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Monday Morning Roundtable: So, how’s The King Of Limbs?

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Remember when we found out last week that Radiohead was going to be releasing a new album? We were all so young then. Well, the album is out and we’ve had a weekend to listen to The King Of Limbs. So, our Monday morning question is…how is the new Radiohead album?

Wes Soltis – First off, man, “Morning Mr. Magpie” is an awesome tune. And overall there seems to be a lot more ambiance than any other Radiohead album. But when it comes down to it, the album feels more or less like a sequel to frontman Thom Yorke’s solo album The Eraser. In the grand scheme of music Radiohead is one of the best to ever exist. In the realm of Radiohead, however, The King Of Limbs just kind of feels like it’s…here. Almost like they had to meet a “it’s time to release something new” quota. Lackluster Radiohead album. Still very, very good.

Ryan Peters – The first thought that sprung into my mind after listening to The King Of Limbs? I would have rather paid for In Rainbows, and gotten this one for free. Thing is, though, that’s not a fair evaluation of the talent and craft that Radiohead put into their work, so let me go into a little more depth: The common story goes that Radiohead fans fall into two broad camps: Those that think they did their best work making epic postmodern, guitar-driven albums like OK Computer and, to a lesser extent, The Bends, and those who think the band moved into new and better territory with their more ambient, deconstructed sound on albums like Kid A and Amnesiac.

I don’t believe that the two groups exist as stringently as some would make it seem, because I’m of the opinion that OK Computer is the best album of the last 15 years, but I also think that their most recent album, In Rainbows, is some of their best work ever. Most Radiohead fans are intelligent and open-minded enough to appreciate both faces of the band. But the thing that made In Rainbows so successful was the way it balanced the two stages of the band’s career – mixing the ambient electronica with lush strings and warm, if mellow, melodies.

The Kings of Limbs displays no such compromise, going full bore with computerized soundscapes; there’s narry a guitar to be heard here. Even the most obvious single, “Lotus Flower,” floats along with nothing more than a staccato computerized beat and Thom Yorke’s lilting voice to keep it grounded. There are times when the band still reaches out to grab the listener’s attention – the midtempo, but mezmorizing closer “Separator” comes to mind–but as a whole, the album teetors from understated to sleepy too easily. It is beautiful stuff, no doubt, but after the texture and depth of In Rainbows, The King of Limbs feels like a bit of a let down.

Dominick Mayer – Alright, I’m going to toss something out there which will likely kill my credibility as a music critic on this site or any other: I’ve never been that into Radiohead. I find them remarkably talented, fully respect what they’ve done for music and find that “Karma Police” and “Motion Picture Soundtrack” are both gorgeous pieces of music, but generally I don’t find them to be something I’d go out of my way to listen to in any way, shape or form. So, it was with skepticism that I approached The King of Limbs, and to be honest, I left unimpressed. My major contention with it is that, more than anything, it doesn’t feel like a full-fledged album. It feels more like a compilation of ideas which the band were interested in experimenting with, that they threw out into the ether rather than allowing them to build and develop. To wit: opening track “Bloom” makes interesting use of a click-drum track, but doesn’t take things much farther, instead meandering into atmospheric noodling. “Feral,” as well, begins intriguingly but devolves into ambient wankery. It’s not that I hated it; “Lotus Flower” is inexplicably catchy and the piano melodies on “Give Up The Ghost” are effectively haunting. I was just left feeling how I’ve felt about Radiohead for years now; interested, but not particularly affected one way or another.