on January 2, 2008
Could Radiohead's seventh album have come at a more appropriate time? Arriving on the heels of the major labels' ugly jury trial victory against a file-sharer (Jammie Thomas from Brainerd, Minn., was fined $222,000 for sharing 24 songs), In Rainbows is poised to drive a large nail in the RIAA's coffin and begin the "Industry vs. Internet" discussions anew. "It used to be just [having a release] on a major label was a source of prestige and status," said Danny Goldberg, former CEO of Warner Bros. Records and Mercury Records. But that was before Napster, blogs, Myspace, esteemed indie labels, album leaks, YouTube and Tower Records' Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Slowly but surely, the industry-induced barrier between music and listeners continues to erode.
When Radiohead asked fans to name their own price for the download-only version of In Rainbows (£0 was an option), I initially interpreted it as a moral conundrum, a test to see how much they would pay for something they could buy on CD for $18.95. Yet that tiny but powerful phrase on the order screen, "It's up to you," seemed only to be the band's way of lowering the aforementioned barrier by placing control in the customers' hands, and another means of connecting with the millions of people who connect so strongly with them.
In Rainbows is bound to resonate with listeners, but not in the way you'd expect. It's warm and inviting, densely layered even at a crawl, and surprisingly mellifluous. It isn't that Radiohead veers away from the function they've served since OK Computer (inverting their internalized anxiety with tropes and imagery), they've just found prettier ways to do it, and fans that have already heard the record consistently speak about the music above all else. The first sounds to flow out of the speakers are Phil Selway's serpentine drums, crisply teched-out à la Battles' "Leyendecker," as though Selway were hitting the heads with live wires. Yorke's opening line, "How come I end up where I started? / How come I end up where I belong?" sounds a bit out of place alongside the Greenwood brothers' comforting guitar-bass interaction and Selway's fluid drum patterns, but when Yorke repeats it near the end, "15 Step" has morphed into a frustrated, minor-key Insides song for the 2000s, burning with repressed energy, and everything makes sense.
Radiohead pays careful attention to their openers as scene-setters, and if In Rainbows can be distilled down to a single track, "15 Step" would arguably be it. Here and elsewhere, conflicting emotions meld together into a dizzying, dazzling tableau, as the chemistry between the band and their technology-wielding producer Nigel Godrich only continues to improve. "Bodysnatchers" finds all of them locked in a tight guitar-led groove that threatens to fly off the handle but dexterously maintains its equanimity, like the rocking midsection of "Paranoid Android" without the acid-tipped barbs. It's nicely followed by "Nude," the dreamy comedown that Yorke actually performed in the late '90s and might have ended up on Kid A. In fact, several songs here date to various points in the 2000s, but In Rainbows sounds anything but cobbled together; clearly, Radiohead has gone to some length to fit the larger pieces of the puzzle as seamlessly as the elements in the songs themselves. Even "Faust Arp"--somewhat insubstantial on its own--works as a fine bridge between In Rainbows' two halves.
"Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" is Radiohead at their most conventionally gorgeous, its stacked arpeggios from Yorke's guitar and Johnny Greenwood's Ondes Martenot keyboard pouring themselves over the track like so much nectar. Though Yorke's darkly imagistic language pops up here, the backing music is so dulcet that getting "eaten by the worms, weird fishes" may just be a metaphor for falling in love. Such smoothly executed dualities are all over In Rainbows: "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" is both upbeat and slightly sinister, while the song's protagonist watches the club she's in become blurry and finds herself caught between dancing and running away. In "House of Cards," Yorke intones, "I don't want to be your friend / I just want to be your lover" over the album's most spring-like guitar lick. That Radiohead is now easier than ever to enjoy on casual listens is actually a big reason why they remain fascinating under the microscope.
We might say that In Rainbows is fairly smooth going the whole way through, were it not for "Videotape." I surmise that much will be written about this song, since it harkens back to vintage Radiohead closers ("The Tourist," "Motion Picture Soundtrack"), but also because--unlike the rest of the album--it's spare and direct and heartbreaking, the way Cat Power's You Are Free became more devastating the fewer instruments she used. A lone piano plays in empty space, soon joined by Yorke: "When I'm at the Pearly Gates / This will be on videotape." And over the course of the song, instruments and voices conjure a soft lament while the drums grow increasingly warped, like the tracking bars on some forgotten VHS carrying a precious memory. For better or for worse, Yorke and his band are back where they started and where they belong, yet wholly in their element and of their moment. Whether In Rainbows stands the test of time is entirely up to you.
At a certain point, a marvelous band will get a reputation so overwhelming, it's simply not possible for them to keep topping themselves.
