Radiohead - The King Of Limbs

I’ve noticed some rumbling in the site’s comments sections about The King Of Limbs, maybe the first time I’ve seen packs of Radiohead fans disgruntled, or at least underwhelmed, about a Radiohead album. Some of you have even suggested The Universal Sigh newspaper is no more than a gimmick to distract folks from the underwhelming record. (Not to mention Liam Gallagher’s take.) Or as Billboard put it: “Last time around, on 2007′s In Rainbows, the music was just as interesting as all of the hoopla surrounding the album’s impromptu, pay-what-you-will release. The King of Limbs cannot boast the same.” Even in positive reviews, like Pitchfork’s 7.9 assessment, there’s a sort of ho-hum vibe: There we’re told, “the band’s signature game-changing ambition is missed.” And Nitsuh Abebe writes for New York Magazine: “The whole album’s very, very understated, to the point where it leaves you with two main options: Either you find it gorgeous or you don’t much notice it at all.” What if you notice it, but don’t really care? Entertainment Weekly seems to hit the nail on the head for what most lukewarm or chilly reviewers are critiquing:

Like all Radiohead records, Limbs mutates and shifts in clever, unexpected ways; somehow, the band makes verse-chorus-verse structures seem embarrassingly outmoded. But it’s also tricky to find (or feel) an emotional center here, and the obvious hazard of focusing on atmospherics — and deliberately referencing other, less accessible genres, like dubstep and house — is that it can leave listeners feeling a bit like The King has no clothes: It’s mood over melody, intellect over gut.

Incisive enough, but you get the sense critics would be even, well, more critical if it weren’t Radiohead. Why’s everyone game to grin and bear it? Or point toward a lack of ambition as an afterthought to their attempts to accentuate the positive? Most reviews — positive or negative or somewhere stuck between the two — include a disclaimer of some sort, suggesting that maybe it’s the reviewer who’s at fault, not the game-changing band the reviewer hasn’t quite caught up with … Basically, people are very polite when it comes to Thom Yorke & Co.

More important than the journalists, though, are those commenters/fans I mentioned at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what I think about King Of Limbs, it matters that more than a few Radiohead diehards seem put-off, confused, and worst of all, bored. Of course, there are the people who want Radiohead to sound like the Radiohead they first fell in love with because they’ll always feel like alienated creeps, or whatever, but it also seems like fans of the exploratory band that refuses to stand still are also yawning a bit.

I’m not just interested in whether or not people like King Of Limbs. What’s interesting to me is if this rumble of non-excitement and half-asleep compliments means we’ll see a shift in the kid glove approach the band receives in the press. And, the bigger question: What does Radiohead’s quiet, less crowd-pleasing post-In Rainbows songwriting (and “gimmick” marketing) mean for the future of the band and its seemingly less and less 100% loyal fanbase? Like, is it possible for Radiohead to release a “dud”?

There are certain universal truths I’ve come to accept and rely upon to make sure the world’s in order and that I’ll live to see another day: That the first sip of coffee in the morning is better than subsequent sips, that people will be under-dressed but happy on the first warm day of Spring, that Law & Order manages to tie-up all the lose ends just when you’re losing faith, and that Radiohead fans follow the band with an almost blind adoration. What’s up?

If you haven’t listened to King Of Limbs yet, here’s a stream. As everyone suggests, your best bet’s putting on a pair of headphones first:

King Of Limbs is out now.

Comments (138)
  1. Good write-up. I do like this album, I just regret paying $48 for it.

    • Heh. I remember trying to buy the $80 version of In Rainbows a few years back. My order didn’t go through, and at the time I was pissed about not getting the sweet collector’s edition.

      I loved the album, but I was pretty happy the next month when I was able to buy groceries.

  2. Whatever, I like it.

    I’m not sure there’s any artist in existence whose every creation has received universal praise. Perhaps the real question is, how did people come to believe Radiohead was well beyond the abilities of every other group of artists to come before them? How did that go unabated for so long without more dissenters by critics and the community?

  3. I can’t remember who said it, but I read a review in which the reviewer said he’s happy for Radiohead to release a fairly low-key album. I’d partly agree with that, and it sort of answers your mentioning of the “kid glove” approach people have to the band. At the end of the day, it’s blood Radiohead. As you said, they are “the exploratory band that refuses to stand still”. I’m personally one of the people who finds the record gorgeous, but can’t we cut them some slack? They release one album that isn’t immediately classic and everyone gets all apocalyptic.

    The key thing for me though is that I think the album sounds like a band in flux. Yes it’s atmospheric, but there’s a lot going on there that doesn’t quiet hit the unity that their experimental stuff does. The album really is an album of two halves, the second of which is far superior. And they always have a habit of letting the end of one album lead into the start of the next.

    • Spot on. The band has not yet put out an understated album, and they did so with class. I think that a lot of the difficulty they’ve talked about in recent years has been with this beast they created that is expected to change music every time it opens its mouth. That they choose to now tone it down shows an admirable amount of control that isn’t readily apparent to many, especially those that raced to review the album in the first hours after its surprise launch. Is it the greatest? No. And good for them.

      I also find it really refreshing that their influences shine through. Here is a band that 90% of myspace profiles cite as an influence, and they are now sharing theirs. Yeah, Burial is here, and so are more recent artists like Four Tet and Flying Lotus, obviously. That’s a pretty incredible admission for Radiohead to make; it is humble, and frees them. We have the privilege of seeing a band composed of members that do everything from writing classical scores (which also make clear their references, as in Greenwood basing “There Will Be Blood” off of Arvo Part’s “Fratres”) to DJing dance sets in LA create an album that is a recording of our current postmodern soundscape – we should praise this album as a further establishment of this band as possibly the best musical sign of the postmodern age, no matter how subtle a form that sign takes.

