French Version : http://humeursurmusiquemoderne.blogspot.com/2011/05/radiohead-king-of-limbs-ou-comment.html
After four years of good services, the good old Oxford quintet comes back, gets out the good old guitars and the fancy computers to deliver us an electro-cerebral album that will give us another brain fever. And if their release strategy is almost similar to the one of In Rainbows which first came out on the internet then, a month later, in every local distributor/supermarket, the similarity stops here. By offering the previous record to a variable price according to the buyer’s mood, the band had surprised everybody, this approach being then a real step forward in the downloading era. However, today it’s indeed with a fixed price that the album is delivered, a price that’ll have the desired impact in the budget of the nice but poor consumer (let’s not forget it’s the crisis…). So we come back here to something way more down to earth. The finger given to the majors and record labels is no more. We sit here, nicely, as we’re being told. That gives us a hint of what we can expect of this King of Limbs and there nothing to be thrilled about…
"Bloom" starts the album and sets the mood right away. We are on a dissonant electro music pushed to the extreme. The purpose is clearly to set up an uncomfortable atmosphere. It’s hard to tell where we’re going until the bass and voice get in. Nothing new here. A regular bass line supports a track filled up by a robotic rhythmic loaded of all kind of sounds and by Yorke’s voice highly reverberated. The whole mix is quite satisfying even if it doesn’t bring anything new, according to me, since we had already heard that kind of sounds and effects before with In Rainbows. Worse, I even think all that is less refined and finished than four years ago. I’ve heard here and there a few persons allegedly expert say this track sounds like Free Jazz or even Fusion! Well dear friends, let me tell you that what we listen here looks nothing like a jazz track. I’ve said it, I’ll say it again: all dissonant music is not to be considered as Jazz music. It’s a bit more complicated to make Jazz… The same way all drinks made of grape are not automatically a great wine or every person controlling all the media of one country, not respecting the laws and taking the power by himself is not to be considered right away as a dictator…look at Berlusconi… Anyway.
The next track, "Morning Mr Magpie" is already less pseudo-experimental. Here, the guitars and the rhythm assemble in a whole electro-disco frenetic, sick and efficient. We are still in the same logic of rhythmic and repetitive melodic aspects that are almost robotic and scary. The whole would be quite cold without the sound very specific of the guitars and bass which make this track quite interesting in the end. The conclusion made with bird whistles is there to convey the idea that Radiohead’s music, while being highly electronic and artificial, still remains organic, or even visceral.
The quasi mystical complain that follows, "Little by Little", suffers a lack of originality according to me. We are once again in a mini chaos coldly organized and framed by the machines. We can find once more the same melodic lines and repetitive rhythmic done by the bass, the same guitar effects. "Feral" brings us on the same paths than "Bloom" and starts right away by a rhythmic without any shade, regular, with a perfect sound, while Yorke and his crew try to confuse us by playing with their little computers and making us feel daisy with all the sounds they are putting in the song. Then, once again, the bass comes in. Repetitive and hypnotic, it gives a semblance of structure to the track. I might miss the interest of the song, I’m torn between the feelings I’m just being considered as an idiot or that the track has to be listened to without any analysis and it’s just to be felt without any thinking. From that point of view, "Feral" becomes very well orchestrated and the work on the sound is impressive. Apart from that, the interest is weak.
"Lotus Flower" goes on saner bases but there again, we will find the same kind of structure. The least we can say is that the lads aren’t really pushing it so far. Even if they might prepare us another album very soon, they could have delivered a certain amount of work and effort to give the buyer something new, that’s the least of all. The video clip that comes along with the album release is once again not very creative. We can see there a Tom Yorke alone (maybe is he trying to make the other members look like simple musicians) stirs like an epileptic on acid disguised as a conductor out from a Clockwork Orange. Here, the guitars have clearly left to be replaced by keyboards. The track is quite light with, once again, an unchanging rhythmic, the bass supporting the whole and Yorke’s voice. Next comes a nice ballad, piano-voice with weird sounds but once again, nothing transcendent or brand new. I’m under the impression the band woke up of long dream, Yorke and his palls have suddenly realized that what they had accomplished so far was big and that they are now trying willingly to do what they use to do naturally. So, we’re going backward instead of forward which is pretty annoying. I won’t dwell on "Codex", nice and weird complain, or on the pleasant acoustic "Don’t Give Up The Ghost" and its saturated voice loops and interesting echo changes but with an uninspired sound (remembering closely Devendra Banhart or even Sufjan Stevens), or finally on the conclusion that is "Separator".
I will end saying that, if this record is not entirely bad, it doesn’t bring anything new and it’s really far from taking us of as we were entitled to expect it. However, we can notice the care taken in the accumulation of diverse sounds that works efficiently without making the whole seem too heavy. The band’s experience is here, but their creativity not really…