Any regular followers of Radiohead’s blog knew that this album would again be a leap away from the guitar-led anthems of The Bends and OK Computer which brought them worldwide acclaim a decade ago. Recent ‘Office Charts’ have included tracks by dubstep prodigies Jamie Smith (of The xx) and Ramadanman as well electronic stalwarts Four Tet and Aphex Twin. The sound of the album (unlike the release) was something that could be predicted, albeit vaguely.
The King of Limbs opens with “Bloom,” a juxtaposition of arpeggiated piano, fast drum beats and a strange bass melody which then leads to a wall of high-pitched synths in the second part of the song. As you work your way through the album this combination of fast-paced electronic drum beats and slower basslines (a method employed by The xx to great success recently), played by Colin Greenwood, dominate the album to form the base of almost every song.
Despite a similar formula, each song is different in detail, and each is a captivating listen. The instrumental track “Feral” starts with angry drum beats punctuated with string squeals, while the slow piano melody of “Codex,” combined with slow bass creates a standout track and rates as one of the band’s most beautiful and seductive of their entire catalogue.
However guitar is not completely absent from the album. While there are a few bends of Jonny Greenwood’s guitar on “Little by Little,” which features Yorke’s traditional melancholy lyrics, the first and only guitar-led song comes with the light acoustic guitar on “Give Up The Ghost.”
However, the most noteworthy use of guitar comes with the final track of the album, “Separator.” The song starts with bass drones, drum beats and faint guitar plucks before a beautiful guitar melody kicks in carrying you to a euphoric end of the album with the line, “If you think this is over/ You’re wrong.” The song, as the album does as a whole, represents a moment of joy for the band.
They no longer have to struggle to meet the deadlines of record labels, but can instead make music as they wish; comprising whatever styles and sounds they want, whether it is vintage Radiohead from the ’90s, the experimental ’00s, or something completely new.
The King of Limbs represents freedom for the band and for music. Following the traditions of dubstep artists, the band urges people making music to produce and release it independently and to “do what you want” (as heard in the album’s first single, “Lotus Flower”). Once again Radiohead have made an intelligent, challenging album, completely in tune with the changing face of music today and perhaps, more importantly, highlighting what is to come.
As OK Computer was a zeitgeist album for ’90s consumer society, The King of Limbs is for the future of music in coming years.