Radiohead – The King Of Limbs Radiohead – The King Of Limbs

Radiohead - King of Limbs

Radiohead - King of Limbs

(note: Microsoft Office 2007 recognizes Radiohead as a proper noun)

I remember buying Kid A on its release day. It was lunchtime on a Tuesday during the third day of October, 2000. It was slightly overcast but reasonably warm. I remember that day because the release of Green Day’s Warning also shared the same street date. I purchased both albums for my brother who was still in school until 2:15. I bought these albums before picking him up in the parking lot by the gym. Radiohead’s Kid A came after a wave of anticipation and growing admiration for Ok Computer, Pablo Honey and The Bends.  11 years later, Green Day’s Warning still holds quality and ultimately foreshadowed the melodic theatrical side they would soon embrace. Kid A on the other hand became something else entirely. The album’s monumental success was contrasted with my initial dislike and subsequent dismissal of Radiohead entirely. It was not until repeated listening and intellectual reasoning that I came to like it. Some could call this ration succumbing to popular pressure. Perhaps it was. Kid A was one of the first albums to lay beyond an inaccessible wall of appreciation. It was not immediately gratifying like Ok Computer, The Bends or anything else I was listening to. Somewhere and somehow I had to traverse something to reach appreciation. This lengthy back-story is always a close memory when approaching a new Radiohead album. I know I will like it eventually. There is just a question of when.

(Note: Tuesday October 3rd 2000 also saw the release of Sea and Cake’s Oui, Dying Fetus’ Destroy the Opposition and Yanni’s compilation If I Could Tell You)

Only with select artists do I exercise so much patience and leeway when it comes to album releases. Radiohead is one of these artists. Since their inception, Radiohead has been unwavering in their dedication to experimentation while still keeping threads of craft and accessibility.  Their releases have been received with initial praise as well as retrospective legacy.  I almost feel silly trying to discuss the band’s history as if these five musicians are still new to some people. Radiohead transcends the underground and mainstream — the hip and the successful. King Of Limbs, the bands 8th album, was announced with little preamble or time to prepare. Five days later, the digital version of the album available with a physical copy following en tow.  Has it really been four years since In Rainbows?

Lengthwise, King Of Limbs is the band’s shortest album — sometimes toeing the line between full length, extended play and mini-album. At a slim 37 minutes, King Of Limbs is five minutes shorter than the Pablo Honey debut. There is no reason, at this time, for the svelte running time but comes at a surprise when the band’s longer records rarely drag or become boring. The length does play a big part in King Of Limbs as the subtle and low key atmosphere is a stark contrast to defined highlights heard in In Rainbows. The low weight attributes for King Of Limbs continues as Radiohead makes their points in whispers rather than shouts. Some of the record’s most endearing qualities could be lost to inattentiveness or the passing of a noisy bee.  The songs shuffle and slide when other albums jump with combat boots.  It wasn’t until I listened to the record with headphones amid a darkened bedroom that I became aware of of its quiet character. The bottom half of the album evaporates in a slow mist saving one of the strongest songs, “Seperator” as a closer. King Of Limbs, like any Radiohead record makes no forecasts for the future — whether or not it will be the same album 1 year from this day.

The choice to release records without promotion removes any sort of anticipation one would have for the record. It diminishes expectations and inevitable let downs. In Rainbows and King Of Limbs are often times viewed against the backdrop of their public break with major record labels. While Radiohead’s past output has been anything but indentured servitude to “big labels”, King Of Limbs does make use of their recent independence. The choice to fill the bottom half of the album with slow ballads is a choice an artist with complete creative freedom (and little to lose) can make.

I always try to find a visual picture to accompany an album. This visual picture is conjured regardless of rational logic. It is a picture I hold onto and refer to during conversations, reviews and mental comparisons. King Of Limbs, visually, takes place deep within a botanical lab somewhere underground in a dystopian future. The organic nature of the record is sheltered by an artificial shell among the wastelands of a distraught landscape.  If this above sentence is more than enough to help you decide then I have done my job. Otherwise the consumer will have to derive a visual sentence to accompany the album.

King Of Limbs will be released physically released in May for a meager price of 53 dollars. With this prices comes two 10 inch vinyls and over 600 small pieces of art in a custom built package. Perhaps I will revisit King Of Limbs in a few months after paging through the extensive packaging design. Radiohead has always been a proponent of intricate album design and King Of Limbs is shaping up to be no different. If the package I receive in May turns out to be a bonus disc of music or even the second half of a double album, I would not be in the least surprised. Stranger things have happened.

(note: Kid A was released on Monday October 2nd 2000 one day earlier than my above story. In retrospect I wonder why recordfs were released Monday as well as why I was out buying albums on a Tuesday afternoon)

Radiohead King Of Limb’s Tracklist:

  1. Bloom
  2. Morning Mr Magpie
  3. Little By Little
  4. Feral
  5. Lotus Flower
  6. Codex
  7. Give Up the Ghost
  8. Separator

Radiohead - The King Of Limbs, reviewed by Kaptain Carbon on 2011-02-23T10:50:25-08:00 rating 4.0 out of 5

One Response about “Radiohead – The King Of Limbs”

  • Ben says:

    A couple things. In the US records were always released on Tuesday. Kid A was no exception (In 2000 I was working for a then major record retailer).

    I think you alluded to that another album might be released in quick succession to this one. I would tend to agree. The last track being called “separator” seems intentional and with Amnesiac coming out rapidly after Kid A there is some precedent for it.

    Great write up.