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Radiohead: The King of Limbs

Oxford dons fail to find post-Rainbows pot of gold.

Released online in February with minimal advance warning, Radiohead’s stealth sequel to 2007’s pay-what-you-like smash In Rainbows lacks the same headline-grabbing impact, either as music or as marketing stunt.

This sees them continue their commendably forward-thinking exploration of rock’s digitally deconstructed electro-jazz fringes, but in a business-as-usual way that breaks little new ground not already covered a decade ago on their experimental twin-set, Kid A and Amnesiac.

For sheer beauty, meanwhile, nothing here is quite as sublime as Nude or House of Cards from In Rainbows, although the weightless dronescape of Bloom and the glitchy, twitchy avant-muzak of Feral certainly come close. The woozy, soulful Lotus Flower may be a wry homage to Yorke’s friend and collaborator Flying Lotus, the LA-based trip-hop alchemist with a similar penchant for sci-fi lullabies and mind-expanding beats.

But the best tracks here are two fairly traditional ballads: the mournful, Neil Young-tinged piano lament Codex and the languid, skeletal strummer Give Up The Ghost. Both gain in stature from repeat listens, much like the rest of the album.

Even so, this insubstantial eight-track affair ultimately feels like a minor Radiohead release, one that falls considerably short of the stratospherically high standards they set themselves on previous landmarks.

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.