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When any band says that their new release will be released on 10” vinyl, you get the sense that its not developed enough to be on a full sized 12” or that its going to be weird. Radiohead’s 2011 nearly EP length album ‘The King of Limbs’ is a little of both. Awkward sound clashes open your ears in the opening track “Bloom” are meant to be off-putting with several time signatures going at once, furthering the notion that all 10” records are experimental to say the least.
As for the sound of the album, its rhythmically driven with the bass and percussion taking on some of the largest rolls every for a Radiohead album. The guitar stays in line with the rhythm section, which is powered by loops and sample sounding bits.
The most familiar sounding track by far is “Little By Little” which brings back some memorably warm guitar tones. Thom is such a tease with his melody leading the song anywhere he chooses for it to go. The guitars follow and the head nodding backing beat sounds like a lo-fi recording of a crack pot inventors’ mechanical toy of the day.
I won’t say this is a dance album, but I did almost feel like I could dance to a couple tracks, which is something I’ve never felt while listening to any Radiohead track before. The beats could even be mistaken for a drum line drum-off. “Feral” highlights the beat driven work with minimalist keyboard bass and blip/glitch laid over it.
I don’t know how many Radiohead songs have hand claps, but “Lotus Flower” is the first track I’ve ever heard actual hand claps on. They sit panned left in your headset, but aren’t very produced. At times sound if they were recorded in a hotel room with unexpected echo and thrown in the mix to keep the weird 10” inch vibe going as the tracks become more like recognizable. The odd off-beat hand claps stand as a firm negation of Radiohead being even remotely near mainstream dance music.
No ballads on this album. However, the beat does slow, the slowest track being “Codex” is highlighted with Thom’s vocals and a familiar piano accompaniment. The simple track quickly fades into sounds of insects and nature that beckon the intro of an acoustic guitar for track 7 “Give Up the Ghost”. Vocal parts are split into 3 with a repeated chorus in the left speaker, and a fuzzed out version of the lead in the right with the main voice sitting in the center channel. The most layered track vocally, Give up the Ghost was one of the most emotional cuts painting for me a picture of springtime, surrounded by tall swaying fields.
On the first listen through, “Separator” was instinctively the most memorable. I wasn’t sure if it was because the middle of the album was nearly seamless, or that the experimental form from the beginning had not had time to be soaked up. I really get into the track about halfway through when the dry guitar enters with its loopy section that is much more reminiscent of a math rock band lick that something from former near rock guitar gods once proclaiming that you won’t be a nothing anymore if you just play guitar. A good ending to a good album. I really feel sad as it ends. It is too short my mind tells me. I feel like its really starting to take off and go somewhere, and then its just over. Oh well. Music can’t really transport me out of a cubicle anyways. So if OK Computer was the eye awakening the world needed, then The King of Limbs is escape that we all attempt to make, but can never successfully manage.
If you’re poor, stream it below: