Am I alone in this? In, when news breaks of a new Radiohead release, not crossing fingers behind my back that it’s a return to “OK Computer Radiohead”? I like ‘Kid A’. I love ‘Hail To The Thief’. Whisper it quietly, ‘In Rainbows’ is probably my favourite Radiohead album. So, when news broke earlier this week, that Radiohead’s new album, ‘The King of Limbs’, would be available for download this Saturday, personally, my fingers were crossed for more of the same. As a little bonus, having got all the technology and web-stuff in place a day early, here I am getting my first listen to the album on Friday teatime.
‘Bloom’ tinkles in on a cascading piano riff, soon joined by a jagged, unsettling drumbeat and off-kilter bassline. As so often with Radiohead songs, seemingly disparate elements are drawn together as soon as Thom Yorke begins to sing, and as so often, you’ve no idea what lyrics he’s singing or what melody he had in mind, but it just makes sense. ‘Morning Mr Magpie’ is all delay-drenched guitars and moody Yorke-isms (“You got some nerve/Coming here”) – an insistent, irritated anthem in making.
An ever-ascending riff draws ‘Little By Little’ in, one of those delicious shuffling Phil Selway drum patterns underpinning things. “Little by little, by hook or by crook/I am such a tease, and you’re such a flirt” croaks Thom Yorke almost lasciviously. ‘Feral’ opens on what can only be described as a dubstep break, heavily reverbed vocals and random samples adding to the mix, joined by a bass line that will bother a few PA’s if this ever gets played out live. It’s almost as if Radiohead felt the need to nudge a reminder to James Blake that they were there first with this stuff. Halfway through; so far, so Radiohead.
A video of ‘Lotus Flower’ (complete with some, er, bustin’ Yorke dance moves, see below) was released earlier in the week, so it’s the only track here without the element of mystery. An odd choice of trailer, if you’re asking me – it’s almost what a band might come up with if they were trying to be Radiohead but not quite succeeding. “Codex”, on the other hand? Oh jeez. Here’s the song where the spine finally tingles. Just Yorke, some cut n’ looped piano and some haunting horns weaving occasionally in and out. You can imagine this Saturday midnight at Glastonbury soothing the steaming Pyramid Stage crowd. Gauntlet down, Coldplay…
“Give Up The Ghost” is, to all intents, a Thom Yorke solo track, an campfire acoustic loop circling over and over, some gentle melodies and quasi-hymnal backing vocals vying placidly for attention. And the album slopes out on “Separator”, the only moment on “The King of Limbs” where the word ‘afterthought’ springs to mind. But, at first glance, there’s enough here to satiate any Radiohead fan – there are flashes and glimpses of all the eras all over the album. It isn’t gonna appease those who have spent the last 14 years waiting for the next ‘OK Computer’ – and maybe those are the people that Yorke is appealing to in that penultimate track. But as the latest instalment in one of British rock music’s mosr enduring dynasties, this’ll do nicely. Very nicely indeed.
Release Date 18/02/2011