And from the sound of "In Rainbows," Radiohead has decided not to let their reputation loom over them -- and I'm not just talking about the online digital release. In their latest album, they reinvent their bittersweet pop sound -- they lose some of the trappings of their past work, in favour of warmer, more intimate melodies and traditional instrumentation.
It opens on an angular note with "15 Steps," which is built around a jagged riff.The first couple minutes are full of fuzzy synth stabs and sharp drums, sounding like a jazz number that's being eaten by a computer. "How come I end up where I started?/How come I end up where I went wrong?" Thom Yorke sings mournfully. "You reel me out then you cut the string..."
But then the guitars slide in and twine through the song, softening it into something very different. The scratchy synth beats and subtle guitar start building to a slow crescendo, staying energetic and almost reggae-esque right to the end.
See it as kind of a transition song for Radiohead; they're easing listeners into their new acoustic sound, rather than just dropping us in. But after that, they pretty much leave the "Kid A" territory behind them -- "Bodysnatchers" is an intense rocker brimming with chunky riffs and softly ringing guitars. It's a gorgeous piece.
After that, the songs gently slip down into more introspective territory -- smooth, dark pop songs wrapped in a heavy blanket of fluid strings and subtle slide guitar. Some of these are dressed up in thick guitars and clattery drums. "Jigsaw Falling Into Place drops the strings for a vibrant guitar-rocker edged with synth, and it all finished up with the quivering, melodic finale "Videotape."
You know, I didn't think that Radiohead could surprise me. So many bands get mired in their best-known sound, and they keep turning out the same ol' because that is what the fans expect. But Radiohead has not only made an exquisitely bittersweet pop album, but they've also injected vitality back into their sound. They sound brand new.
Particularly, they've almost abandoned the cool, alien synth of their last few albums. It's still there in patches, but it's quietly overwhelmed by the layers of slide guitar, streams of piano, and smooth sweeps of elegant strings. These are seamlessly woven with clattering drums and cymbals, thick crunchy riffs. And yes, occasionally a little speck of synth.
But their songwriting is much the same -- simple, yet oblique ("I am a moth who just wants to share your light... I only stick with you because there are no others/You are all I need"). While Yorke's trademark wail is still in place, he sounds more melancholy and contemplative than outright woe-is-me angsty. He even sounds a bit cheerful in "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi."
Most long-standing bands can't summon up a new sound, and new freshness, this far into their careers. But Radiohead have created a quiet little masterpiece in "In Rainbows" -- beautiful, quiet, and melancholy.
on January 1, 2008
For the concept (which I'm sure will be imitated slavishly) of releasing mp3's for download and bypassing the music industry, Radiohead are geniuses but that's been talked to death already by everyone so let's focus on the album. "In Rainbows" with its glitchcore/hiphop backings to its quasi anthemic songs is certainly a return to the sound of "Kid A" though nowhere near the wild experimentation of it. However, "In Rainbows" is certainly a more focused album than the great but uneven "Hail to the Thief" and thus could be entitled a return to form. Is is stylistically groundbreaking? No. Is it the first purchase you'd make if you are new to Radiohead? No but you probably own "Ok Computer" and "Kid A" already and want to hear their new album so buy it anyway. From what I can see Radiohead are not going to be breaking any trends musically from now (conceptually with marketing yes but as I said that's been discussed) so as a fellow reviewer of mine (give credit where its do)has implied with each new Sonic Youth album, you know you're a getting a Sonic Youth album (though there is certainly more stylistic variation in their recent albums than Radiohead) but you're getting a solid product musically. The same is true for "In Rainbows". If you've heard their previous albums, don't expect anything dramatic or new (for Radiohead that is) but expect a quality album, eminently listenable. Enough said.
on May 19, 2008
I bought this product directly from W.A.S.T.E. while the regular album was being given away "for whatever price," which I think dampened public interest in it. I paid about $80 for it (40 pounds), and it was definitely worth the cost. The book is interesting, it's photographs of what looks like paint splashes on a black background, obviously done with an artistic eye. The vinyl is an excellent quality recording of the regular album. The bonus album is great, it is NOT, I repeat, NOT just "extra tracks" from the main album. I would characterize it as its own album, it has a flow and tempo and some excellent tracks, albeit just 8 tracks long. Last Flowers and 4 Minute Warning are my two favorite songs, Mk 1 and Mk2 are instrumentals put in not as "filler" as some people have written, but to maintain the flow and mood of the album and I think do very well in that role. I guess for the collectable nature of it, someone might pay $300 (as I see it advertised for sale), but as a piece of music, I would not have paid that much. If you just want the LP, I can see it for sale on amazon now for $19.99. As far as the bonus CD, I cannot find it on amazon or ebay, but I'm sure Radiohead will make it available at some point: it's not just a bonus EP, it's really like an entire album, and a pretty good one. I would think they would allow their fans to own that at some point.
