Radiohead- In Rainbows
Considering I haven't written a review in a long time, it seems like the least essential album for me to review right now would be In Rainbows by Radiohead.
First of all, everyone can get this album for free. Fans and non-fans alike can download the album and give their two cents without any sort of sacrifice besides having to pay for bandwidth and whatever minimal time is lost on the download. Even though most music collections these days are anywhere from 50-75% pirated, the record review is still important because people still buy music. And technically, since you can give Radiohead money for their album, this review has some sort of worth, but due to the CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE quality of this transaction, one could very easily retroactively pay the band. What I'm trying to get at here, is that the music reviewer is finally gone as the first wave of the analytical process. Purchasing music for the most part is a zero sum decision, so if a critic recommends something and you don't like it, you can simply chalk it up to having dissimilar tastes and be more wary on your next purchase. With the new Radiohead album, it's very possible that MINE or someone's review might affect however much you decide to give to them, and WELL, I feel absolved of feeling any responsibility if you choose to give more money to Radiohead based off of any review and then feel disappointed.
So I guess what I'm driving at is, a) will positive reviews inspire you to pay more for In Rainbows, and b) does the review even matter at all, considering the most important THING for a review to do is simply introduce you to a new band/genre that you might not have heard about. And since everyone and their goddamn rabbis have heard of THESE DUDES, then well, isn't this simply the best excuse for masturbatory prose since the bodice ripper?
One assumption I'll be making during this review is that I don't really care if the live versions were better or other blah blah blah of that nature. YEAH, MAN, BODYSNATCHES WAS SO MUCH MORE ROCKING LIVE, AND SO WAS RECKONER, HOLY SHIT I'M THE MUSICAL EQUIVALENT OF 2chicks1cup.com! Just in case you haven't been there before, I'm trying to make topical scat jokes because frankly this wouldn't be an online review if I weren't making some terrible allusion to whatever Rick Roll'd or other memes are flying around. Hahah, this video's great because it's so cheesy and this guy takes himself totally serious! I can't fucking wait for my goddamn children to link me to Larger Than Life by the Backstreet Boys through their 10 year old facebook accounts and go “LOL, DEY ARE A BOY BAND ON A SPACESHIP WUT WERE DEY THINKIN?!?!” Suicide will be imminent at that point.
That being said, the new Radiohead album is a gorgeously produced, focused piece of work. Of course it's not revolutionary, it doesn't have to be. Even though Radiohead has been at the forefront of innovation for a while now, there's nothing wrong with them going back and polishing all the little things they are great at to put out a truly outstanding album. What's so inconceivably brilliant about Radiohead is that most bands will never produce a song as great as any of the songs on In Rainbows, and yet some people might complain about it not living up to expectations or some other retarded rubbish.
Every single song on here is extremely polished. The album is a bit curt in a few ways, but I'd rather have a shorter album with more quality then say, Hail to the Thief. The latter was an amazing album, but it definitely had some fat that could have been cut, whereas In Rainbows is non-stop quality, minus the enigmatic Videotape that while functions as a good ender, is somewhat lackluster.
15 Step is a bombastic, electro-percussive racket. The band certainly hasn't ended where they went wrong as they use all sorts of dub entrances for various melodies and instruments. The most energetic song on the album, Bodysnatchers, ends with Yorke's frantic wailing of “They see me coming!” as he yelps and gyrates against his microphone stand. Live artifact Nude is on the album, and while this track is fabled to be one of Radiohead's most immaculate tracks, the song itself I can only imagine, exists as a replication of the live version. Much in the same vein as an artist might take a photograph of a painting before destroying it (Much like Syd Barret used to do with his art), the new Nude sounds pure and despondent, but still remains as some sort of echo of the previous versions, which one might guess as being absolutely breathtaking. It's hard to nail down which songs exist as the group's opus, as each song seems to have been given the same amount of craftsmanship and attention to mood. Weird Fishes/ Arpeggi gets my vote as most beautiful, as the texture of shimmering guitar arpeggios sink underneath aqueous bass and vocals. The way Thom Yorke harmonizes with himself throughout the song is breathtaking, evoking the beautiful vocal work of some of their older songs such as High and Dry, but this time without any sort of whiny brit-pop frame. Reckoner and Jigsaw Falling Into Place are equally excellent, each existing as powerful mood pieces, each with no obvious hooks but tons of harmony and instrumental interplay. Even though most of these songs exist in some way or another in other Radiohead songs, the sheer amount of creativity and musical “magic” the band manages to work into the songs is staggering. Even when the band rips off R.E.M. With songs like House of Cards, the work is distinctly their own.
My only complaint with the album is the total over-reliance on strings, that while may not be something Radiohead has ever used as a crutch in the past, certainly comes up during most of these songs. Faust ARP, while a good Beatles ape (Ringo Starr's wife), has excessively fromagey string lines float in on balloons of self-importance halfway through the song. All I Need, while an extremely haunting ballad, again suffers from the Spector of presumptious strings. While they definitely are a change from some of the techniques the band uses in songs like 15 Step, where electronic flutterings fill in the gaps, in this age of The Arcade Fire and various other string supergroups, they sound rather uninspired.
By the time the album ends, it's just unbelievable how strong Radiohead still are. Instead of choosing to be innovative giants, they step through another door and become masters of mood and texture once again. God, I'm listening to the album right now for the 50th time and I swear to God, there is nothing more mesmerizing and haunting then Thom Yorke's voice wafting through the air at the end of Reckoner. If you want to pay a nominal rate for good music, then look no further, because your chance is here. Radiohead deserves the money, if you'll spend it. Was there really any doubt?
Rating: Double D's (Awesome, perky ones)
Download: Eeets a sahprize!