Album Review: Radiohead’s In Rainbows

By on Monday, 22nd October 2007 at 7:35 pm

Radiohead - In Rainbows coverThey’re one of the biggest bands of the past 20 years and have more critical acclaim than they know what to do with. Due to this, reviewing a Radiohead album is possibly one of the hardest jobs going – no matter what is written about the album, there will be someone who has a different opinion of the album. However, whatever your thoughts, you’ve got to agree that Radiohead have guts – their release strategy for this new effort has been well documented in the national press, and has worked out amazingly well for the band. By letting fans choose how much to pay from $0 all the way up to $100, they’ve managed to prove that people are still willing to pay for music.

Radiohead live just 15 minutes drive away from where I live, and whilst a lot of friends love them to pieces, I’ve failed to understand their appeal for many years. Many of their songs from their OK Computer / Kid A period sound simply like Thom Yorke wailing over distorted guitars to me. However, their new album “In Rainbows” offers a surprisingly accessible new sound from the kings of re-invention.

Gaining a more electronic sound that’s more akin to Thom Yorke’s recent solo effort, “The Eraser”, this collection is a trippy visit through the dreamy world of four British guys, rightly worried about the state of the world today. Many of the lyrics are slurred or hard to work out, giving a level of personalisation: everyone will hear the songs differently; they’ll have their own stories to fit the songs. However, out are the lyrics slating today’s leaders that have graced their more recent albums and in are stories of relationships (“I don’t want to be your friend, I just want to be your lover. No matter how it ends, No matter how it starts” – House of Cards).

Jonny Greenwood’s recent naming as one of the UK’s best Classical Composers of 2006 and experience as film soundtrack writer shines through, as the more complex music is higher up on the mix. Songs such as “Reckoner”, features a complex, multilayered musical arrangement that would put many film soundtrack scorers to shame.

Many of the songs have a “dream like” hazy feel to them thanks to the electronic beeps and bips, which is in sharp contrast to some of their earlier more guitar based albums. Star of the album, “Reckoner” comes just over the halfway point bringing a mournful song, and typically vague lyrics (“Dedicated to all you, all your needs?”) sung in Thom’s high falsetto. Violins play, tambourines rattle and gentle drums grace the climbing close, for the undoubted highlight.

Closing the album is “Videotape“, the most depressing track of the album as Thom battles with his own mortality – “This is my way of saying goodbye, because I can’t do it face to face”. Building slowly to what you think will be a crescendo, it just dies, a fitting end to the album – strong, beautiful, yet still able to surprise you.

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