Is 'The King Of Limbs' just the first part of a larger body of work? Lots of Radiohead fans seem to think so.
For a start, the album ends with ‘Separator’, so titled - perhaps - because it’s a pivot point between this album and the next. And if that’s not the case, how come they scrapped the original title, 'Mouse Bird Dog'? Though admittedly, the supposed ‘giveaway’ lyric (“If you think this is over then you’re wrong”) was in the song even then.
Then there’s the fact that the physical edition of ‘The King Of Limbs’ comes with two 10” vinyl records. As Stephen Ackroyd of This Is Fake DIY points out, that’s a red herring, since an entirely separate album would not fit on to a 10” record.
That doesn’t mean the theory itself is flimsy, however. Note that orders from the site were numbered ‘TKOL1’, suggesting there may yet be a ‘TKOL2’.
Besides, it’s hardly crackpot to imagine there might be a quick-fire follow-up. When ‘Kid A’ came out, no-one knew that a second album from those same sessions - ‘Amnesiac’ - was finished and ready to go. It’s been four years since ‘In Rainbows’. Do we really think these eight, almost guitar-free, tracks are all Radiohead have to show for it?
Other variations on the theory are less convincing. One YouTube user calling him/herself branchesandlimbs has posted a series of hoax videos, purporting to have been seeded by Radiohead themselves, that suggest - by way of various cryptic clues - that there are in fact three albums, one for each format (CD, digital, vinyl). He’s also posting as transitionapex on Twitter if you want to join in the geeky fun.
We’ve had a couple of mischievous comments on our ‘King Of Limbs’ review, too. One of them stated simply: “CD2 is on your hard drive”, suggesting some kind of Easter egg technique whereby Radiohead might have planted a second album on people’s desktops with a time delay via the initial download.
Hmm. The reality is almost certainly far less interesting than that. By concocting these theories, and clinging to the idea that there must be something more, are Radiohead fans simply sublimating the fact that ‘The King Of Limbs’ is - just maybe - a tiny bit disappointing?
There’s possibly an element of that, but don’t forget ‘OK Computer’ spawned conspiracy theories too, chief among them the idea that it’s linked to ‘In Rainbows’ via a complex binary system that means both albums are “supposed” to be listened to in tandem.
Radiohead are just one of those bands that inspire this kind of obsessiveness. Personally, I love the spirit of adventure and curiosity these things bring out, even if the reality turns out to be a let-down.
Sure, Radiohead could do press interviews that explain the album… but how much more interesting to leave it up to us, to turn the record's release into a digital treasure hunt. It’s nice to imagine the band looking at all this speculation and allowing themselves a mischievous chuckle.
Because ‘The King Of Limbs’ is already so much more than an album. It’s a meme, an ever-growing monster with tentacles spreading crazily across the web. And they’re not all serious and nerdy either.
Just look at the Dancing Thom blog, and the endless variations of the ‘Lotus Flower’ video that have colonised YouTube. There’s already at least one fan parody doing the rounds.
So what if it turns out there is no follow-up in the pipeline? Any album that can inspire this has already provided its fair share of amusement:
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