I read a quote on "In Rainbows" that stated Radiohead had finally met expectations by surpassing them. I can certainly echo this statement, and perhaps even stake the claim that this may well be Radiohead's best album. Certainly a huge claim, but "In Rainbows" is a wondrous album.
I will keep things short as many reviewers have picked apart and detailed individual songs and themes. So, most importantly for me, "In Rainbows" treads that impossibly difficult line of being mostly accessible yet surprisingly lasting. It simply does not tire. Months and months of sporadic listens and I still become totally involved and immersed, a feat that separates truly great albums from good ones. The overall sound of the album perfectly blends the sombre electronic tones of "Kid A" and "Amnesiac" with the guitar-driven rock of "Ok Computer" and "The Bends". It's satisfyingly experimental when need be, yet equally sparse and simplistic. It's cold and desolate at times, warm and genial at others. It is everything I can want from a Radiohead album. Beautiful, consistent, cutting-edge music.
After a protracted stint out of the limelight, Radiohead have appeared, as if out of nowhere, with their seventh record In Rainbows.
Radiohead's last offering, Hail to the Thief, was, if anything, a slightly bloated record. Although it satiated the pro-guitar lobby, it felt too long and lacked the eccentricity and creativity of Kid A and Amnesiac. The comparatively short In Rainbows, while certainly not an exercise in regression, recalls the eerie, otherworldly atmosphere that so characterised those two triumphs of experimentation and abandonment. However, never has Radiohead's experimentation been so accessible, so tender and so achingly beautiful.
The album opens as expected. 15 Step could have been a track on Thom Yorke's recent Eraser project. It utilises Yorke's obvious appetite for creepy, disjointed, discombobulated electronica hinged by Johnny Greenwood's fretwork and Yorke's melodious sarcasm and wit. Yet amid the computerised confusion, In Rainbows radiates with longing, regret and a deep sadness. These are emotions not approached with much regularity by Radiohead.
Unlike The Bends or OK Computer, which openly portray a mood of coarse resignation, In Rainbows insinuates and implies through its sometime sardonic yet often tender lyrics and soothes and stirs through its shimmering and resonant melodies. This is Radiohead at their absolute finest. Nude (Big Ideas) is a perfect illustration of Radiohead as they are today. The song is about infidelity and is racked with guilt: 'So don't get any big ideas / They're not gonna happen / You'll go to hell for what your dirty mind is thinking'. Similarly, House of Cards touches on the same subject matter. Infidelity? This is Radiohead. Radiohead make songs (if one will allow me to criminally paraphrase) about escaping death, inadequacy, paranoia and corrupt governments. Not this time. Radiohead have approached their vulnerabilities and by facing inner frailties, they have managed to create frighteningly personal musical expositions.
Reckoner, perhaps the highlight amid an album of highlights, starts with cycles of simple guitar riffs over a soft tambourine rhythm. Soon the guitar pattern swells into a mellifluous melody that circles, butterfly-like, into a hypnotising and then rousing string-laden ascension. Contrast this with the opening eeriness of All I Need. Yorke mumbles: 'I'm an animal trapped in your hot car / I'm all the days that you choose to ignore' while a lazy marching baseline plods drunkenly along. The song deals with the desperate nature of infatuation, over-dependency and isolationism: 'I'm gonna stick with you / Because there are no others'. However, this saturnine mood soon transforms and escalates into a thickly layered release of jolting piano chords, crashing cymbals and the breathtaking, unnerving anguish of Yorke at his majestic pinnacle. This is a song truly intimidating in its beauty, and while many still feel Radiohead to be too challenging and too abstract it is always worth scratching away at that indurate surface.
Faust Arp is a clear nod to the genial qualities of Elliot Smith and is a clear reminder that Radiohead, the great innovators, are also open to influence without ever stepping into the murky territory of imitation or smugly satisfied rendition. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi exhibits a sincerity and longing that we have seldom witnessed before: 'In the deepest ocean / The bottom of the sea / Your eyes / They turn me'. Never before has Thom Yorke sung of such longing and blind love and affection. Johnny Greenwood's unusual use of special effects allows his riffs and melodies to shine as always as he creates an arcane underwater graveyard landscape in which Thom's nervous moanings fester.
