The new Radiohead album, "The King Of Limbs", brings the band full circle back to the sonic sculptures that they were expertly using before "Kid A". 

Kind of. 

I think any casual 'Head fan would definitely say that there is a similarity here between the new album and what the band was doing many years ago. At first listening, the record seems to echo past ideas (albeit GOOD ideas). But subsequent spins reveal that there's a fair amount of subtlety here, including some of the aural adventurousness that the band has explored in more recent times. 

Just to get it out of the way, I'll say that that this is an immediately more accessible and likeable collection of songs than was on the previous album "In Rainbows". That's not to say that Radiohead have begun crafting pop songs, but they've decidedly shied away from more complex and difficult-to-jump-into rhythms. 

But there's still a lot going on on this record. Opener "Bloom" is all skitter-patterned drums and ghostly synth horns, with Thom Yorke's dual-tracked and reverbed voice floating above it all like a dream. 

As a matter of fact, there's a strong dream-like quality to many of the songs on the album. "Feral" sounds wispy and soporific, and boasts no real words - just fragments jumping in and out of the mix. There's more of a reliance on acoustic instruments this time out as well, with the piano of "Codex" providing the base of the song while various electronic effects infiltrate. Yorke's vocal in this tune is particularly effective. 

The acoustic guitar in "Little By Little" sounds detuned, and that fits a song that sounds like classic rock distilled and then deconstructed. "Lotus Flower" has percussion effects that seem nearly tactile. This is some seriously psychedelic stuff. 

My favorite track at the moment is probably "Morning Mr. Magpie", where the drums and guitars skitter all over the place, held together by an amplified acoustic guitar. Added bonus : the song seems to be actually addressed to a magpie : "You've got some nerve/Coming here/You stole it all/Give it back". There's an ominous tone that sets in with the chorus, and Yorke does an amazing job at the wordless crooning he's so good at. Yes, it sounds a bit like "OK Computer", but it also sounds like "Kid A". 

"Give Up the Ghost" begins with filtered birdsong, and the song turns on six words : "Don't hurt me", and "In your arms". An incredible drone sets itself up about a minute and a half into the song, and ends up resolving itself in one's brain after a few moments into a deeply distorted countervocal. Pretty cool. 

Leave it to Radiohead to place the most conventional sounding song last on the album. "Separator" has a nearly traditional structure, but is still made beautiful by Yorke's vocal and some soft guitar work. 

I'm going to venture forth and say that this is Radiohead's most cohesive, successful album in several years. There's not really a song that's offputting or so twistingly odd that a Radiohead listener might wonder, but it's JUST odd enough to be distinctly Radiohead. Kudos.

I give "The King Of Limbs" a 9 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.
 


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