      • Amen to that. When people moan about an album like this from a massive, game changing band like Radiohead, you’ve got to ask – well what would you have wanted in its place?

        I don’t think it’s as simple as just arguing out the OK Computer and The Bends lovers who never moved on. Let’s face it, they stopped caring a long time ago, and its unlikely many of them have a lot to say about this release. But to the people who embraced Kid A, Hail to the Thief and Amnesiac, you have to ask but are now rejecting this, you have to ask, what would you have wanted in its place? For the band to TRY to change the world again? That’s a Bono shaped recipe for disaster. It’s hard to imagine what they could have asked for other than that. The band were never going to pull another In Rainbow in terms of classic, guitar based song writing, and they’re not gonna go back to the keyboard poking they were into a decade ago.

        I think a danger with Radiohead is that, as they are such a meticulous bunch whose music you can talk about for hours, you forget that the music is made on one level to just be enjoyed. Somewhere in there, there are still the 5 young guys who dicked around with Carly Simon covers and kicked arse at Reading in the 90s. I mean look at Thom Yorke dancing, the guy still clearly knows how to have fun. I think at the end of the day a lot of folks need to pipe down because, if you asked them, they probably wouldn’t have been happy with anything Radiohead did. Let’s all just lay back and get lost in the sounds.

        • I’m really glad to hear that there are still some sensible fans out there. For me it took a lot of listening to fully digest the last half of radiohead’s discography (the others less so) and I really don’t see why people wouldn’t give this album the same treatment. Yes at first listen it may be a bit underwhelming, it sounds good but it has no Nude or Pyramid Song. Then you listen to it again and again and again and things start popping out. You hear things that you didn’t before. Little motifs, an instrument that is lower in the mix, some foreshadowing to what will come later in the song (or the album!) and you start to realise just how deep this album actually is. When you actually sit down and give the album the listen it deserves (not while reading a book or whatever but 100% attention) you really start to appreciate it. Especially on tunes like Little by Little and Separator.
          For me, this is that magic of Radiohead. Not everything about their music becomes apparent straight away and this is what gives them such longevity. I can listen to Like Spinning Plates or the Gloaming or Weird Fishes again and again because I will always hear something new and exciting the next time round.
          Cheers for your comments guys

  4. Very, very solid post and I think the statement, “people are very polite when it comes to Thom & Co” is spot on. Not that PF is the end all be all of review sites, but I’m still shocked that gave it such a high score, considering the underwhelming response I’ve read/heard/seen. There review almost gives this album a pass, like for whatever reason the entire music community (fans and artists alike) will be offended by a sub par score on a RH album.

    Your comment about not being interested in whether or not people like the album, yet the rumble of excitement/non-excitement catches your attention…isn’t that an oxymoron in itself? My opinion is that I’m annoyed at Thom for basically making this HIS album, it really sounds like another version of Eraser. This is the first album where i didn’t feel any emotion at all from listening to it. Maybe when artists grow up, have families, some fire they had in writing songs is diminished. Or maybe they’re just in a happy spot in life and positive vibrations from the artists just don’t have enough emotional weight once they hit the listener, for the lister to say, “Wow, this is different…or this song makes me want to get up and dance.”

    I was happy to learn, post in Rainbows, the bands structure for creating an album comes down to them basically voting on what songs are going to be on the album…it just feels that Thom had a LOT more say this time around, was Johnny even present on this. That man can shred with the best of them! And what now, is he forced to be the electronic bitch boy because Thom think that’s the way the band should go?

    It’s underwhelming and that’s an understatement, the whole album sounds like Thom’s second go around at a solo album I know it’s been said / tweeted / blogged about a billion times over. But Brandon, your comment about “putting headphones on before you listen to the album” is the biggest slap in the face / joke of a comment there is. I’m guessing you were being facetious, but even so it’s just adding fuel to the fire. “OH this album sounds sooo much better if you have so-and-so brand headphones on…while sitting crosslegged, facing magnetic north, while watching Back To The Future II on mute….”

    The is the first time I’m sorry I ever put down money for a deluxe edition of Radiohead, hopefully it’ll be the last. Apologies for the length interwebs…

    Chris D!/hobbesthecat

    • If you have ever read any of johnny’s interviews, he’s bored with the guitar and likes to play around with other electronic equipment. So don’t blame thom

    • Some music is better with headphones on since you can hear the nuances more and the nuances are important. A very melodic straight-forward rock record is maybe better blasting on speakers with the windows down, but this kind of record is way more subtle and the subtlety is what people are supposed to be listening for. Hence headphones allow you to hear that better.

      It’s not some elitist bullshit making an excuse for an album. There’s just some music that is way more suited to headphones (or really nice speakers in a quiet room.)

    • I think asking where Jonny is on this album is pretty spurious. I mean, the band all started ditching their relative instruments back on Kid A, and everyone apart from Phil Selway has been probing, poking and picking away at all sorts of instruments since then. It’s pretty dated to think that Jonny’s confined the the role of “lead guitaris”.

    • That sarcasm about headphones is so off-base. This album is so detail-oriented and subtle in production, mixing and mastering. You’re missing out so much to listen on a laptop or earbuds. It’s a wholly different listening experience.

      YOUR comment is the biggest slap in the face. To suggest that it doesn’t matter how it’s heard is to miss so much of the effort put into music like this. No wonder you were so underwhelmed by it.

    • I’ve been hearing that a lot and I actually don’t get it. If you listen to The Eraser, Bodysong, and Eureka Street back to back and tell me again that TKOL is mostly Thom. I think some people have a perception that Thom is the electronics and the other band members are rockists, but that’s not the case. I get the impression the atmospherics are Ed’s area (I think Meeting in the AIsle, Hunting Bears, and Treefingers were mostly Ed tracks) and a lot of the sounds that fill up the soundscape (ondes martenot, any orchestration) are Jonny. While The Eraser is minimal and made mostly of short loops, Bodysong is lush and haunting; a lot of that signature 20th century Radiohead vibe isn’t Thom at all. If it doesn’t move you as past Radiohead releases do I can’t really make a statement on that, but I think the perception that most Radiohead fans share this sentiment might be off-base. It’s not my favorite record of theirs but it didn’t let me down at all either. I do hope I get something that justifies the price tag for the vinyl, but I’d be more pretty surprised if I didn’t.

      I also think it sounds just fine blaring in the car or on large speakers. To people wanting more length or more bite, I suggest plopping These Are My Twisted Words down between tracks two and three.

  5. i love the king of limbs. i think it’s deliberately understated and is a showcase for drummer phil selway. his rhythms on this album are innovative to say the least, not to mention how near impossible it would be to incorporate his syncopation into any other band. and just because johnny greenwood isn’t shredding his guitar doesn’t mean he wasn’t around. it’s been clear for a while that he shreds live, but on record, he utilizes his many talents as a multi-instrumentalist. and to be upset about the concept of thom yorke pulling weight is like being mad at a genius for saying smart things. really. let’s all calm the fuck down, read some artsy newspaper and not always expect epic portions of rock the way we expect at an all you can eat restaurant. the king of limbs is subtle, rhythmic and even though it never goes right for the jugular, it still slays me.

  6. For me, this was the Radiohead album where their influences all got the better of them. I’ve always come to Radiohead for an unusual take on whatever genre they’re assimilating at the moment. Here, the touchstones were obvious: a little modern garage, some house. I felt like I could point to a part of the record that sounded like a Four Tet track, or a Burial tribute. Instead of filtering their heady influences, here they just regurgitated them, leaving them wanting for melodies, better production or the craft that those electronic luminaries would bring.

    I have been consuming and collecting electronic music since discovering the Warp back-catalog in my teenage years. I was probably an insufferable prick from 2000 on, but the music was my thing. I get Radiohead’s love affair with those shifting, complex scenes. But Radiohead always seemed to be elsewhere, re-contextualizing those scenes in new ways. I listened to this record and again and again I got the impression that Radiohead is getting old. They feel less hungry, less vital and less important. But that’s okay, it’s just a natural progression for a lot of very good bands. I wish the critics would treat this album the same way they will the next R.E.M. album: give reverence where it’s due, but don’t assume a band is bulletproof.

    • I would say that Kid A or any of their albums also contain their influences. They’ve never made a sound that was completely unique and they haven’t created any genres of music here. What they have done is introduced the mainstream to new sounds and ideas. I think that can be said of the dubstep/electronic influences on this album.

      The difference is that their is a strong online music community that is hyper aware of hyper-specific genres of music, new trends, and new music in general. “The mainstream” audience hasn’t the slightest idea what dubstep is. However, maybe more people will be exposed to it now because Radiohead is a “big” band. I’ve noticed that Lotus Flower is getting a decent amount of radio play. That’s pretty danged edgey for a radio single.

      They didn’t break new ground with this album, but, I think, they made a finely crafted album that is at once very complex and very simple. I get a great amount of enjoyment from this album.

  7. “OH this album sounds sooo much better if you have so-and-so brand headphones on…while sitting crosslegged, facing magnetic north, while watching Back To The Future II on mute….”.

    Now thats facetious.
    One of the reason I look forward to radiohead albums is because of the attention that is paid to the technical aspect of recording/mixing. Their albums, along with the rest of Nigel Godrich’s work, sound amazing.

    I’ve listened on my shat computer speakers @ work, earbuds and my headphones. The difference between the headphones and everything else is apparent as soon as i put them on (though this is true for most recordings). It just sounds better. You can hear the subtle changes in volume in the mix. Like watching a Christopher Nolan movie Vs. Watching an hour of crime/drama on tv.

    On that note, it’s still not their best album. Thom Yorke wanted rhythm, i prefer melody.

    • Exactly. What a joke. To take the suggestion to listen on headphones as a joke and then say you are underwhelmed by the album?? I’m not surprised. It’s like smearing grease all over your glasses and laughing at someone who offers to clean them off for you.

  8. I think it’s more that people are willing to give Radiohead a chance because the band has established a pattern of releasing layered, complex music. As such, the assumption now is that it will take repeated listens to “get” their albums, something I heard repeatedly from friends and critics when King of Limbs was released.

    Personally, I don’t love this album – I go in more for the epic swelling guitars Radiohead than the pensive, atmospheric, beats-and-electronics Radiohead – but I appreciate the band’s willingness to try something new, which was the exact same way I felt about Kid A when it was released. 11 years later, not only does that album hold up, but it seems to have been ahead of its time. I wonder if we’ll be saying the same thing about KOL in another decade?

  9. As a long-time die hard, an oft-accused Radiohead zombie even by fellow fans, I’ve been reading a lot of the criticism with a certain amount of loneliness.

    As you I think correctly point out, there are different kinds of ‘head heads: those that cling to or swear by a certain album or record and always yearn for a return to that form; those that love everything so much that you wonder if they’ve had way too many nitrous balloons and magic burritos and should lose the fuzzy rave pants, and those that have just decided to stick it through thick and thin, roll with the punches and left turns and hope for the best–enjoying most but not all of it, and yet making a firm decision that this is a band worth listening to.

    Obviously I’m in the third camp. To be honest, I was more disappointed in In Rainbows–and I think it got more love than it should have, because of the way it was released. And I also think the EW review of King of Limbs nails part of that nagging feeling….all intellect, no guts. I can remember the first time I heard the bass line kick in on “Myxomatosis,” which immediately grabs you whether you like it or not. None of the songs on the last two records have done so, and I think a lot of people are responding to that, including me.

    But the Radiohead zombie part of me points out that hooks aren’t everything. As I continue to listen to this latest album, I’m still amazed at the layering, the muted-but-rich melodic structures, etc. The bass stuff happening throughout is pretty great–and I don’t think I’m listening to what Colin Greenwood’s doing just because there’s nothing else going on. I think it’s possible that part of Radiohead’s latest evolution is that they’re asking you to listen more closely to what’s happening–to really sit down, turn away from the computer/tv/phone screen etc. and listen closely. Maybe that’s a losing battle in 2011, and if so that’s sad. Or maybe Radiohead’s losing their edge. But is it possible the Radiohead dish–traditionally bold, unique and layered, is going for a different sort of nourishment? One that requires you to pay more attention over a longer period of time?

  10. Brandon, I feel like maybe critics and (most) fans are conscious that Radiohead makes music that takes time to digest and contextualize, and that since this record didn’t have a lot of the immediate appeal of In Rainbows, that it will probably be later that we’ll “understand” it. The problem (and maybe I’m projecting) is that nobody really wants to take the time to do any deeper listening to this record right now. I don’t know if it’s fatigue from all the new music or what, but people seem to be willing to give Radiohead the benefit of the doubt on King of Limbs without actually spending a lot of time with the record.

    As for the whole “missing the game changing ambition” Pitchfork referenced, that’s going to happen when a band releases a record every 3.5 – 4 years as opposed to the every-other-year-or-less cycle that most relevant (or whatever) bands seem to be doing. To me this is a good Radiohead record, but I can understand why people are underwhelmed. I have no idea if any of what I just said makes any sense.

    • I agree with what you say about fatigue. We’re so expectant that when a new Radiohead album doesn’t come fully formed, the way we see/hear their older albums, we assume the album is flawed.

  11. Well I for one believe this is better than “Kid A”

    • I laugh at all the people who took this statement literally. Granted sarcasm cannot be understood from my previous message, I still find it personally entertaining to see others referencing it. In all seriousness *since this is Stereogum* Radiohead reached their peak at OK Computer, albeit it was a very high peak. They have been able to drop pretty good albums since then and this one is no different. Good Day.

  12. When a band puts out arguably 4 or 5 near perfect albums – including a couple of the best albums ever (right?), it’s hard to evaluate fairly when they release something that doesn’t live up to that precedent. ‘For Radiohead’, it’s a mediocre effort, but it’s still a wonderfully produced/written record with some incredible moments that deserves above average praise.

    It’s just not a classic.

    PS: Why wasn’t this a ‘Double Take’?

  13. The problem isn’t with the King of Limbs…the problem is that Radiohead has 4-5 genre-defying albatross albums in their catalog. TKOL has great substance, but because it doesn’t break any stylistic barriers (which is what we’ve all come to expect from Radiohead) our impression of it is that of mediocrity.

    It would be like having a new sandwich that you’ve never tasted every day of the week and then getting a grilled cheese on Friday…it may be the best grilled cheese you’ve ever tasted, but it just doesn’t have that excitement of a brand new sandwich. That being said…KoL is one heck of a grilled cheese sandwich.

    (I’m very hungry and craving a sandwich as I write this.)

  14. I can’t believe what I’m reading from the comments. Better than Kid A? Wonderfully written? People, it’s ok not to like a Radiohead record, seriously. It’s far worse than a “mediocre” effort…It honestly sounds to me that it wasn’t finished for one, like Thom’s solo work (which isn’t bad, but isn’t the point), but the songs don’t really “live” anywhere with me. There are no songs on this record. It’s all just unfinished business that you would find on a Radiohead outtakes record. That’s why we fell in love with Radiohead isn’t it? Because of The Bends through In Rainbows? With a little hiccup at Hail to the Thief? I mean seriously, it’s not a good record by one of the best and innovative bands around is it? No, it’s not. It’s ok to disagree with a band and not like some of their work. I mean, even the Beatles put shit songs out and so did the Stones, but that’s what makes it so beautiful, because you have the right to say “NO, I deserve better.” And Radiohead, as a whole band, should be asking themselves the same thing. Not hating, just being sincerely honest.

    • Do you *really* believe “Little by Little’, “Bloom”, and “Codex” are ‘worse than mediocre’ music? Just because it isn’t a 5 star album doesn’t mean it can’t still be good. As for your other comments, I don’t think anyone’s afraid to say what they think. As we can see here, plenty of people don’t like the album. I agree that the Kid A comment is insane, though.

    • It’s just their opinion, it’s okay for them to have one.

    • Stop projecting your opinion like it’s objective fact.

      And it’s insulting to suggest (like the article does) that people who like this album must be giving Radiohead a free pass.

      What an ass.

    • You’re not required to like it, music is completely subjective and if it doesn’t resonate with you no one can tell you it should. But I really find the attitude of “I deserve better” revolting … Artists with credibility create art for themselves and hope that someone besides themselves like it, not the other way around.

      And excluding Feral, which I like but I think could have gone a lot further into its groove, how are any of these songs unfinished? I’m curious, actually curious not trying to start a fight, as to what your favorite Radiohead songs are. Maybe a lot of this disagreement comes from the fact that a band with such a broad catalogue has sections of their fanbase that value completely different things about them.

  15. To the “why the kids gloves?” question, I would counter – why would a bunch of critics sharpening their claws to shred something be a more authentic response? Not everything needs to be a love it/hate it dichotomy, and if anyone has earned a little breathing room from knee-jerk critical backlash, it’s Radiohead. TKOL is simply another intricately crafted, sonically rich entry in a varied catalog, and if it isn’t immediately earth-shattering, or on par with their greatest works, that isn’t any reason to dredge up some extra-harsh criticism, which seems to be the implicit message of this article.

    • Yes! Well said.

      Why can’t the lukewarm response of critics be because they thought it was an alright album? There’s no need to either declare it revolutionary or pan it.

  16. Brandon,

    Im just curious if you ever liked Radiohead, even in their glory days. Because all you do is talk about how you hate everybody.

  17. ” Radiohead fans follow the band with an almost blind adoration”
    Hmmm Brandon, were you born around the release of old KidA? Thom Yorke had decided to become an anonymous electronic music producer way back then… the reaction of the fans was mixed to stay the least! Some stayed, many left.
    In fact the die-hard fans can be the most critical. I like the new album but was found cursing many of the small production glitches which affect it… Just like on some point on In Rainbows!

  18. In about 20-30 years it will probably be know as Radioheads understated cult classic.

  19. yeah, see this is where i hate being part of the indie music scene…

    everyone needs to chill out. it’s an album by a great band that owes you nothing.

  20. I found out about Radiohead about six months ago when I caught ‘fake plastic trees’ on vh1 classic’s 120 minutes. Since then, I haven’t felt the slightest dissapointment in anything they’ve done. Maybe my outlook’s different because I’m a rather new Radiohead fan, but The King of Limbs in my opinion has been one of their best works It’s perfectly layered, may have some of Thom’s best vocals, and may be their most complex work. But at the same time, it’s short, completely lacks any of Jonny’s geniune guitar, and sounds like it might as well be Thom’s solo effort. With that being said, it’s not exactly my favorite. This review really really hit the nail on the head. And face it, no matter who we are, we’re all afraid to think Radiohead may have released an OK album. Though it may be great, those few downsides really bring it down.

  21. Like I told a friend recently about goddard’s latest piece, goddard is like radiohaed, they all say, now they has gone mad, but that record they did ten years ago is pure genius. and then ten years later thay go, now they have gone mad, but that record they did ten years ago was pure genius, its been so through every radiohead record.

    bleh for the musically unrefined audience

  22. I feel special.

  23. OF COURSE it’s possible for Radiohead to release a dud. They’re only human. They’ve given us so much amazing music but they’re not infallible. There are too many blind and brainless out there that just automatically gush over anything they do.
    King of Limbs is mostly just too sleepy and uninteresting. There are certainly some very cool moments but not much staying power song by song. Lotus Flower is a great groove and Separator is beautiful (with some non-typical RH moments there and elsewhere, which is good to see) but there are too many half-baked ideas and plain throw-aways. It’s a short album already so that hurts.
    It seems like the emphasis was on “sound crafting” and not song crafting…which is just fine it they still deliver from a sonic standpoint, which these songs fall short of. There are indeed some very cool sounds, but not a lot of “home runs” going on as far as complete song ideas.
    It also sounds like less of the band contributing and more like another Thom Yorke solo effort…Thom’s done some great solo work but too much of it it regurgitated ideas and/or sounds.
    What do I think this will mean for their future? It shouldn’t really matter if you appraoch music from an objective point of view, which is the way it should be. Maybe the next record kicks ass…maybe not. We’ll see.

    • Why do you find it necessary to simply regurgitate what everyone else has already said? This sentence, if you can even call it one makes no sense:

      “It seems like the emphasis was on “sound crafting” and not song crafting…which is just fine it they still deliver from a sonic standpoint, which these songs fall short of.”

      It’s music. How could it not be delivered from a sonic standpoint? Not to mention the fact that this album is one the of the most sonically rich albums the band has put out.

      I believe that sooner than later you will be punching yourself in the face for calling this album a “dud” and “too sleepy and uninteresting.” But then again, your comments lead me to believe that you have no sense of what music is and that you lack the ability to really listen.

  24. And I’m not joking when I ask- Has anyone else heard the absurd rumor that Radiohead is playing Warped Tour?

    • I heard that and immediately laughed at how absurd it is…then hopped on the internet and saw that it’s somehow spreading. Maybe this is their Weezer-esque jump the shark moment.

  25. look at it this way…’amnesiac’ and ‘hail to the thief” both sucked in comparison to preceding releases. to go from pablo honey to ok computer to kid a then to those two less than memorable albums (in my opinion) was, drumroll for word of the moment: UNDERWHELMING.
    give them a break…if johnny greenwood’s soundtrack scores, david selway’s solo effort and “eraser” aren’t indicators enough that the band is trying to get back to individual roots as opposed to being labeled as THE BAND OF THE WORLD, i suggest digesting the relevance of yorke’s other solo efforts w/ modeselektor, burial/four-tet,etc as a dose of reality. these guys are ARTIST, not animals in a zoo subject to poking and prodding as we see fit. let them be…King of Limbs wasn’t what i expected, and i was a bit disappointed the physical release didn’t have extras the digital release lacked. they’re human beings, not members of wild stallyns. just let the album be “ok”, remember that amnesiac was horrible in comparison to everything else they’ve ever done and move on.

    • (Amnesiac and Hail To The Thief are my two favorite Radiohead albums. At first, I was enraged by this comment, but then I realized that the diversity of opinions within the broad Radiohead fanbase is strong evidence against this article’s presumption that Radiohead fans follow blindly. But really…I want to be upset about this SO BADLY because Amnesiac is, song-for-song, better than any other album they’ve recorded.)

  26. Yeah I’m not reading this because I haven’t listened to this album yet but when I saw this it made me think, “The internet really can take the fun out of the music experience.” I love the experience of buying an album- with some kind of expectation that it may be good or amazing or even awful- and just listening to it based on the merits of the band or the suggestion of a friend, not some stranger on the internet.

    To be honest, when the last few of Radiohead’s albums came out I thought, “Come on, really? They can’t still be making music.” Even though I had liked what they did in the past. But I listened anyway and remember thinking, “They did it again.” (Hail to the Thief is still my favorite album).

    And this album has been out how long? A month? Some albums grow on you. Give it time.

    (I also noticed that I think too much to myself)

  27. Of course it’s kinda unfair to expect a huge musical evolution with every album but this for me this is the first Radiohead album that’s just “another Radiohead album”. The cool thing about Radiohead was always that they’re trying to incorporate as many electronic sounds as they find while still being a guitar band underneath.

    I see Thom Yorke’s DJ-Set and it’s obvious that he’s really into Dubstep, Four Tet etc. and i don’t know why but i kinda expected that Radiohead will experiment with Dubstep (sub-bass) sounds on their Post-In Rainbows record or maybe let their sound evolve even further in anonther direction. It didn’t happen. Well, nothing happenend at all. “The King Of Limbs” is just another collection of Radiohead songs that we’ve already heard at some point in their career.

  28. this article is so ‘brandon’

  29. Time will tell, but I can remember as far back as OK Computer, with each release there being this aura of the possibility that the newest album might not be as amazing/earth-shattering/revolutionary as the last. Later, sometimes years, the dust settles because we’ve held our breath long enough to let it. I think Radiohead will always have these sort of albums where some claim genius and others cry foul. I think as time passes all their albums seem to age well like (I hate to make this comparison) wine….or cheese, but that’s not as pretty sounding.

  30. I’ve got a couple of much longer posts much further up the thread but I want to mention that I think a lot of the negativity towards this album comes from the inability people seem to have to appreciate innovative and creative drumming/percusison in modern rock music. Phil Selways is majestic on The King of Limbs, he does things I never thought possible of him. On this one, he cements himself with the greats as far as I’m concerned, and yes I do mean Bonham, Moon et al!

  31. From the original post: “Incisive enough, but you get the sense critics would be even, well, more critical if it weren’t Radiohead.”

    –I think this is the opposite of what’s true. I think people are harder on them because it’s Radiohead and they think the band is obligated to change the world. But people had a lukewarm response to Hail To The Thief, yet I enjoy it more than most of their albums…and Amnesiac is my favorite record of theirs (often written off)…

    …which leads to an even bigger issue:

    To claim that fans just give the band a pass, whether you intend it or not, completely negates anybody’s genuine fondness for the record (and any future music from the band). Can’t you take someone at their word that they enjoy something? Even if you don’t? There’s lots of popular music that I can’t stand (Best Coast, Wavves, etc), but I don’t think the enjoyment felt by their fans is anything less than genuine. I know there’s not a strong correlation there, but to say people who like The King Of Limbs are blind followers is a bit insulting to people who actually enjoy it. It’s saying, “No, actually. You don’t enjoy it. Because I don’t–therefore, no one in their right mind actually COULD enjoy it.” If we’re operating on those terms, everyone who likes whatever Radiohead does next can’t prove that they’re not just a follower.

    • Pretty well agree with this. The fact is some people passionately love certain Radiohead albums (and specific songs) that others find dull. That diversity of reactions really reflects the diversity of the band’s musical scope. And isn’t that ability to produce diverse work precisely what keeps Radiohead relevant and head-and-shoulders above so many other bands?

  32. My only complaint is the brevity, but I still go back and listen to this one pretty frequently. The second half is perfect, in my opinion.

  33. woozefa  |   Posted on Mar 29th, 2011 +1

    i’m trying. i mean, the bends is my favorite of theirs, but i LOVE ok computer and really like kid a. dug in rainbows, though it’s not amazing to me. i don’t expect them to reinvent anything time after time, but this just feels like a one off. been listening to it last few days, trying to get into it. just got a kick ass new pair of headphones, though, so that’s what i’m doing tonight…

  34. But really. Have you guys HEARD “Lotus Flower”? That song JAMS.

  35. I like it, even better than In Rainbows, which I thought everyone loved too much because of the free thing. King of Limbs is more energetic. Like others, my only complaint is that it goes by too fast. But I don’t get the boring thing at all. They sound more alive than at any time since Kid A.

