Radiohead's eighth release, "The King of Limbs," displays a drastic alteration in sound from its previous album, 2007's "In Rainbows," once again confirming the versatility of arguably the greatest alternative band of all time.
"The King of Limbs" shows the most electronic approach to an album Radiohead has taken since 2001's "Amnesiac." The overall quality of the album, as usual from Radiohead, is superb, and unlike anything the group has done prior. Even its method of release is noteworthy.
There had been speculation of a new Radiohead album since early 2009. Fans were teased with a few stand-alone singles over the past two years. Within hours of fellow alt-rockers Arcade Fire pulling off the upset of the night at the Grammys by winning Album of the Year, Radiohead announced on its blog, Dead Air Space, that a new album would be released exclusively through its website in five days. Radiohead generously surprised fans once more by releasing the album a day earlier than initially expected.
Stylistically, "Limbs" is a hybrid of "Amnesiac" and "Hail to the Thief" (2003). Heavily influenced by rising electronica star Flying Lotus (with whom frontman Thom Yorke collaborated multiple times last year), "Limbs" has replaced the guitar-dominated sound of "In Rainbows" with an overtly computer-based one. Lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood is notably absent for much of the album. From the inception, "Limbs" ubiquitously features drummer Phil Selway and bassist Colin Greenwood. "Bloom" is the first of several sonic landscapes that will be nearly impossible for other artists to cover. Following is "Morning Mr. Magpie," which displays some of Greenwood's best work. The lead single (if there is one), "Lotus Flower," presents the best representation of "Limbs" as a whole as any track on the album.
The most commendable aspect of "The King of Limbs" is the perfection of Yorke's voice. Yorke has made the transformation from a singer to a musical instrument. "Codex," without a doubt the best song on the album, far surpasses "Everything in Its Right Place" from 2001's "Kid A" as the single greatest vocal achievement by Yorke. The sheer beauty and unspoken emotion of the piano, combined with Yorke intertwining flawlessly with a subtle string part is overpowering. "Codex" is a work of musical art.
"The King of Limbs" concludes with "Separator," a song that holds a large degree of symbolism. At 37 minutes, "Limbs" is suspiciously short. Besides the title being a hint at a future release, the line, "If you think this is over, then you're wrong," is repeated throughout. After hearing yet another laudable Radiohead recording, fans will be hoping for truth in "Separator." "The King of Limbs" will be remembered as some of, if not the best, vocal work in Yorke's career. While "Limbs" will not surpass "Kid A" or "OK Computer" as Radiohead's magnum opus, it is a commendable work from one of music's most influential groups.
Alex Eaton is a junior at Clarence High School.