I have a long-standing rule with Radiohead: form minimal first impressions and don’t begin to judge until at least the fifth listen. It’s a necessary approach when dealing with a band that shape shifts as often as they do or when listening to music that is so heavy on the details that each and every listen elicits a new discovery.
“The King of Limbs” welcomes you back to the Radiohead that’s best played with headphones on in a dimly lit room. The quick-playing eight track album goes easy on the pulsating rockers, instead focusing on the sort of backroom electro-experimentation that Radiohead has dealt with before, but, as always, never in quite the same way. From the first sweeping of piano on album opener “Bloom” to the gentle guitar that makes closing track “Separator” so great, Radiohead once again manages to make an album devoid of any bad songs. I suppose that’s good news when you release an album with eight tracks.
The strength of this album lies directly in the center, where “Lotus Flower” and “Codex” make up a back-to-back song pair that are ready for immediate entry into a Greatest Hits mix. “Lotus Flower” is sweet relief to the ears as you listen to Thom Yorke’s falsetto echo over the sonic symphony. Once again, as often is the case, there’s more here every time I hear it. My personal favorite, though, is “Codex”, which makes an immediate jump into the Best of 2011 potential crowd as we close February. The piano. That voice. The hint of strings. Two months into the year it’s the best song so far.
Do I even begin to make comparisons to other albums? I think I still prefer In Rainbows, but will I in six months? I have no idea. What I will say is this: if for some reason you are not a Radiohead fan yet, you might want to work your way up to this one. If, however, you are a Radiohead fan, you should have no hesitations adding this to your collection. After four or five listens, you won’t regret it.