Radiohead: In Rainbows [a review]


Review:

I got a prompt from Radiohead’s W.A.S.T.E. this morning with a link to the downloadable version of their 7th studio LP and felt this was a benchmark in my life as a music consumer. ‘Pay whatever you want,’ is a concept I could get used to. I’m just crossing my fingers hoping that this is the end times for major record labels and all their vile, exhausted schemes.

Nothings stuck out immediately, well, not truthfully. “Bodysnatchers” completely destroys in all it’s ripping guitar awesomeness. It’s going to be really hard to find any fault on this gem of rock beauty. Like their best records, Radiohead get into your heart by surgically removing your skepticism. Radiohead make records, unlike popular music artists, who make singles, which is why the release of In Rainbows is so exciting to an audiophile like myself. Though with some scrutiny this particular album seems more song oriented than their past bouts.

Looking forward to December when the ‘Disc Box’ ships, almost like I’ll have a new opportunity to rediscover In Rainbows on vinyl. I love vinyl, its warmth, that hiss, some day my children will listen to old records on my Benjamin Miracord (once owned by their Grandfather) and scratch their heads in wonder asking; ‘why does it sound so scratchy?’ I’ll laugh, as I put the needle down on my 180 gram copy of In Rainbows and say, ‘that’s the sound of authenticity kids! Listen to how amazing “Nude” sounds, the music is practically naked! And by the way, side 2 is always better.’

The reverb drenched effects of ‘All I Need’ fortifies this ethereal track, anchoring it once the drums kick in, washed out crash cymbals punctuate Thom’s melancholy warble. The folkiness of “Faust Arp” with orchestral accents and flat picked acoustic guitar break up what would seem like side 1 from side 2, (if this was vinyl) quite nicely.

Track 7, “Reckoner” comes through the speakers like some lost child, clapping hands, shaking tambourine, stomping bells, grinning solemnly. Johnny Greenwoods got that whole arpeggio clarity thing nailed. And Thom. He who spells his name with a silent ‘H’ wails beautifully along a syncopated beat. This song is the centerpiece, one that ties past efforts together with the current effort. You can hear bits of Pablo/Kid A/OK Computer and Hail to the Thief in this song.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m of the type that has enjoyed all of their releases and has relished each for the unique way each was composed and released. My initial, immediate impression is that I like the second half of the record better. The second half doesn’t seem quite as esoteric as the first. Thom’s lyrics are more informed; at least they seem so on “House of Cards.” Where it seems the last 8 years of a nightmare world where Bush is the president twice over and Iran could be the next target of a ‘coalition of the willing’ could be coming to an end. A hopeful tune on a Radiohead album? Yes! But it is a song that is hopeful in that dreary, sweater wearing British way. A real house of cards can’t stand up to strong winds, maybe collective outrage fatigue has hit its tipping point and people are ready to actually put their foot down and say ‘enough!’

“Jigsaw Falling Into Place,” is a driving tune. That acoustic guitar leads the rhythm, pushes the beat, its percussive tonality compliments the eeriness of Thom’s ghostly backup vocal track. A song with a million layers. A song with a dozen implications. The lyrics, like black suited paramilitary troops, invading the urban squalor of the mind through the canals of the ears to whisper answers in the form of questions. Its nice to know Radiohead can inspire creative thinking without bludgeoning listeners with concepts such as global warming, er…while singing about climate change.

I’m anxious for the vinyl to ship. It is annoying listening to this band without some sort of visual guide for the songs. I hate not being able to sit down and open a gatefold read lyrics to every song and get totally immersed in the world they’ve created. I’m happy to report that I will be receiving the ‘Disc box’ with its book, art and two vinyl’s (one In Rainbows and the other is just ‘other’ they didn’t fit on the album). I like the way Radiohead define their art and appreciate the way they defy consumer culture by delivering a product worth every penny.

So as you wade through the static of the ever present TV Eye, ignore the man behind the curtain and take a listen to In Rainbows. [fuck, sorry, I just wrote that then realized how lame a reference Oz was] My biggest complaint about this record, or rather digital release – no cover art! WTF?

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