Radiohead – In Rainbows
Update: I’ve written a second review here that makes much of what I’ve written below null and void.
The latest album from legendary group (I would say “rock group” but they go way beyond mere rock) Radiohead has been released in MP3 download today. I’ll come on to the why’s and wherefore’s of the way they released it later, first a look at a few tracks:
The opener is exactly what you’d expect from Radiohead – angular and driven. But the overall effect, as so often happens in their music, is one of coherence and fluidity. The time signature of 5/4 unsettles, but the dreamy guitar lulls you back to safety.
The first thing I thought when I heard this was “chill-out drum and bass with added guitar”, and I suppose Radiohead have a good line in that kind of sound. With lines like “I’d be crazy not to fall, to follow where you lead” the longing wistfulness of Thom’s voice really comes out. The track builds then is stripped away to the counterpointed arpeggi of the title before breaking out into a more sinister version of the original feel. Yes, you might have guessed it, weird noises abound.
I think someone has been listening to Turin Brakes, judging by the opening of Faust Arp. But of course they’ve subverted what would otherwise be a pretty standard pop-folk tune with extra beats and unexpected chord twists, even if the accompanying strings are pretty pedestrian. All in all it sounds like Radiohead Unplugged.
Thom’s falsetto on this track seems, to me, a bit weak compared to the soaring vocals on their classic album OK Computer, but the track bounces along in a jolly (OK, make that dark) fashion until the half-way mark. Following a string interlude you get the feeling of a very strange gospel song, again with cyclic guitars underpinning the disjointed drums.
House Of Cards
Probably the “happiest” song on the album, House Of Cards sounds like it could have been recorded by the Stone Roses in an extremely mellow mood. With weird noises, of course. This is one of those tracks you could fall to sleep to without (much) risk of nightmares.
Jigsaw Falling Into Place
Most people will never have Radiohead playing in their living room, but turn this track up and you’ll be nearly there. The dry treatment and guitars threatening to break out of the speakers makes them as close as they are likely to be on a recording. Once again they’ve employed the use of a zombie choir to good effect.
Overall this is a good album, just as you’d expect from Radiohead. However it’s not up there with their best, as there isn’t really any ground-breaking production. It could be described as an impressive disappointment – some gorgeous, comforting sections but overall it leaves you much the same. It’s not that it’s bad, it isn’t, but I made the mistake of listening to both The Bends and OK Computer the other day and this just doesn’t stand up to those albums. Maybe that will
Now, about the release. Radiohead, rather than charge a fixed price for the album, have freed themselves from the shackles of a record company and you can choose what you want to pay. Yes, it’s really up to you, as their website says. I chose to pay the princely sum of Â£0.00 for the DRM-free download, and I’m ashamed of that. This album is worth money, and when the boxset comes out I’ll be parting with some of my hard-earned moolah to get a physical copy.
Reviewed by Chris Taylor, October 10th, 2007. This review is marked up using hReview, because I’m all Web 2.0, baby.