  36. Sure, no one is going to trash a Radiohead album no matter how bad it may be because they’re living legends and all, but there’s another side to that. That same reputation sets up an unfair expectation from a Radiohead album. If every single one of their records prior to Limbs was the most brilliant, groundbreaking, amazing fucking thing anyone had ever heard then there’s going to be a bit of a let down when we find out that they’re actually human. That doesn’t make Limbs bad, just bad for a Radiohead album, which means its “pretty good” but not great by anyone else’s standards.

  37. No chances needed,
    if you like it,
    you like it,
    If you don’t, quit bitching, radiohead doesn’t care

  38. “Incisive enough, but you get the sense critics would be even, well, more critical if it weren’t Radiohead.”

    I actually think its quite the opposite this time. KIng Of Limbs would probably be more critically praised if it were some average band with no expectations. Its a good album, maybe not great, but STILL better than most out there!

    And I think more would see that if it WEREN’T Radiohead.

  39. 1st interpretation of the lukewarm response: Radiohead’s musical sophistication has finally gotten too far ahead of most of their listeners and most music critics. They were always a pace or two ahead of most of us, but somewhere between Kid A and King of Limbs they started sprinting ahead.

    2nd interpretation: Radiohead has made another album that demands careful listening, even more so than Kid A and Amnesiac. Most people aren’t willing to invest the listening energy, so they just shrug their shoulders.

    3rd interpretation: Radiohead has finally made significant strides in making (as songwriters and performers) music that transcends the consumerist mindset under which we listen to almost all of our music. King of Limbs tries to push us out of this mindset, but gravity keeps pulling us back. And we keep getting trapped inside of questions: Is this album better than the previous one? Was it worth the wait? Why so few songs? How many points out of 10 should this get?

    4th interpretation: People who don’t get this album just don’t know how to dance.

  40. These comments are too long

  41. whaat? i liked in rainbows. its one of my favorites

  42. It’s a good album, I mean what was everybody expecting a game changer like kid a?
    no it’s not a classic but it’s more than solid… I expect once they start touring under it people will all of the sudden start saying the same thing. “this is amazing”

  43. Anybody that says Hail to the Thief is one of the best Radiohead albums shouldn’t be allowed to talk about Radiohead…or music in general.

    I’m not trying to be a dick, I’m just stating my opinion. My opinion happens to be a fact in this case.

  44. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  45. It kinda makes you wonder why this wasn’t posted as an official “Double Take”…and why it took so long to say it, as if Stereogum needed validation from other reviews first before saying the album was a dud.
    It was DOA.

  46. I’d like to think of myself as a rational Radiohead diehard. That may be an oxymoron, but let’s run with it. They’re my favorite band, but I don’t view them as being above criticism. Hail to the Thief could’ve lost a few songs, and The King Of Limbs could use a few more. I’ve never been a big fan of Climbing Up The Walls. And so on, and so forth.

    I like the King of Limbs, quite a bit. I’ve listened to it quite a bit in the past month and half, and I think it’s had time to sink in. I’m sure a lot of critics are probably holding back criticisms and giving the album more time to grow on them than they would with a different band’s equally inaccessible album. And disappointment from fans is natural – I think it’s easily their worst album after Pablo Honey.

    But Radiohead has a lot of great music to live up to. You view this as “people are critical, but they would be more critical if it weren’t Radiohead”, were I see instances of the opposite occurring. Holding The King of Limbs up to the rest of Radiohead’s catalog makes it look like a bit of a stinker. But looking at it out of context, it’s a very good album. Imagine if The King of Limbs was a new band’s first album. Would a 7 something from Pitchfork seem too high in that case? Again, I’m not a head in the sand kind of fan. I really could do without Feral. And the new Burial/Thom Yorke/Four Tet release does absolutely nothing for me. And now, more than ever, I’m sure they could potentially release a dud. Their next record could suck. But this one doesn’t.

  47. Is it possible for Radiohead to release a “dud”?


    Sorry, but yes.

    Let’s move on. I can’t get enough of the Strokes album, as well as Kanye’s still.

    We are being too polite. A bad album, is a bad album, is a bad album. Let’s move on. We don’t need to talk about it. Forget the bad music, focus on the music.

    End of story.

    As I was saying, Taken For A Fool. My favorite track off of Angles.

    • Focus on the *good music

    • I don’t understand how many people there are who think there is such a thing as “bad” music … For example, let’s say I hate Angles and MBDTF and enjoy TKOL. You think I’m just objectively wrong and you’re just objectively right? Haven’t you ever changed your opinion on an album after hearing later in different context or something? If so, how can you think that “a bad album is a bad album is a bad album?”

      • Bad might be harsh. I just used the word bad to get my point across.


        As for have I ever changed my opinion on an album? Yes, but, rarely. Very rarely.

        I can’t say I know if I like an album after its first, or even 5th listen. It took me about 5 actually to get into Kanye’s ‘Fantasy (But oh damn do I ever want it/I feel it). TKOL I gave about 10 or more, honest, listens, in different moods.

        I’m an actor, a writer; been listening to music since Siamese Dreams. I’m an astute individual; I know what I like, AND, I know when I know I like (or dis like) something.

        And to that:

        I dis-like the King of Limbs, and I doubt I will ever come to enjoy it in the future.

        It’s a boring album, and Radiohead produced a dud.

        Now, can we all just accept it and move on.

        *pushes the public into acceptance*

        Thaaaaat’s it, almooooost there. It’s okay. Keeep going… allmoost there.


        Are we good?

        • what did you being an actor or writer have to do with anything? and i disagree with the quality of tkol, but to each their own. i DO agree we should move on, regardless of what side of the argument we fall in.

