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The Tartan

‘King of Limbs’ may be acquired taste for Radiohead fans

Formed in 1985, Radiohead is an English alternative rock band from Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Photo Credit: musicnotes.com

Taylor Faw
trfaw@radford.edu

Radiohead surprised fans with the unexpected release of their eighth studio album, “The King of Limbs,” a day earlier than promised.

The British alternative rock band is not only known by their cult-following for their genre-bending experimental sound, but also for their unpredictable marketing strategies. With total playtime running just barely over 37 minutes and only eight tracks, this is the shortest of all Radiohead records. Four years after its predecessor, the infamous “In Rainbows,” it is safe to say that although this album may be artistically interesting, it doesn’t exactly veer off into uncharted territory, at least compared to other albums like “Kid A” or “OK Computer.”

Lacking prominent guitar work and virtually any alt-rock influence, “The King of Limbs” portrays the type of sample-heavy, computer-induced psychosis that is most comparable to frontman Thom Yorke’s recent solo project, “The Eraser.” As far as genres are concerned, ‘experimental’ would be an understatement. Electronic drum loops layered with obscure sounds and ambiences are a common motif throughout. Although interesting, this sometimes gets overbearing in the first half of the album. However, the first track, “Bloom,” is a solid opener and is an appropriate taste of synth lines and alien tones. At times, the tracks on the record seem as if they were written with less regard to structure and composition and geared more toward creating abstract atmospheres and moods. It becomes obvious on first listen that “The King of Limbs” is easily one of Radiohead’s most abstract works.

Avid Radiohead fans may feel right at home with this album. Virgin listeners might be turned off by the digital textures and borderline insanity. Nonetheless, there are still some solid tunes.

“Codex” is a haunting piano ballad that could make your skin crawl and is arguably one of the strongest, and most coherent, tracks on the record. Distorted piano and string orchestration give it a distant, ghost-like edge, complemented by the familiar vocal timbre of Yorke. Another song that really stands out is the concluding track, “Separator.” Straying away from the minor key tonalities prominent in the majority of the album, this is a more lighthearted tune and resolves the record stronger than it began. This track, in my opinion, is the best on the album. Other significant songs include the release single “Lotus Flower,” and “Little by Little.”

“The King of Limbs” can be best described as a specific, maybe even acquired taste, even for faithful Radiohead fans. It received mixed reviews across the Internet, and in the end it just comes down to personal taste. After a few continuous listens it has really grown on me. I give it a seven out of 10.

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