(Planet Me)
Sunday, October 14, 2007
RADIOHEAD - "In Rainbows"

OK Computer 2... or just OK?

Four years on from “Hail To The Thief”, the new Radiohead album is… OK. Trailed by no singles, no promo copies, no leaked songs, “In Rainbows” has, quite rightly, scared the willies out of the Dinosaur Record Companies : the first truly independent release, “In Rainbows” is self funded. And you can buy it for £0.00 if you really want to. The purchase model - as everyone no doubt knows - sees the consumer of the music paying whatever price they want, direct to the band. Aside from that though, is “In Rainbows” any good?

Well, the answer is… yes. It’s fantastic..and also it's average. As one might expect from Radiohead’s consistent track record (aside from the patchy, bollocks, Pixies-enamoured ‘Pablo Honey’), “In Rainbows” is a fine album. Sonically there’s little progression on from the Radiohead Reboot that was “Kid A/Amnesiac”, and even less from “Hail To The Thief” - a mixture of murky mood-rock, soaring falsetto vocals, and strange bleeps and orchestral sweeps that typify the Radiohead template. At first listen, there’s nothing that leaps out from the speakers as a stand-out track, a hit single, or anything like that. What there is though is a consistent, clear mood of dependable mood music. No obvious clunkers.

Overall, “In Rainbows” presents a hour long mood piece : songs dip and move between the two Radiohead archetypes of frantic worry and a near hopeless resignation. It's a great benefit to finally hear “Nude” - a song that has been part of Radiohead sets since the “Ok Computer” tour – even though a decade of studio tinkering has, in my opinion, reduced the song from the original template to something altogether more epic : lush, enormous, cruelly intimate and also.. strangely underwhelming. The other material, often which has been part of the bands live set for years, has also been produced to within an inch of it's life : no bad thing, but the sound occasionally seems overthought, sterile, pristine. Some kind of life with the edges taken off.

Yorke's falsetto's soars over the top of the musical battle as if it doesn't belong : and shorn of the traditional cultural model of album/tour/single, these songs aren't immediately memorable. The Bends Part II, it ain't. Radiohead are never going back there. They're out there in some strange alternate universe, and it aint exactly all THAT. Yorke warbles his instinctual nonsense, the music ebbs and soars, but... somehow, the end result is less than the sum of the parts. As if the combined effect of these ten pieces together is somehow lesser, “In Rainbows” is overall, underwhelming. (Given the fact that the record thus far released is fairly obviously only 60% of the finished listening experience : the physical format released 3rd December 2007 contains an 8 extra songs). Maybe its the fact that I can't hold this artificat, I can't experience “In Rainbows” as anything physical, just a selection of 160kbps MP3 files, maybe then I can't love this, feel this, isolate this the way that I would a conventional record : Like all Radiohead albums, “In Rainbows” is initially a disappointment : only time will tell if it is any good, because for now, I just can't tell if it is anything more than another good Radiohead album.

i felt a bit let down by Nude. Having heard it (as Big Ideas) at many gigs the 'proper' recording didn't feel as raw and robust - the edges were taken off and that took away a bit of the power. Still great though.

Reckoner has to be the choice for a single surely?
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