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The King of Limbs, but nobody’s dancing

By Hattie Gawande
Published: April 2011
Radiohead is the band that every teenage alternative and/or indie rock fan theoretically adores.
Specializing in electronic, guitar-driven songs, raw, wailing vocals and abstract lyrics, they are the definition of alternative.
Unfortunately, what nobody really wants to admit is that no one can take them in anything but small doses.
After a certain point, the lead singer, Thom Yorke, who may be considered a genius lyricist, is just profoundly creepy.
Take “Climbing up the Walls”, a song off of their platinum selling record Ok Computer, in which Yorke howls “Fifteen blows to the back of your head/ Fifteen blows to your mind/ So lock up the kids safe tonight.”
And this was before his bout of depression.
Furthermore, after about twenty minutes, Yorke’s excessively wailing goes from expressive and haunting to so much inarticulate wailing.
By the fourth or fifth song, all the tortured moaning sounds the same.
Radiohead is also one of those bands that prefers experimentation over melody.
Most songs do have some semblance of a tune, but it consists of Yorke’s howling rather than distinct chord progressions.
It’s certainly not the sort of thing that you can sing along to. However, Radiohead has surprised us before. From time to time they put out an record that keeps being interesting.
Their incredible second album, The Bends, a revolutionary piece of music (it’s considered to have opened the door for such contemporary English bands and musicians as Coldplay, Keane, and James Blunt), was one such record.
Their wonderful seventh album, In Rainbows, released in 2007, was another. Unfortunately, their latest, The Kin of Limbs, is not.
The eight songs on the 37-minute album are mostly typical Radiohead fare–the usual pulsing keyboards weave in and out of repetitive guitars and bass, all underpinned by delicate yet hyperactive drums.
Too many electronic riffs compete with Thom Yorke’s characteristic falsetto, giving the songs a crowded feel. At the same time, however, the album feels unfinished.
Of course, none of the songs are danceable or singable, but this is normal for Radiohead.
What’s strange is the lack of any melody at all, just repeated electronic noise and a bass.
Take Radiohead’s first track of the album, “Bloom,” which begins with a very pretty piano riff. This lasts no longer than eight seconds before high-pitched beeps are added, the piano cutting out only to be replaced by pulsing electronic noise.
Another six seconds go by and a stilted, clattering drum beat is layered on top. Forty-five seconds pass before the bass is added, and so on.
Yorke begins singing over the chaos after about a minute, only adding to the clutter.
Listening to the song stresses me out–every time I hear something I like it fades away, and then a minute later it reappears only to cut out again.
The tracks following “Bloom” follow essentially the same pattern.
I don’t mean to entirely pan The King of Limbs, though. In “Lotus Flower,” the sheer craziness seemed to add to the song rather than take away from it.
The vocals are much more interesting, and there’s a little more balance between Yorke’s insane voice and the background noise.
“Lotus Flower’s” strangely enthralling and immensely enjoyable music video, featuring an insanely dancing Yorke gyrating convulsively to the beat, may have slightly skewed my perception of the song, however: I had no idea anybody could contort their body that way.
There was one other song that was genuinely likeable. “Codex” is a piano-fueled ballad that is powerful in it’s simplicity.
Yorke’s voice and haunting lyrics are the main attraction here, paired with the piano and light strings with a simple trumpet part. “Jump off the end/ The water’s clear/ And innocent,” Yorke warbles.
It’s the most minimalist song on the album, and it’s quite also the best.
I find that the Radiohead songs I actually tend to enjoy are the ones where words and phrases are actually discernable.
But The King of Limbs is not unenjoyable, it’s just not what fans were hoping for after Radiohead’s previous album, the masterpiece In Rainbows, the culmination of over two years of work.
With every record, Radiohead improved and expanded their experimental sound, but this eighth attempt seems to be a regression.
It’s unexciting and, after all the hype, disappointing.

By Hattie GawandeRadiohead is the band that every teenage alternative and/or indie rock fan theoretically adores.Specializing in electronic, guitar-driven songs, raw, wailing vocals and abstract lyrics, they are the definition of alternative.Unfortunately, what nobody really wants to admit is that no one can take them in anything but small doses. After a certain point, the lead singer, Thom Yorke, who may be considered a genius lyricist, is just profoundly creepy. Take “Climbing up the Walls”, a song off of their platinum selling record Ok Computer, in which Yorke howls “Fifteen blows to the back of your head/ Fifteen blows to your mind/ So lock up the kids safe tonight.”And this was before his bout of depression.Furthermore, after about twenty minutes, Yorke’s excessively wailing goes from expressive and haunting to so much inarticulate wailing.By the fourth or fifth song, all the tortured moaning sounds the same.Radiohead is also one of those bands that prefers experimentation over melody.Most songs do have some semblance of a tune, but it consists of Yorke’s howling rather than distinct chord progressions.It’s certainly not the sort of thing that you can sing along to. However, Radiohead has surprised us before. From time to time they put out an record that keeps being interesting.Their incredible second album, The Bends, a revolutionary piece of music (it’s considered to have opened the door for such contemporary English bands and musicians as Coldplay, Keane, and James Blunt), was one such record. Their wonderful seventh album, In Rainbows, released in 2007, was another. Unfortunately, their latest, The Kin of Limbs, is not.The eight songs on the 37-minute album are mostly typical Radiohead fare–the usual pulsing keyboards weave in and out of repetitive guitars and bass, all underpinned by delicate yet hyperactive drums.Too many electronic riffs compete with Thom Yorke’s characteristic falsetto, giving the songs a crowded feel. At the same time, however, the album feels unfinished.Of course, none of the songs are danceable or singable, but this is normal for Radiohead. What’s strange is the lack of any melody at all, just repeated electronic noise and a bass.Take Radiohead’s first track of the album, “Bloom,” which begins with a very pretty piano riff. This lasts no longer than eight seconds before high-pitched beeps are added, the piano cutting out only to be replaced by pulsing electronic noise.Another six seconds go by and a stilted, clattering drum beat is layered on top. Forty-five seconds pass before the bass is added, and so on.Yorke begins singing over the chaos after about a minute, only adding to the clutter. Listening to the song stresses me out–every time I hear something I like it fades away, and then a minute later it reappears only to cut out again.The tracks following “Bloom” follow essentially the same pattern. I don’t mean to entirely pan The King of Limbs, though. In “Lotus Flower,” the sheer craziness seemed to add to the song rather than take away from it.The vocals are much more interesting, and there’s a little more balance between Yorke’s insane voice and the background noise. “Lotus Flower’s” strangely enthralling and immensely enjoyable music video, featuring an insanely dancing Yorke gyrating convulsively to the beat, may have slightly skewed my perception of the song, however: I had no idea anybody could contort their body that way.There was one other song that was genuinely likeable. “Codex” is a piano-fueled ballad that is powerful in it’s simplicity.Yorke’s voice and haunting lyrics are the main attraction here, paired with the piano and light strings with a simple trumpet part. “Jump off the end/ The water’s clear/ And innocent,” Yorke warbles.It’s the most minimalist song on the album, and it’s quite also the best.I find that the Radiohead songs I actually tend to enjoy are the ones where words and phrases are actually discernable. But The King of Limbs is not unenjoyable, it’s just not what fans were hoping for after Radiohead’s previous album, the masterpiece In Rainbows, the culmination of over two years of work.With every record, Radiohead improved and expanded their experimental sound, but this eighth attempt seems to be a regression. It’s unexciting and, after all the hype, disappointing.

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