88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 2/23
By Seth White, WKNC DJ Goof
Since their 2003 release Hail to the Thief and their departure from Capitol Records, Radiohead has broken away from the typical formalities of releasing an album.
Radiohead doesn’t release singles, and rarely mention that they have anything near completion. Then one day they say they have a new album coming out, and four days later you have it in your lap.
The King of Limbs is Radiohead’s eighth full-length album, and finds them once again polishing off the direction they have been heading in since the release of 2000’s Kid A.
In Kid A, they wiped away the guitar-driven rock band persona they developed in their first two albums for something much more abstract. They experimented with scattered percussion segments, looped vocals and ambient noises that can easily leave the listener lost at first, but rewarded in the long run.
Limbs starts out much the same way with “Bloom.” The song skips and buckles with spattered drum beats and an off-kilter bass line that slowly grows. Finally, Thom’s reverberating vocals reel you into the bigger picture.
Although “Bloom” is entertaining, it is nothing the band has not tried before on Kid A or Amnesiac, and is probably the lowlight of the album. “Morning Mr. Magpie” is the same. It’s better than the first track, but lacks the excitement expected when one hears Radiohead.
Limbs really starts to pick up speed in the third track. “Little by Little” is an energetic number that recovers from the dullness of its predecessors.
“Feral” is the most outlandish track on the album. It is an instrumental piece comprised of fast-paced, high-pitched drums, consumed by overwhelming bass and synth notes. Much like the rest of the album, it has a constrained, claustrophobic sense of urgency.
“Lotus Flower” is the album’s dominant force. It is catchy, beautiful and reminiscent of the 90s band Massive Attack. “Codex,” the following song on the album, is an elegant slow-burner that quickly diminishes this excitement. The band seems to take a page out of Bon Iver’s playbook for “Give Up The Ghost”. Thom’s vocals are at their prime here. They are haunting and calm, soothing and fearful – a brilliant dichotomy that truly makes Radiohead the world-renowned band they are.
The album ends on a high note with “Separator.” This song is much less controlled than the rest of the tracks and is riddled with perfectly-placed overlapping vocals. Unlike the restless feeling given off by most of the previous tracks, “Separator” comes across as much more optimistic.
Although Limbs starts off slow, it gains speed and makes a promising finish. As with most Radiohead albums, it needs countless listens to be fully understood. It takes time to appreciate it for what it is.
88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week is published every Wednesday in the print edition of Technician, as well as online at technicianonline.com and wknc.org.