Videotape, the album's climax, is so tender in its sentiment as to be almost unapproachable. The tape in question is a posthumous memento for children left behind. Yorke reflects this achingly sad sentiment with some of his innermost outpourings: 'This is my way of saying goodbye / Because I can't do it face to face'. The song fades out as chiming piano chords soften the overhanging electronic death march.
In Rainbows is flush with subtle melody, truncated crescendos and abrupt endings. It is the better for it and make no mistake, this is still Radiohead alright. There is gloominess and introspection. But this is a band that is getting on a bit in years now and perhaps finally, they are opening up and revealing their true colours.
on 2 February 2009
The most startling thing about this album is how warm and human it sounds. The diversity of tracks is also impressive, from the stuttering drum-machine opening of '15 Step' that soon twists into avant-garde, jazz rock funk. 'Bodysnatchers' is a fuzzy freak-out with one of my all-time favourite Radiohead moments where Yorke sings angrily and simply 'I'm a lie'. The soulful ballad 'Nude' that by the end sounds nothing less than transcendant, and the otherworldy dreamscape of 'Weird Fishes/Arpeggi' which is strangely relatable as Yorke croons 'everybody leaves if they get the chance', which I interpreted as meaning leaving your home town or an over-familiar place for something better.
There's the doom-synth, love obsession march of 'All I Need' that is a lamenting ode from someone who loves but is unloved in return. It ends cathartically but ambivalently as Yorke cries 'It's s'alright, it's all wrong'. 'Faust' gracefully rolls along with bizarre lyrics that are very understated but compelling all the same, as a subtle orchestral backing swells and undulates throughout. 'Reckoner' is percussive and beautiful, featuring vocals that don't sound like they were made by a normal human being, sounding as transcendant as those in 'Nude'. The lyrics state that this song is 'dedicated to all human beings' as if Yorke himself isn't actually one but loves us all the same.
'House of Cards' has the most un-Radiohead lyrics I've ever heard, where we're told 'I don't wanna be your friend, I just wanna be your lover'. 'Jigsaw Falling Into Place' is lyrically flowing pure rock with its tale of a bad night out that I'm sure a lot of people could identify with. 'Videotape' is very emotional with its starched and sombre stabbing of the piano keys, the title proving very apt as the Yorke-meister sings about recording footage of happy moments to watch again in the future, 'this is one for the good days' that brings Yorke back to himself, 'You are my centre when I spin away'. The stately sadness is offset by the belief that everything in the end will be okay, 'because I know today has been the most perfect day I have ever seen'.
I can only repeat myself and say how magnificently otherworldly, and yet how down-to-earth it all sounds. The references to 'Doctor Faustus' are interesting, with one of the songs being called 'Faust' and 'Videotape' featuring the lyrics 'Mephistopheles is reaching up to grab me'. Radiohead have earned their place as one of the greatest bands of our generation and probably many more, full stop. I honestly can't wait to see what they come up with next.
on 19 February 2008
I used to dislike the miserablism of Radiohead. I resented being told how to be depressed. That's my business. What I love about this album is that it has soul, and gives me space to breate without judging my attempts to conceptualise my own pointlessness, as OK Computer did. (We know about the pointlessness of life, you just live in it)
Here though, Thom Yorke's voice has a crunching, wavering soul to it that adds a something gloriously fallible. He's having a go and he's having fun. He's not a soul singer in the conventional sense, but here his voice gains a fantastic momentum that reminds me of the places Aretha went. I like that willingness to drop his pants, take on a new direction, which I never experienced in the clever, self defense workout of "Fitter, Happier", for example.
And it's just that reciprocity that makes me feel that finally Radiohead are about shaking hands with the audience providing more than a view of a grown men showing off their latest post-ironic, traumatic conceits.
