Published Oct 10, 2007Forget about how they're releasing it or how much you're paying for it or even at what bitrate the download is coming to you at — the true issue at hand is that Radiohead have their seventh album out now, after four years, a whole lot of cryptic teasing and with only ten days notice.
In Rainbows won't hit you the same way OK Computer did and you shouldn't expect it to; the music isn't speaking from such an innovative perspective — they're taking care of that on the business end instead. However, it finds the band revved up with more vitality and — yes early, fair-weather Radiohead fans — guitar-based songs than all of their last three albums combined. (It must be from the thrill and anxiety of being the world's best unsigned band.) In fact, if you tag "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" on to the end of OK Computer in your iTunes playlist, it will feel right at home, I guarantee it.
"15 Step" introduces the band with a skip in their step, thanks to some skittering Warp®-brand beats and a melange of jazzy guitarplay, snaking basslines, pitchshifting and playground samples, which suggest they indeed are having some fun. "Bodysnatchers," on the other hand, is filled with the paranoid rush of the film it was likely named after: three guitars zig-zag, Phil Selway's kit keeps it motorik and Thom Yorke waxes psychotic, all as if they're driving the getaway. "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" keeps the freewheeling rush, with a rhythm out of Neu!'s catalog travelling at a pace as dizzying as a past song like "Myxomatosis."
In a different headspace are "Nude" and "All I Need," which find the band sedated and Yorke a little more worried, but each present melancholy differently: the former in a light, shoegazing waltz, the latter in an ominous brood of rock ventilation. "Faust Arp" sways abruptly albeit sublimely, as an acoustically inclined ballad that is lifted by a wondrous symphony. As nice as it is though, familiar live staple "House of Cards" acts as the album's standout: Yorke's pensive call to a lover sits atop a mid-tempo guitar duel between some subtle picking and screeching feedback; it's one of the loveliest things they or anyone has ever recorded, really.
It's "Reckoner," however, that may be the most interesting track as it finds many different hands at work: the stellar guitar interplay between Jonny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien; Selway's clattering industrial percussion; a creeping string arrangement; and Yorke's Curtis Mayfield falsetto emoting accordingly. Finally, "Videotape" correspondingly closes out the proceedings with a lovely cinematic vibe that builds tension with a cyclic piano riff and disorienting percussion; it leaves us gasping for breath like the best cliffhangers do.
Who knows how much of it will surprise bootleg hoarding diehards, but In Rainbows is an album worth waiting for. It will no doubt have a long life ahead of it, as it sees another release on December 3 when it comes at select fans in various formats, and then eventually through a traditional release in the new year. There's no denying it's an album that will only get better with time, and what Yorke, Selway, O'Brien and the Greenwood brothers have done here, every little detail — be it musical or not — is praise-worthy as always. (Independent)