Scary stories from a lovely place
Radiohead released their 8th album on the last weekend in February. Again they have done with ease what many other bands could not accomplish. They have furthered their musical repertoire seemingly effortlessly. They have taken us, their listeners, around another bend in the journey that is being a Radiohead fan. They have been unpredictable, and even a little bit annoying, but they have again created music that is beautiful and clever.
The King of Limbs is a short album, only 8 songs. If I am listening to it while doing something else, I feels like it’s over too quickly and I have missed it’s essence. But then when I start it again, each song feels a bit more familiar and I can tell it is seeping into my muscles like their others have done.
The album opens with ‘Bloom’ and Thom’s voice screams through the silence with “open your mouth wide”, and the wide drags on and gets higher and a little spooky. It’s beautiful. ‘Morning Mr Magpie’ is deep but childlike, similar to ‘Sail to the Moon’ from their album ‘Hail to the Thief’. But the words are hurt and sore, as if the singer is buried deep in anger. The mood changes for ‘Little by Little’ which I think sounds a bit like a ‘Calexico’ (another fave band of mine) song. But then the charming beat shifts and becomes intense electronica. It goes on and on like ‘Idioteque’ from ‘Kid A’.
‘Feral’ is harried and rude and smacks of ‘Hail to the Thief’s’ ‘Myxamatosis’. Then ‘Lotus Flower’ is similar but cools off and calms down, ending with the optimistic refrains “I set you free. Slowly we unfold like a lotus flower”. Johnny Greenwood’s skill on the piano is then flaunted with ‘Codex’ and I find myself remembering their second album ‘The Bends’. Codex also sounds like ‘You and Whose Army’ and uses trumpets like in the ‘National Anthem’. It ends with the sound of cicadas, reminding me of warm summer nights. ‘Give up the ghost’ starts with the same cicada sounds and the two songs are strung together, just like ‘Airbag’ and ‘Paranoid Android’ were on ‘Ok Computer’. Thom’s echoey voice and the acoustic guitar with hand tapping is so peacefully sad I could cry.
At first I thought the album could have ended with that refrain – “I think I should give up the ghost”. But I’m glad it doesn’t. While there is certainly rage and sadness in ‘The King of Limbs’ there is also intense optimism and themes of growth and regeneration. Images from nature are used in almost every second line. ‘Separator’ finishes it off and sounds like a ‘Kid A’ or ‘Amnesiac’ song.
‘The King of Limbs’ isn’t as spectacular as ‘Hail to the Thief’ or ‘Kid A’/’Amnesiac’, but I don’t think it’s trying to be. The last words on ‘Seperator’ say “It’s like I’ve fallen out of bed from a long and vivid dream. Finally I’m free of all the weight I’ve been carrying. Wake me up.” These lines nicely round off the experience of listening to the album.
I feel really happy at the end of the album. These words in Seperator – “If you think this is over then you’re wrong” – give me enormous hope that Radiohead will continue to make their incredible music and continue the journey for us, the listeners.