Rainbows remix. Yorke uses samples of his voice like putty, molding it into a very loose melody. It's the first truly eye-brow raising moments of the album for me, but the experimenting is still very enjoyable.

Codex stands as the most personal song on the album and echoes the hazy claustrophobia of Amnesiac. Give up the Ghost and Separator do the same in their own ways but just don't seem to give it the same attention to detail we expect in moody slow burners like this, especially in the production department. Many of the songs sound thin, as if this wasn't an entire band at all--Johnny Greenwood's guitar and sonic tinkering seem strangely absent throughout. Yorke's reverb drenched vocals are nothing new but on Separator seem almost too easy and don't create much of a sense of atmosphere below the surface. Frequently the drums on the album seem very high and tinny. Separator does eventually come through in the end with an incredibly elegant dream-pop guitar coming in over Yorke's incessant request to wake him up. The song fades out a couple minutes after coming to it's point leaving you reeling and wishing for more--and still wondering why there wasn't more. The album ends at just under 40 minutes.

I don't believe any Radiohead album can be enjoyed at face value, and part of the enjoyment is finding the context of the album. That may not be in finding where it fits in their catalog, but where it fits in your own life,  your own catalog. The King of Limbs keeps it's lips sealed and it's purpose hidden for a while. Part of the problem is that the album just isn't as cohesive as previous efforts--in concept or quality. There's not many incredibly high points on the album other than the all around wonderful Lotus Flower, but the lows aren't trenches at all. There will most certainly be many tracks here to keep even the mildest fan happy. Others will find a hit or miss album of playful experimenting and contrasting ideologies: frantic rippers and personal dark ballads that only Radiohead could write.

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