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Radiohead – The King Of Limbs (Part II)

March 6, 2011

And so a couple of weeks later here we are again happy as can be to basically satisfy my own curiosity regarding how my opion of music changes over time and multiple listens. Specifically regarding my impressions of Radiohead’s latest masterpiece (given the game away a little bit there…or have I…) The King Of Limbs.

Settling in at just shy of 38 minutes it seems fairly sensible to give each track a decent going over, and with that bit of reasoning cleared up, let me get straight to it by saying “Bloom” does not blow me away. It does however gently breeze through me to the point where I just let myself float away of what feels like my own accord. With the first track of any album there is a somewhat unwritten rule that it should be impactful, with a hook that drags you in, that gives you the desire to continue listening. Radiohead play a slightly more subtle game than that though, giving you enough of song to want to consider the album without really satisfying that usual sweet spot that resides for the instant gratification of something like…

Radiohead – Morning Mr Magpie

‘Morning Mr Magpie’. Quite possibly my favourite song and as noted by another poster (mr bizzle) quite a reworking on the style that makes Amnesiac such a favourite of mine. The off kilter guitar that kicks the rest of the beat along, the raggedy drum pattern itself and of course the blessed vocal moaning of Thom Yorke make this song quite something to behold. “You know you should, but you don’t”…I assume he is talking about the unerring urge to dance in his own awkward manner. I have thus far managed to resist the urge.

Radiohead – Little by Little

‘Little By Little’ is my least liked song on this album and I’ll tell you why. It’s predictable. I don’t know about you but I swing wildly between liking bands where I can outhink where the song is going but with Radiohead I really took pride in having an inkling of where a tune would take me due it’s general unexpected nature. I liken it to being able to guess a ridiculous twist in a film where you truly had no previous idea that there was even a twist to begin with. Sadly this song is more the Sixth Sense of twists with the intro more than lending from …. and the break unashamedly slowing down a chunk of ‘2+2=5‘. It’s still a good song but at this stage of listening you’re really led to expect more.

‘Feral’ feels very much like a filler track on first listen, to make way for the blossoming evocations of ‘Lotus Flower’. But that would be mightily unfair to what is still a delicate and intriquite piece of music. There I said it…music. It’s not so much a “song” or a “tuuuune” as it is a piece of music that has been constructed cleverly and with care, the drum beat fading in and out of speakers, vocals poking their way through at any given moment whilst the lulling synthetic noise that coarses and intertwines with the simplistic but funky bassline continues almost unchecked. I applaud this song…


Which brings me to ‘Lotus Flower’, the debut single from the album and definitely one of the songs that has grown on my over time. I heard the single before the album after being nudged and poked constantly at work into watching the fantastic video (again something that has grown on me over multiple viewings). ‘Everything In Its Right Place’ was once written what seems an age ago by this very same band and this song is just that. Everything ticks over in the right way, at the right time….

‘Codex’….let me get back to that…<at this stage you have to imagine, as was the reality at the time, that I chose to write the next few paragraphs, chatted to a few friends online, made a cuppa THEN came back to this>. So where was I – ‘Codex’ is a song by Radiohead. Do you know what…I really like this song. It is probably the simplest song on the album and is quite beautiful for it. I’m past trying to wax lyrical about things that are good on this album and the who’s/hows/whys of such things. I’ve always enjoyed Radiohead’s piano led songs such as ‘Pyramid Song’ and the live version of ‘Like Spinning Plates’, they tend to have a little more of a raw feel than their other songs, like the band are relearning how to play together a little bit. This is no different and part of me almost wishes that this was the last song on the album as it really leaves me wanting a lot more but sadly that isn’t to be the case.

Radiohead – Give Up The Ghost

‘Give Up The Ghost’ is something of an enigma, especially for a penultimate song. I can’t recommend it to people. I wouldn’t know what to say to them, nor would I be able to think of reasonable time to suggest listening to it. It sort of transcends that usual field of “have you heard this track?” simply because I cannot fathom when anyone would ever be in a position to hear it by accident. I’ve listened to it well over 10 times now and every time something happens that makes me forget what I’m listening to and suddenly it’s over. It’s a very odd experience that I can’t say I’ve ever replicated with anything else I’ve listened to over the years, even with the aid of “extra curricular activities”. In that respect I can’t say it’s bad – I’ve never really been able to listen to it – but neither can I say it’s great. In fact it wouldn’t be out of place of Talk Talk’s pivotal Colour Of Spring album, but again, that is an album I feel people should listen to for histories sake rather than for the music itself. ‘Give Up The Ghost’ is something though and I guess that in turn has to count for something on an album like this.  And perhaps that is the point, the calm and quite, the lull before the climactic storm. Well almost.

‘Separator’ is another hypnotic song, but it aint no storm. If it were any sort of weather element it would be more akin to a fog. You try and grasp around for that last bit of magic and you can see it, hear and feel it but whenever you reach out to grab it, it’s always just beyond your reach. It’s that fragile that even if you did ever get hold of it, it would just shatter. So don’t bother. “If you think this is over, then you’re wrong” resonates with me as a defiant call from Thom Yorke to the world at large, having come so far in so many years to still produce the music that they as band want to produce. And then it just stops.

So I guess looking back at this review and re-listening to the album again just to be sure of my opinions, the conclusion I draw is that the songs, taken individually are often great, bordering truly excellent. Yet as an album I cannot see it as anything but good, just not breathtaking. If anything this is probably the first album that has followed a logical step from their previous In Rainbows, which itself was again, guilty of excellent songs in most cases but perhaps not such a flowing album as previous works. Bearing in mind this album’s 37 minutes and something seconds length, part of me feels that had they split it into two EP’s I would be jumping up and down telling the world what an innovative and impressive whole these songs make.

As an album whole though, something just stops me from getting that passionate. At this stage I have to hand over to you all to let me know what you think as I’m confusing myself simply by trying to unravel my own opinion.

P.S. On my SoundCloud hunt I once again found a complete gem. An old acoustic version of ‘Morning Mr Magpie’. Fantastic to hear how things start off before ending up on the album. Check it out:

2 Comments leave one →
  1. lleimmoen permalink
    March 9, 2011 9:25 pm

    I agree with the idea of an opener. I really like Bloom though – even as a song on its own.

    Drive off Automatic for the People is for me probably the best opener of all time. It is immediately captivating, yet no obvious hit-single. It shows a lot but still saves a far more for the rest of the album… I know I am a bit off here, just felt like sharing.

    I hope there is another limb coming up. I really enjoy this one. It is perhaps not as strong as In Rainbows but it is a wonderful album nonethe less.

  2. April 12, 2011 6:35 pm Could this be a part 2?

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