Feb 232011
Authors: Michael Elizabeth Sakas

How can I, a mere earth-dwelling mortal, assume that my opinion on one of the most influentially progressive musical groups in the universe could possibly count for anything?

This had to have been my first thought after accepting the daunting and terrifying task of reviewing Radiohead’s freshly released “The King of Limbs.” And if it wasn’t, then I couldn’t have been thinking straight.

I’ve listened, and listened again. And again. As every set of 38 minutes pass, I can’t shake what I’m hearing… is this lousy Radiohead?

Please, take my words lightly.

Released last week just a few days after its announcement, the album has had an insignificant amount of time to stew in the minds of listeners. Radiohead is the opposite of junk music — you can’t lazily surf the web or watch TV as you listen. They deserve and demand your full attention.

But the songs on this album seem to lack the hypnotic power of songs on past albums. It’s difficult to compare new Radiohead with anything but old Radiohead.

“The King of Limbs” includes elements from their entire discography, but the moodiness and sound experimentation of “Amnesiac” seems to be the biggest recognizable influence.

Lyrically, nature is a significant theme throughout. The album title itself is a reference to a 1,000-year-old English oak tree that resided close to where the album was recorded.

The opening track is tinny and jazzy with digital static layered with a repetitive drumbeat, giving Thom Yorke’s voice something to sail over. The references to nature begin with the lyrics “And while the ocean blooms, it’s what keeps me alive/So why does it still hurt?/Don’t blow your mind with why.”
Yorke’s dark contemplation doesn’t stop there, or anywhere throughout the eight tracks. There is a constant undertone of internal struggle and suffering.

There aren’t even any lyrics in “Feral,” but with Yorke’s indiscernible wordless moaning melting in with the loopy beating noise around it, the moody theme persists.

A squirming, writhing Yorke is filmed in black and white for the video for “Lotus Flower,” the album’s gem. His dancing is simple yet complex, seemingly improved but completely intentional. What could better explain “The King of Limbs” than that?

Music reviewer Michael Elizabeth Sakas can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 4:04 pm

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