Key To Music Grades

A - You will never be whole without it
B - Highly recommended
C - Flawed, but still pretty good
D - It's your money, not mine
F - Why couldn't this have been burned in Fahrenheit 451?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Radiohead - In Rainbows (2007)

For those unfamiliar with the current state of affairs, Radiohead -- unwitting bearers of the mantle of Only Band That Matters -- is without a label and a distribution company. Ergo, rather than peddle to corporate filth and delayed the release of their album In Rainbows, they've decided, just as they have musically with each of their albums, to turn the music industry on its head and release the album themselves -- except that you decide what price you would like to pay. A conventional release is expected sometime next year, and a special box set (priced at £40) will be shipped in December of this year; the box set includes the actual album and a bonus CD as well as accompanying vinyl records and artwork. As of October 10, 2007, the album has been available for download at, if you haven't gotten it already -- again, at whatever price you wish to pay, to include zero. (I paid $10 and it's been worth every beautiful Abraham Lincoln.) Not only is this one of those most brain-splitting ventures we've seen in quite awhile, it's also one of the most brilliant. You think people are going to pay nothing? Absolutely. But venture over to Amazon and check out the obvious increase in the sales ranks from everything in their back catalog and tell me, honestly, who do you think those new customers are? Not me. I already own every LP, EP, b-side, etc. that you can think of. How's that for major-revenue producing exposure in the least possible time?

Onwards. This long player, Radiohead's seventh, is simply amazing. If you are expecting something remotely bearing any kind of resemblance to their previous albums, then go listen to those albums again, because In Rainbows won't do it for you. Thom's voice is cleaner and clearer (like on The Eraser), and the music is layered only inasmuch as it needs to be. Rabid Radiohead fans will immediately recognize "Nude," a hanger-on of a song dating back as far as the OK Computer sessions that has finally met the expectations of the band -- and what an otherworldly performance! Thom's voice is beyond beautiful; but like past Radiohead releases, there is a sense of menacing disquiet that undercuts the overt and perhaps superficial feeling evoked musically from the song. (Think "Pyramid Song" from Amnesiac.) In fact, before I continue, I would like to counter much of what is being written about this album; that Radiohead's music has become more accessible; that it seems happier; that it is more mellow. At first listen -- perhaps; but there is something far more sinister at work during In Rainbows than meets the ear. I believe we must take Thom at his word when he states that the lyrics are more terrifying on In Rainbows than on OK Computer. Is it no coincidence that "Videotape," the last song on the album, sounds like a suicide note left to someone, replete with its mournful piano and eerie drum tapping? For all you happy-sayers, ask yourself if the joy of a glockenspiel or if an uplifting acoustic guitar really overpowers Thom's real and very fragile voice bleatings of collapsing infrastructure, being eaten by worms; or, my favorite line from "Nude" -- "you'll go to hell for what you dirty mind is thinking." Sound likes the "we hope that you choke" at the end of "Exit Music," right? You know, that romantic little love ditty about Romeo and Juliet? Or perhaps "we can we wipe you out anytime" from "Sit Down. Stand Up" was more your cup of romantic tea?

Well, get on with it if you haven't already. The fury of "Bodysnatchers" -- the lush arrangement of the perfectly brief "Faust Arp" -- the skittish electronica of "15 Step" -- the funk-laden groove of "All I Need" -- the wonderful arpeggios in "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi." The album is just brilliant -- like a tender hand hopeful of redemption scouring through the blackness and shit. It's Radiohead people. Relish it. A

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