The constant evolution of Radiohead’s musical identity has arrived at its latest incarnation in the band’s new album King of Limbs which offers a sound both reminiscent of the past while at the same time innovative and with a clear influence coming from dubstep. When the band first announced a new album release on Valentine’s Day even the most fervent fans found themselves surprised but less than a week later the 8 track download had arrived. The album is loaded with conflict both emotionally and in a musical sense with counteracting tempos and assertive persistence percussion featuring odd and intriguing tuplets. It’s is layered with waves of reverberating noise littered with speckles of hissing bits and backwards amputated sounds digitizing and modernizing Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” for the new millennium.
The album opens with “Bloom”, which sets the tone for the subsequent album and gives the listener the feeling of being thrown into the winds of a digital hurricane but despite the tension in the music the smooth and consistent vocals relay a sense of calm. “Morning Mr. Magpie” follows with bright, tremble guitar phrases and more oppositional lyrics addressing the magpie, a bird which is an omen of bad luck, stating that it’s “got some nerve coming here" and that "they’ve stolen all my magic” and “took my melody" allowing for a number of symbolic interpretations.
One of the best tracks on the album is “Little by Little” which opens with a dense musical intro reminiscent of 90’s era Beck and builds to evoke cinematic visuals and an emotional response which is evident in nearly all the band’s strongest songs. This is followed by the enrapturing “Feral” which is essentially a sonic painting replacing lyrics with fragmented sound layers and “Lotus Flower” which recalls Motown’s Funk Brothers classics with its offbeat clapping and tight hooked percussion married to sensual vocals.
The album rounds out with “Codex” which has an almost singer-songwriter feel, the melodic “Give up the Ghost”, and “Seperator”, a song which goes in really interesting directions with a vocal melody and paralleled guitar that feels akin to late 70’s/early 80s rock with it bright notes and pop appeal.