The link to wikipedia article on the album which includes a track listing of the bonus album is here: [...]
The track listing on the bonus cd is as follows:
1. "MK 1" - 1:04
2. "Down Is the New Up" - 4:59
3. "Go Slowly" - 3:48
4. "MK 2" - 0:53
5. "Last Flowers" - 4:27
6. "Up on the Ladder" - 4:17
7. "Bangers + Mash" - 3:20
8. "4 Minute Warning" - 4:06
on January 2, 2008
Perhaps this album is not the monumental statement that was OK Computer, but it is a collection of songs that definitely rewards repeated listens. The songs seem simply constructed, but there is a complexity that unravels over time.
The sound effects and lush soundscapes are still there, but they are not the focus. Instead they provide the background for a band that seems more willing to get a little personal with the listener. "You're All I Need" features Thom admiring a woman, even though from a distance. "House Of Cards" is about an affair with a married woman. Quite a switch from the paranoid voice we are used to. You can hear a little of the anger we know Thom can generate in track 2, "Bodysnatchers", which also features a pulsing beat with grinding guitar chords. There are a lot of hard rock bands that are glad Radiohead doesnt do more songs like this, because this is a song that really exposes how weak many rock bands are.
Some have commented that the track, "Reckoner", is a bit on the dull side, but I happen to really admire this one. It has a lamenting melody that really seems to stick in my head. I havent really had a chance to really take apart the lyrics to this song yet, so Im not really sure what I am supposed to take from it. It sounds like in the chorus (if you can call it a chorus) he is singing "Dedicated to all human beings, because we seperate, like ripples on a blank shore." So perhaps this is a lament on our chosen loneliness. Im not postive, but I love the song.
The final track "Videotape" is well known by fans and sounds like it could have been on Thom's solo effort. It has quirky percussion effects over a piano and is a haunting close to a fine album. The lyrics seem to question what exactly our lives are going to be remembered for. Classic weird, but ingenious, Radiohead.
on January 31, 2008
"In rainbows" is the seventh studio album from UK rockers Radiohead and much like Prince's "Planet earth", caused a storm more from the way it was released (practically free on the internet initially) than for its music. Musically, it's still their progressive distorted sound perfected on "Kid A", but where that release sounded rather robotic and aloof, this is a bit more organic and sensitive with more guitars; rather like "Kid A" with a heart.
At just 10 tracks, it cuts right to the chase, opening with the skittery, initially sparse "15 step" progressing into a guitar driven pseudo jazz sound. The upbeat "Bodysnatchers" features fuzzy guitars, while the haunting ballad "Nude" features Thom's delicate falsetto.
Raising the tempo again is the sunny, guitar drenched "Weird fishes/Arpeggi" (yes, the lyrics are still as vague as ever), followed by the brooding but catchy "All I need" which has what is closest to a regular song structure. "Faust arp" is a tender acoustic string filled ballad which goes back to being musically obtuse.
My favourite is "Reckoner" with gently rolling guitars, live sounding percussion, and Thom in ghostly falsetto mode. Brilliant! "House of cards" (with ghostly effects) reminds me a bit of REM, the upbeat "Jigsaw falling into place" made the UK top 30, and closing is the piano ballad "Videotape" (gentle percussion and harmonies creep in - it does remind me somewhat of Arcade Fire's "Neon bible").
While not topping either release, in my opinion anyway, "In rainbows" is up there with "Ok computer" and "Kid A".
on December 31, 2007
"Forget the hype. Forget the hoopla. Forget the format. Forget what you want it to sound like. Just listen to the music and decide for yourself." This is what I told myself when I downloaded Radiohead's "In Rainbows" in the early hours of October 10, 2007. I told myself this to avoid any disappointments that I may have incurred from having preconceived notions. It didn't work. After 4 years of waiting for a new Radiohead album (the longest stretch the band has ever had between albums), I was ready for something amazing. What Radiohead has delivered isn't exactly groundbreaking, but it is Radiohead, and it is good. For that, I can't help but be happy with my experience with "In Rainbows," even if I'm a bit disappointed that it's not as amazing as I would have hoped.
I don't consider myself to be a hardcore Radiohead fan and I say this only after meeting people who do. I'm more of a moderate fan, myself. I believe "Kid A" to be their best album and "Paranoid Android" is my favorite song ever written, but I don't go scouring the net every day looking for the latest Radiohead news and such. I think Dead Air Space is unnecessary and pretty lame for the most part and I can't understand why people actually read it. And I think that Radiohead is absolutely at their best when they are pushing musical boundaries and forcing us to rethink our notions about rock music; what it is and what it can be. That's the Radiohead that I enjoy listening to the most, but unfortunately that's not the Radiohead on "In Rainbows."
