The melancholy British band's latest album features a track that expresses an unusual sentiment: levity.
You can love Radiohead while admitting that, yes, they do deserve their rep as rock's preeminent producers of wrist-slit soundtracks. After all, this is a band whose popularity was born out the self-hater's theme song "Creep," and who have consistently packaged tenderness—think back to 2003's "I Will," Thom Yorke's serenade to his infant son—with lyrics about bunkers and bombs.
Now comes King of Limbs, set upon the world with nil fanfare Friday and yet already racking up descriptions like "dour," "somber," and "richly depressive." From a quick listen, you can understand why. "Bloom" opens the proceedings with a drum skitter resembling the mechanized clomp of a dying horse, while "Lotus Flower" boasts a bass line that—like the accompanying video of Yorke dancing to it—tries for sexy but seems sinister. And "Morning Mr. Magpie" picks a fight with its very first line: "You've got some nerve..."
But there's a positive vibe here that Radiohead have never fully embraced before, and it's displayed most stunningly on the album's closer, "Separator." A piano note rings like a church bell; a snappy, circular rhythm approximates a swagger. Promisingly, the bass line wanders upwards. Meanwhile, Yorke, in a just-woken-up mumble, describes feeling as though he has indeed arisen from a "long, blue dream." Things appear the same—"exactly as I remember, every word, every gesture—but something's changed: A weight has been lifted, and the "sweetest flowers and fruits" surround him.