Radiohead - In Rainbows

At the risk of sounding absurd, I actually think the now-infamous way in which Radiohead distributed their seventh longplayer is more complicated and requires longer contemplation than In Rainbows itself. For that reason, I'll shy away from looking at the significance of the 'you choose how much', zero hour, online release to give a quick comment on what we're actually left with: the album.

Warm and Lucid…

For a band that has spent most of their career yoking alienation, this seems like a strange summary of any of their work. But, for me, that's what In Rainbows is, an inviting album of astounding clarity.

From the first track 15 Step, when Yorke's voice and off-kilter drums emerge of out what would be the normal Radiohead sludge and uncertainty around 30 seconds in, to the final, gripping piano (every key just hits you) of Videotape, everything announces itself immediately, and shines with a rare lucidity. I'm not saying that Radiohead have previously preferred a mushy mix, but just listen to the way that the bass pops in on 15 Step, the deeply resonating acoustic guitar of Faust Arp, and so on - you can HEAR it all, and it sounds... beautiful. Just listen to the way Weird Fishes resolves itself into Arpeggi.

Again, Radiohead have always been heavily affecting, and beautiful, but the WARMTH on display here is truly amazing, considering the drawn-out anger of Hail To the Thief and the alien, ice-brittle electronics of Kid A (and its cousin, Amnesiac). Sure, Yorke is still exploring the parameters of isolation, pervasive ennui and so on, but musically the album tells a different story. Listen to the strings, a returning motif throughout the album, and you can't help but be truly enveloped by the beauteous quality of this music. The textures are overall softer, the sentiment less evil (maybe tending towards apathetic, but then that doesn't quite describe it either).

For me, the highlight of the album is that which it explicitly foregrounds: the drums. They are so varied and crucial here. Kind of like signal stations, tripperer-upperers, skeletons, flesh, who knows what exactly. But they are unique, and they just bring you in. Maybe it’s this percussion that helps me from feeling lost like I normally might when I listen to Radiohead; it certainly seems that way on Reckoner.

Radiohead have always established a relationship of beauty in spite of - tugging at the listener's emotion from great distances, folding over alienation and identification. For the first time, In Rainbows simply presents itself as beautiful, and invites you in.

(get it for yourself, name your price)

0 riffs: