At first listen, it is whiny, annoying and obscure—everything people who don’t like Radiohead don’t like about them. To those fan’s (like myself) who took some time learning to love Kid A and Amnesiac, King of Limbs was a major disappointment.
But three weeks and an eighth of weed later, Radiohead is reminding me what it means to be an “active listener.” There are no obvious pop hooks or tweetable one-liners, but layers and layers of sound that are all meant to be heard like the flavors tasted in a fine wine.
At essence, King of Limbs is a beautifully woven album about moving on.
“The Separator” tracks a dreamscape of pain and realization, a Dali-esque grandfather clock chimes the key beat layered with Thom Yorke’s signature screeching lullaby-voice “Like I’m falling out of bed/ From a long and weary dream/ Finally I’m free of all the weight I’ve been carrying/…When I ask you again, wake me up, wake me up.” Towards the end of the song you can almost taste a little of the OK Computer longing all Radiohead fans fell in love with.
“Lotus Flower” the first (and probably only) single from the album, continues the theme of disruption and acceptance, “There’s an empty space inside my heart/where the weeds have taken root/ so now I set you free.” Just as in previous albums, “Lotus Flower” is a fantastic example of how Radiohead layers real and synthetic instruments with Yorke’s voice to create rich beats full of meaning beyond just the lyrics.
“Little By Little” has the creepy vibe of a hunter stalking its prey. It is all at once sexy and disturbing “Little by little/by hook or crook/ You’re such a tease and I’m such a flirt…/Routine’s and schedules/drug and kill you/kill you.” The chorus feels like water circling the drain, and is perfectly paired by the guitar and synth beat bridges.
Radiohead: “Little By Little”
But, my favorite track on the album, which harkens back to The Bends era Radiohead, has to be “Give Up the Ghost,” a simple four minutes of layered acoustic guitars and gentle tapping beats. Yorke sings “Don’t hurt me/ don’t haunt me/give up the ghost,” to a chorus of “in your arms” throughout the song. It’s simple, beautiful and interesting.
So, as obnoxious as it sounds, King of Limbs is definitely an acquired taste but one that is worth getting used to.