After a brief return to earth to deliver the tart, focused In Rainbows, Radiohead drift back into the ether with The King of Limbs. Like In Rainbows before it, the actuality of The King of Limbs is purposefully somewhat obscured by the hullabaloo surrounding the album's surprise release -- announced for a Saturday release on a Monday, shifted to a Friday -- and in the case of KOL, such clamor is needed. Wispy and ephemeral, shimmering skin draped over the barest of bones, The King of Limbs doesn’t deliberately lack a solid foundation, songwriting traded for sound construction. Masters of mood that they are, Radiohead digitally weave stuttering, glitchy loops of drums and guitars with real instruments, Thom Yorke’s mournful moan and keening falsetto acting as a binding agent, creating an alluringly dour atmosphere. Despite a pair of intellectually funky moments -- “Morning Mr. Magpie” and “Little by Little,” grouped together at the beginning, giving the album a slight hint of momentum that quickly fades -- this is rather monochromatic and not too far removed from the territory Radiohead began etching out with Kid A. Where that icy 2000 effort had the bracing chill of the new, The King of Limbs is familiar -- not commonplace, but carrying a certain inevitability as its eight songs slowly unspool. There are no surprises in the floating textures, no delight in the details, no astonishment in how the band navigates intricate turns: this is the sound of Radiohead doing what they do, doing it very well, doing it without flash or pretension, gently easing from the role of pioneers to craftsmen.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine