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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Radiohead's latest album 'The King of Limbs' just released

By Jonathan McJunkin

On Friday, Radiohead released their long anticipated eighth studio album, “The King of Limbs.” Being a person who considers “OK Computer” to be the greatest album ever made and can attach any fond memory from my senior year in high school to a song from “In Rainbows,” I was incredibly excited. The anticipation of this album by me and others is rightly deserved-when a band that has managed to “change the game,” or at least alter its course, multiple times in their career decides to do something new, it makes sense to stand up and take notice. “The King of Limbs,” unfortunately, is not “Kid A”-this is not a radical new direction for either the band or music in general. And in a lot of ways, it’s a flawed album. There are no rock songs to speak of, and I couldn’t honestly describe it to anyone as exciting. It focuses more on creating a general feeling or soundscape than stand out tracks, and that can be frustrating to many fans, especially at first. That being said, all in all, and especially when taken as a whole, it’s pretty damn great. Even if it’s not one’s taste, there’s no denying that the 20-year veterans of alternative rock accomplish exactly what they set out to do. I took an in-depth look into album to try to discover precisely what that is.”Bloom”

Like the opening tracks of other Radiohead albums-“Kid A’s” “Everything In Its Right Place” comes to mind immediately-it sets the stage for what’s to come within the first 30 seconds-plinking piano notes are swallowed up by synthesized beats and a distorted rhythm section. Thom Yorke’s lyrics float over the background, but the real point of this song (and this album) is the atmosphere. The horn section’s entrance at around three minutes in is the first real taste of the depth of sound in “The King of Limbs. “”Bloom” is a track that’s really grown on me with subsequent listens-every time I hear it I seem to notice something new.

“Morning Mr. Magpie”

“You GOT some nerve coming here”-blogger Nitsuh Abede aptly described these as the most “Radiohead-y” opening lyrics ever. I have to agree-this is Yorke at his most characteristically acidic. Compared to the layering of the opening track, “Mr. Magpie” sounds much more stripped down and minimalistic-at times it almost seems to have a beat and no melody, though it still manages to create a palpable sense of nervous energy that reminds me of the best songs of “Hail to the Thief.” In saying that, this is one of my least favorite tracks on the album. It’s almost too stripped down, which wouldn’t be a problem if it felt like it was headed somewhere.

“Little by Little”

Possibly the only recognizable guitar melody on this record, and it’s one of the few songs with a recognizable chorus. It sounds remarkably pleasant and upbeat when compared to the rest of the album, even with lyrics like “routines and schedules/drug and kill you” conveying that classic Radiohead sense of being ill at ease with everyday life. It’s a very easy song to get into, even for a person who isn’t a fan of rest of this album, and it’s the strongest part of “The King of Limb’s” sparse and disconnected first half.


“Feral” is a very strange case for me: unlike most songs from bands I enjoy, I like it less every time I listen to it. It’s the one song here that seems truly out of place, both in the album and in Radiohead’s catalogue. It’s nothing but drum, bass, and dubstep-light distortions. I was initially weirded out in a good way by this song because of its relative uniqueness, but the novelty quickly wears off. It seems to me more like the band was playing with new production techniques than making an actual song. Hipster Runoff jokingly (I think, you can never tell) called Radiohead the nonsensical nickname “The Owl City of Dubstep,” and this is the only song that could at all be applied to.

“Lotus Flower”

Kicking off a second half that I believe can hold its own with anything the band has ever produced is “Lotus Flower.” This is the album’s only “single” thus far-though it’s only been released independently as a music video that features Yorke dancing spastically as he is wont to do. His killer moves have already become a sort of Youtube sensation, spawning mash-ups with dance tunes such as “Single Ladies” and “Whip my Hair.” These are generally pretty amusing, but beside the point. Like most of this album, it’s a very simple song-there’s not much there beyond bass, drums, voice, and reverb. However, it is incredibly well crafted, creating a groove that combined with one of one of Yorke’s best vocal performances has had this song in my head ever since I heard it. It’s a great pop song if Radiohead’s ever made one, and its lyrics manage to be both accessible and nuanced, seeming to evoke both blooming and withering love.


I can’t say enough good things about this one. In the vein of “Pyramid Song” and “Videotape” before it, this distorted piano balled carries a great deal of emotional force behind it with very minimal but powerful lyrics. “Sleight of hand/jump off the end. /The water’s clear and innocent.” The distorted and driving piano, the sweeping horns and strings, and Yorke’s thoroughly earnest voice combine to create an absolutely gorgeous sound that evokes the imagery of the lyrics: both the natural tranquility and the almost suicidal (or Zen, depending on how you look at it) removal and resignation. It ends with birds chirping-truly everything in its right place. One of my favorite Radiohead songs.

“Give Up The Ghost”

Seamlessly transitioning from “Codex,” the guitar cords, overpowering strings, and an back-up track of whimpered “don’t hurt me” gives much of this song an uneasy feeling that’s distinctly Radiohead-as one reviewer put it, like a campfire song for the apocalypse. After Yorke sings, “I think I should give up the ghost,” the gloom starts to lift and the song as a whole seems to somehow brighten, eventually fading away until nothing remains but acoustic guitar plucking and twitchy background noise. This is the best example of “The King of Limbs” getting simplicity and minimalism right.


The song opens with a drum and bass loop that’s typical of the first half of the album, and seems to have a similar layered structure to the opening track, substituting distorted guitar for the former’s horns as the song builds to its bright and hopeful (yes, really) conclusion. The lyrics evoke waking from a dream, or otherwise a return to earth, a fitting sentiment to end “The King of Limbs.” The refrain of “if you think this is over, then you’re wrong” has sparked some speculation that this may be only part of a longer release-speculation no doubt as a result of the album’s surprisingly short running time and lengthy period of anticipation. I don’t really have an opinion on this, and the whole debate seems kind of silly-it will either happen or it won’t, looking for lyrical hints doesn’t mean anything. That being said, the 1800+ iTunes plays part of me wants to believe in this more than Virginia did in Santa Claus.

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