          • To be honest, whether it’s in person, or on the internet, anytime I’ve shared my opinion with someone about TKOL, they FREAK out and immediately I’m an imbecile, unintelligent, layman etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.

            It’s quite interesting actually.

            So I suppose, that rebuttal is ingrained in me, that I was sort of defending myself preemptively.

            Radiohead fans are extremely passionate, about Radiohead. And that’s fine. But sometimes the passion clogs their thought rationale, and it becomes a fight between a three-generation gap Father and son. That’s what it feels like when I argue to someone about Radiohead. I’m the new age level headed son, and the Radiohead fan is the old-school conventional father that just, doesn’t, get it.

            But yes. We should move on.

  48. KOTL is a kind of similar to “Hail to the thief”, in my opinion.

    Hail To The Thief is a bit too long, and King Of The Limb is a bit too short.
    Both albums have great songs and concepts
    yet some songs are weak and those makes both records seem
    rather a collection of songs than an “album” as total.
    Still, both are really good records and certainly i did and still enjoy listening to those.

    i just don’t quite understand the people’s reaction towards the “Universal Sigh”.
    I mean, it sure wasn’t ground-breaking album, but what’s wrong with the band creates
    the promotional tool for the album which they spent a long time making and distribute it free?

  49. Excellent post. I agree. If it were any other band, the reviews would have most likely been more mediocre.

    That said, Radiohead are a band that take time to absorb. Everyone knows this, and so chances are many reviewers were reluctant to thrash it. Remember when Kid A was released? Years later, and it’s now hailed as a classic. How many initial reviews would have labeled it a ‘dud’?

    The problem is that In Rainbows was so amazing. It probably is still my favourite. But from that, people expect something equal or greater. Radiohead have TOO MUCH of a name behind them, that it hinders people’s judgements. So when something like TKOL comes out, people feel let down. Disappointed.

    I’m not saying TKOL is bad, it’s not. It’s enjoyable.

    What people need to understand is that in the future, this album might be viewed very differently. Just as we will change as its listeners over time, Radiohead too need time to change. Maybe this is a transition album. Of course, it might not be.

    Radiohead are full of surprises, and that’s what makes them a difficult band to respond to, in every single sense of the word. No doubt in a few years time we will look back on TKOL with new eyes. Whether collectively we believe it to be good or bad, who knows. But our opinions will no doubt be different than they are now.

    • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

      • ok leopindar, thats enough. I’m a huge radiohead fan, but i truly DISLIKE this new album. However, your reasoning in your last few posts for why it’s “bad” are incredibly pretentious and irrelevant.
        Your an actor? and a writer? wow, thats awesome. You MUST have the power to tell every individual that they’re wrong when they feel that a certain grouping of vibrations makes them feel good.

        • How are they pretentious or irrelevant? You can’t just say, what I said is pretentious without explaining it.

          And I explained the post above why I mentioned my background. Please, don’t twist what I’m saying.

          Finally, how about actually retorting to the reply, you replied to.

          I’ll reiterate a passage from there, which I hope you’ll play off of, instead of going astray.

          The very fact, we are having lengthy conversations on why the TKOL is poor, is indicative of the fact that IS in fact poor. There was never such an instant massive civil war within the Radiohead fan community with any other album. Why this one?

          Why? Because sir, it, is, poor.

          You called me pretentious? Whatever. I actually think you just might be. I don’t think yourself, and most people who “like” the album are being honest with themselves.

          Can I be honest with you about my feelings? If I were to keep TKOL on my iPod, whenever any of the 8 tracks would pop on shuffle, I’d skip it. Does that not send sonic alarm bells throughout battle field of this debate? Do you know what I mean? Like, if, let’s say… (I have to think here, because I can’t go into my mp3 collections, because I don’t keep mp3s I won’t listen to)… jesus… um… Fear of Sleep by The Strokes came on. I’d skip it. All the time, every time. Why? Because it’s boring. Even though I like 80% of their catelogue, and they’re generally a good/great band, whatever, that song is poor. It’s not that interesting. It’s not terrible, but it’s not interesting. I can’t genuinely get through the whole song. I lost interest.

          That same feeling, is how I feel about every track of TKOL.

          So, if I were to skip the entire album, I wouldn’t keep the album. Which means I wouldn’t listen to it. Ever.

          If one were to never come back to an album, wouldn’t you have to concede at some level, that the album is poor. Wouldn’t you? How can you defend that? It’s so so so straight forward.

          On another note, look below at wormberk’s comment.

          Track 1 is boring vocally
          Track 2 is just ‘awful’
          Track 8 is soulless

          How, Daver, can you defend a Radiohead album, when someone could possibly give negative reviews to more than 1 Radiohead track. Even to call A song boring would be a shock. To have most of the album dull and boring. How can you defend that? How? HOW?!

          Just how?

          You’re not being honest with your feelings. I don’t believe many people, genuinely enjoy TKOL.

          Radiohead produced a dud. Let’s. Move. On.

          • wow. really. Did you even read my post? I said that yes, i am a massive radiohead fan, but i strongly DISLIKE KOL. You just spent probably 20 minutes of your day ripping on me for something I never said. Quite irrelevant.
            My point was you are violently ripping people apart when they say they like it, and your coming to bullshit conclusions for them, claiming that since you hate it, there is no possible way that anyone can get something positive from it. Quite pretentious.
            If you can’t realize that music is subjective and that the most beautiful thing about music is the fact that we all get different feelings and experiences from different sounds, well then you don’t understand music. And by me saying you don’t understand music is indeed a bullshit conclusion, how does it feel?

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