To do this they have borrowed heavily in places both from other peoples' styles, familiar blues scales and from more mainstream emotions. A bit of Arcade Fire, a bit of Sex Pistols...This makes In Rainbows an all together more humble, second-hand, worn in record. And with that in mind I name Bodysnatchers, with its collage of influences, the finest track.
on 1 April 2008
Music is undoubtedly a subjective and personal appreciation. There have always been and always will be, bands that people either love or hate. Even Radiohead will have their detractors but I honestly believe that if you are a true fan of music that continually evolves and progresses, then you must surely admire this band. I think "In Rainbows" is fantastic and it just keeps growing on me. The compositional skills and structuring of the songs for a band of Radiohead's long standing, demonstrate a remarkable level of freshness and inspiration. There are some low scores and absurdly negative comments in the review section and even some high scores where reviewers have indicated great music but suggested it is nothing new compared to the band's previous releases. I do not expect everyone to automatically love Radiohead but let's face it "In Rainbows" is a great achievement and in the years to come will be regarded as a classic.
on 17 February 2008
I consider myself a Radiohead fan, even though before this album I'd not actually bought any of theirs, though I had borrowed one from my father - the fantastic Kid A - and was aware of a lot of the rest of their work. However, with the release of In Rainbows I decided it was time to start building up my collection and started with this one. I was very glad I did.
My favourite Radiohead song is actually Exit Music (For A Film). Since discovering that song, actually during the film Romeo and Juliet (I know) I've not found a song which has the ability to directly enter my soul and fill me with what, let's face it, is essentially despair. That was, until this album and several of the songs on it.
I'd like to start with Thom Yorke. His voice is what makes the band for me. I'm not even sure quite how to describe it but he has an ability to put such emotion and convey so much through his words. It's one of the few bands which has the power to actually make me feel something and really feel it - not just sadness or happiness or whatnot, which most bands can do, but a whole range of stuff like despair and hope and so on. I nearly cried when my brother told me that Mika was better because he expressed his emotions very well.
The melodies are beautiful, the lyrics are interesting and deep and all in all, this is an album full of great songs. I'd like to particularly note Weird Fishes, Videotape and 15 Steps. Of course, there are always people who hate Radiohead because they're 'depressing'. Which they are. "2am music" as my friend calls them. Therefore, if you are the type of person that prefers cheerful happy music, Radiohead are totally not your band. But if you can cope with that, then you'll love this band.
on 19 March 2009
I must admit, I waited a while before buying this album.I thought it would be the same as their other excellent albums, with no suprises (pun intended), and the thing is i was right on the first bit but way wrong on the expectation level. Cause its as though radiohead have made an album which sounds deep but at the same time really acceseble, some of the tunes such as All i need, weird fishes,reckoner and House of cards, just get into your head and stay there, and working in an environment where music is banned thats all i need to get through the day.Radiohead have got this reputation for making depressing music but the words i would use are melancholic and beautiful. I think this album is an artistic masterpiece. I think also as a band they have matured like a fine wine, and Thom Yorke's falsetto is still a fine whine.
on 7 February 2008
What is a masterpiece? Who knows now the word is so commonly used. However is it -
1) Music you can listen to repeatedly and still be moved and thrilled?
2) Music appealing on an emotional level that tingles the spine and causes a grin at the same time?
3) A recording with great songs, sung with intense passion and played with beautiful musicianship?
Does this record tick all these boxes? You bet, great pleasure at under £10 has never bean so cheap. It would be churlish to resist.
on 24 December 2012
Bought this on the 20th of December and was told it would arrive after the 24th. To my surprise, it arrived on the 24th! So I got an early Christmas present, and I was happy.
The album is great, of course. I have to say it's one of the best records in existence (for me, anyway)
I bought this on the XL 33rpm vinyl. Some people said it has audible distortion - while, yes, it is audible, it is not significant enough to make it unpleasant to listen to. And I'm very fussy about sound quality. The sleeves are very colourful too, with lyrics in the broken-up font similar to the front cover. The only thing I would say is not good is that the inner sleeve is substantially smaller than the outer sleeve, so it moves around inside it. It's not really an issue, it only bothers me because I'm fussy.
All in all, this is a great album full of fantastic tunes from our favourite band. Go for it!
on 13 October 2015
one of my favourite albums ever, this is the culmination of everything they have learned from OK Computer onwards. no weird experimental songs here, just great tracks from start to finish.
if you like OK Computer, check out the conspiracy theory that says the songs on this album were recorded at the same time...