Friday, March 4, 2011

No alarms but no surprises on new Radiohead

It should come to no surprise that “The King of Limbs,” Radiohead's eighth studio album released on Feb. 18 through their website, sounds nothing like their last record.

With 2007's “In Rainbows,” Radiohead had seemingly perfected their sound, combining brilliant song writing with their developed studio tricks, creating their strongest set of melodic songs since “OK Computer.”

Fans may get the wrong impression with rushed reviews from critics and websites racing to see who can review the new album first, but this, like most Radiohead albums demands multiple listens to sink in.

“The King of Limbs” sounds more constructed than written, electronic heavy with loops of digital sounds, drums and other instruments. These songs are really like limbs, but those of a model dressed and draped by a designer who has mastered their craft.

There is no denying that Radiohead are true savants of mood and atmosphere, and the first two drum and rhythm heavy tracks, “Bloom” and “Morning Mr Magpie,” kick off the album with momentum, and demonstrate why Phil Selway is one of the best drummers in rock.

“Feral” continues with Thom Yorke's obsession with electronic music, sounding like something off of Burial's “Untrue.”

The appropriately named single “Lotus Flower” serves as the centerpiece of the album. Not only is it the most accessible song on the record, it might be the best.

Yorke's sweet falsetto and lyrics retain human expression, and “Lotus Flower” provides some sexy and romantic lines like “slowly we unfurl as lotus flowers, 'cause all I want is the moon upon a stick, just to see what if, just to see what it is.”

The closest thing to classic Radiohead, “Codex” is another standout, an ethereal piano ballad, that seems to be about letting go and delving into the unknown.

Radiohead did exactly that in 2000 with the masterpiece “Kid A,” an album that concentrated on electronic experimentation and less on guitar driven rock.

There lies the problem in “The King of Limbs,” there just isn't enough of the unknown and wonder in the textures and details anymore. The well-oiled machine has efficiently etched out a sound that has already been perfected.

Whatever the case, it’s still an intriguing listen and a good release from the enigma that is Radiohead, arguably the best band in the world.

- James Vu

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