For what is probably the first time in their career (not counting "Amnesiac"), Radiohead shows very little progression from their most previous album, and are hardly expanding upon their sound. "15 Step" is probably the most progressive that the band sounds on the album, heavily featuring an unrelenting hip-hop beat and a ridiculous bass line that underscores Thom's vocals perfectly. The shouts of children can be heard occasionally in the background, and is a nice touch that most casual listeners will unfortunately miss. "Bodysnatchers" is another fantastic song, and it's probably the hardest that Radiohead has rocked since "The Bends." Thom's vocals are absolutely insane here, too, especially towards the track's end. It may very well be my favorite song on the album.
Both "All I Need" and "Faust Arp" hearken back to an earlier pre-Kid A Radiohead sound. While hearing Thom sing something as soft as "You are all I need, you are all I need" may be a bit jarring at first, by the time the song comes to a close he's totally redeemed himself. "Faust Arp" is even better. A largely acoustic song with crooning strings and Thom's subtle but excellent vocals, it serves as a sort of midway breather, if you will. However, dismissing it as such would be a terrible oversight. "Reckoner" features some excellent production (listen to it with a good pair of headphones) but is generally unaffecting and, dare I say, boring. The instrumentation is mostly stale throughout the song and Thom's melody is downright repetitive and easy. It's a definitely low point on the album.
"House of Cards" scores another point for the quality team though. It's infectious guitars are complemented beautifully by Thom's vocals and some truly excellent peripheral noise. It runs head on into "Jigsaw Falling Into Place," the album's first upbeat track in a while. It has an unavoidable groove to it, led largely by persistent drum and vocal lines. It's one of "In Rainbow's" more exciting tracks, not just because it is faster, but because the band really clicks on it. Again, the production value here is through the roof. "Videotape" ends the album beautifully, in classic Radiohead form. The song has been getting a lot of criticism from the hardcore fans because it sounds a bit different than it did when it debuted, but I've found it to be a worthy closer to the album. While the drums can get a bit distracting at times, everything else is virtually without flaw, and I couldn't be happier.
A lot of fuss has been made about how Radiohead has decided to release "In Rainbows." For what it's worth, I think they are geniuses for choosing to release the album online, not because I want the RIAA to burn (I do) or because I hate paying for music (I don't), but because "In Rainbows" is probably Radiohead's most accessible album since "Pablo Honey" and this may be the only way that a non-fan would be willing to give the band a listen. Despite it's lack of inventiveness, "In Rainbows" is still the best Radiohead album since "Kid A" and a marvelous example of what a talented band can do when given a little time and freedom. Though I may be disappointed at it's less than groundbreaking approach, I am more than happy with what I have been presented with. The fact that I didn't have to pay for it is just a bonus (I'll buy the hard copy when it's released in '08).
Recommended for fans of Radiohead and anyone who wants one of 2007's better albums!
1. "15 Step"
3. "Faust Arp"
4. "House of Cards"
5. "Jigsaw Falling Into Place"
7 out of 10 Stars
on June 28, 2013
'OK Computer' will always be heralded as there greatest accomplishment, but only because it came out in 1997. Compared without the lense of time, in my opinion, 'In Rainbows' far overshadows it. It has my favorite rock songs ('Bodysnatchers') the most beautiful of there ballads ('House of Cards') and the whole is tied together perfectly. Far better than any single performance however, is the production on this album. Never has such a diverse array of acoustic and electronic noises blended so organically- it drops my jaw every time. And it translates amazingly well to vinyl. Definitely get this LP.
on February 5, 2016
I recently purchased this album on vinyl and have given it some thorough listening. My review is specific to this vinyl pressing (33rpm US version). They album itself is great if you like Radiohead. However, this pressing (US vinyl pressing) is very noisy. Right out of the package there was a surface defect that caused a repeating pop on one of the tracks. It also seems to produce a very large amount of static charge compared to any other record in my collection. Overall I am very disappointed in this pressing.
on June 29, 2010
This all comes in a slip cover. There are two separate cardboard cases inside, one of which is pictured. Inside there are two booklets, one in English and the other in Japanese. It also has two pages of stickers to fit on a regular jewel case, which is a nice addition as cardboard cases are easy to damage. Then of course there is disc one of In Rainbows, which sounds the exact same as any retail release, but is put into a smaller sleeve that's rather boring and really doesn't match the rest of the package, but it's easy to overlook. Disc Two, which was originally only released on a non-digital format in a very expensive deluxe edition that sold out quickly is right on par with disc one, and might even be more accessible and enjoyable than that first disc to some listeners. So I highly recommend this to Radiohead fans and newcomers a like, you will not be disappointed.
Edit: I bought this when it was around 20 bucks, a much more reasonable price. While I still really like this import version a lot, its price has definitely reached a "collector's only" price point.