King of Limbs is a sleek, sexy offering from the British indie kings
The King Of Limbs 4/5 Considering how deliberately wary Radiohead are of the mechanics of megastardom, they still have a knack for getting themselves talked about. Following the ‘pay what you like’ (ie nothing) marketing of previous album In Rainbows, the rush-rush release of The King of Limbs (expectorated four days rather than five after the initial announcement) has once again dominated the music-related headlines, although given the low-key nature of this collection, perhaps it is a canny exercise in expectation management rather than a marketing device. That said, were this album released on Ninja Tune by a contemporary such as, say, Grasscut, it would doubtless receive the same generally glowing reviews, but would sell approximately one twenty-billionth as many copies.
Clocking in at a lean (some might say mean) 37 minutes, The King of Limbs offers little in the way of obvious pyrotechnics, and the album takes a few listens, preferably of the full-concentration-with-a-cup-of-tea variety, to really start giving up the goods. Although the spooky digi-folk of ‘Give Up the Ghost’ will be small consolation to those still mourning the passing of Radiohead as Great Guitar Hopes, there are still lushly orchestrated and affectingly soulful tunes in evidence – the listener just has to wade through a bit more negative space to find them.
As the warm, skittering krautishness of ‘Morning Mr Magpie’ demonstrates, Radiohead are now more focused on what they don’t have to play than what they do, and the album is all the more successful for this attention to detail (and seemingly only detail). The result, as perhaps best evidenced by the gloriously slinky Bizarro World cruising anthem, ‘Little by Little’, is a kind of minimal funk from an uncanny valley. Parts of it, such as the dubsteppy ‘Feral’ and YouTube sensation ‘Lotus Flower’ you could almost dance to, and not necessarily even in the Thom Yorke-does-puppet-David-Byrne-doing-David-Brent fashion of the latter’s promo. While a skeletal minimalist electronic record might not be that much of a surprise from Radiohead in this day and age, few could have expected them to sound this sexy.