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.

1 COMMENT

  1. I like the album but I can understand that there are (and will be) many that will hate or just ignore it.
    I accept it. My only question is: why everything that is at least bit electronic is called dubstep nowadays.
    There nothing dubstepish in Feral. No 2-step (or half-step) rhythm, not a wobbling base… only distant vocal (reverbed, re-twitched and re-fiddled on all the possible manners) sounds bit Burial-ish… the problem is that Burial neither invented it nor is actually a dubstep musician…
    Tomorrow somebody will tell me that new Eno is dubstep…

  2. Totally disagree with this review. The King of Limbs is not Radiohead’s best album, but it is still great in its own way. I think bloom and codex are up there with their best. Overall, the album is very enjoyable if given the chance.

  3. In my humble opinion, the king of limbs is an OK album, but I wouldn’t have listened to it more than a couple of times if weren’t from Radiohead honestly.

  4. I disagree with the review. The term caricature isn’t fair to Radiohead and obviously doesn’t apply to this album. Point to me a song in their back catalogue that sounds like Bloom or Little By Little? Or even Feral? There, you won’t find one. It is another great album, short and much more cohesive than In Rainbows.

    As the Clash Music critic wrote about it: “The music itself is perhaps the band’s most coherent mixture of guitars and electronics. Lasting just 37 minutes ‘The King Of Limbs’ never becomes comfortable, with its lush sonics matched by some fantastic songwriting. It might not reach the heights of some Radiohead releases, but that is more a testament to the band’s exquisite back catalogue than a reflection on the new material. “

  5. “Somber, uninteresting and ultimately sleep-inducing”. Yes, it must be a Radiohead hater, who never got them and never was at one of their shows to refer to them in so stupid way. They are nothing like that. You need to be a retard – or a zombie – to want to sleep through the first four songs of The King Of Limbs. Those are atmospheric, different and layered songs and you can say anything about them, but not that they are sleep-inducing. And Codex and Give Up The Ghost are beauties, even if slow paced. Radiohead are a lively band, they like to experiment, to push boundaries to the mainstream, to audiences who would never listen to Burial, For Tet and other key masters of the dub and electronic world. They take those weird sounds and transform in something much more people can appreciate, still keeping a sense of melody so known by their fans. To say they sound like a caricature of Radiohead? What is a caricature of Radiohead? Making good music? There are songs on Limbs absoltely different from anything they’ve done before, like Little By Little or Lotus Flower. The only thing I got from this review is that the reviewer knows nothing about the subject it wrote about.

  6. There is much that one can be critical of in this complex, thoughtful yet imperfect recording, regrettably Mr. Steeves doesn’t seem to have the bandwidth to get you there. A juvenile review, at best.

  7. Radiohead fans are a rabid bunch. I am one! This is probably the most realistic review of the album that I have read. Aside from Codex, Lotus Flower and Give Up the Ghost, everything else seems recycled. In fact, any of the first four tracks on the album would sit very nicely on Hail to the Theif or Amnesiac. I wouldn’t say that this is a bad album, but it certainly isn’t their best. But, I am sure that they will return with another album as disconcertingly beautiful as In Rainbows.

  8. It’s their best work since Kid A. This is a fact. Kevin Steeves obviously didn’t get it, or didn’t apply the effort to understand and appreciate it. He didn’t even get the lyrics quoted right in his review. I don’t mind if music critics are biased and lazy, but at least intimate some humility in your own opinion. This review is far crappier than Mr. Steeves thinks the album is. I’m just curious how many times he listened, because I bet he only went through it once, and like a Stanley Kubrick film, if you wanna love it, you need to see it over and over until it sinks in. Some artists are ahead of their audience, and I include myself in this: which is why I don’t rate a complicated album after one listen.

    • You seem like a pretensions dickhead. ‘YOU DON’T LIKE THE ALBUM BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT ENLIGHTENED LIKE I AM LOL’. People dislike it because it’s a lazy and unfocused effort, aside from a few good songs, not because you’ve ‘got to let it sink in’. That worked for Kid A, but no matter how many times I listen to TKOL, it’s still shit.

  9. Good honest review. You get the feeling that some reviewers of this album are forcing non existent views on to themselves but not this one. This is a big disappointment and actually seems very lazy.

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