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Their weakest effort to date (unfortunately)
on July 30, 2011
As a Radiohead fan, one can't help but make allowances for the band's ever-changing sound; it's become Radiohead's defining attribute. "In Rainbows" was a fantastic outing beyond its pay-what-you-want approach; it was a well-grounded, relaxed, heavily-textured album, possibly their best since "Kid A", but "King of Limbs" is not much to write home about. That's saying a lot too; even "Amnesiac" was something to write home about.
In the album's defense, I think Stanley Donwood (the band's artist) put it best when he compared "KOL" to a transitional snapshot...because that's exactly what it is. However, it's one of the band's most forgettable snapshots. Not a whole lot stands out, even when the record is on a loop. Granted, there are at least 3 good songs featured: "Lotus Flower" and the back-to-back nature-centric tracks "Codex" and "Give Up the Ghost", but the remaining songs are just meandering, minimalist collages of chopped up beats and fleeting guitar riffs. It's not like we haven't heard this kind of stuff before either, but not with this much frequency. This wouldn't be much of an issue if it didn't take up more than half of the record's 38 minute runtime and bury the aforementioned songs.
As with all of Radiohead's releases, I've played the whole thing several times because I wanted to give the record a chance to reveal itself. It took me several listens to fully appreciate "Amnesiac", which is the closest thing I can compare "KOL" to. While that record had the benefit of being a companion piece to "Kid A", this record unfortunately comes off as an afterthought. If anything, "KOL" is basically Radiohead at the crossroads, and it was probably never meant to be taken for more than what it is--a record to simply bridge the gap. There's no telling where they'll go after this, but the next proper LP (or EP?) will most likely be an improvement.