Somber, uninteresting and ultimately sleep-inducing. Since Radiohead’s debut 18 years ago with “Pablo Honey,” these are a few terms that detractors of the UK art-rock outfit have used consistently. But now, with Radiohead’s newest release “The King of Limbs,” they might be right for the first time.
The album’s shortcomings were evident to even the most casual Radiohead observers with the release of the single and accompanying music video for “Lotus Flower.” The track has the band doing the unthinkable for many fans: sounding both familiar and stylistically repetitive.
“Lotus Flower” materializes as little more than a haphazard fusion of the stark atmospheric Electronica recorded during the “Kid A” sessions and the repetitive bass and drum samplings of “In Rainbows.” Lyrically, “Lotus Flower,” and the album as a whole, relies upon the same psychedelic/organic juxtaposition the band has utilized since 1995’s “The Bends.”
Although tracks like “Lotus Flower” and the twitchy dubstep nod “Feral” typify the general shortcomings of “The King of Limbs,” the album isn’t without a few additions to the long list of exceptional songs in the Radiohead canon. “Codex” is hauntingly sparse and introspective: “Into a clear lake/No one around/Just dragonflies flying to the side.” The single meandering piano line and infrequent Johnny Greenwood orchestration of the track, make it an outright spiritual experience.
The other standout of “The King of Limbs” is “Give Up the Ghost,” probably Radiohead’s most organic track since 2000’s world-altering album “Kid A.” Opening up with the sound of chirping birds, Yorke is backed by a crude acoustic guitar, repeating the simple mantra “Don’t haunt me/Don’t haunt me.” The natural ambiance of the recording is progressively eroded until the final thirty seconds, when the glitchy electronics of the first half of the record comes to a head
Ultimately, “The King Of Limbs” might just go down as Radiohead’s most pretentious album to date. Even at their most experimental with “Kid A” and “Amnesiac,” a continuous sense of sincerity drove the band; they had something to prove and were the ones to prove it on their own terms.
Most of “The King Of Limbs” sounds like a collage of everything the most stereotypical and blasé Radiohead album would be, complete with woeful moaning by Yorke, overbearing electronics and constant references to ancient Biblical texts.