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Radiohead - In Rainbows

  by Mark Rowland

published: 10 / 12 / 2007

Radiohead - In Rainbows
Label: XL Records
Format: CD


Openly emotional and very human-sounding latest long player from Radiohead, which, despite being initally released as a download, with a CD version available as from January 1st, shows that the age of the album is far from dead

While Radiohead's previous album, 'Hail To the Thief', was by no means a bad album (in fact, it was a pretty great album) it was impossible to think of it as anything other than a disappointment. Unlike 'OK Computer', 'Kid A' and 'Amnesiac' before it, the band's sound hadn't particularly progressed on the album, instead mixing previous styles in a way that didn't always gel. Since then, the band have been on a considerable hiatus, with members starting families and embarking on solo projects. Perhaps this break is what Radiohead needed to re-focus their efforts, as their latest album, 'In Rainbows', is one of the most coherent, infectious and vital albums they've recorded. In a bold and brilliant marketing move, the band have released the album through their website before it is rolled out through the usual channels. Fans have been invited to pay whatever they feel is right for the album, which has varied from nothing to £100. The album is only currently available in MP3 format, with a discbox version out this month and the standard album out through new label XL on January 1. 'In Rainbows' feels like a natural progression from 'Hail to the Thief', but ditches that album's dense, distant, ethereal atmosphere and replaces it with warmth and intimacy. It is fair to say that this is the band's most emotionally open album. It's also the first in a long time that sounds like it was made by humans. The spluttering electronic drums that announce the arrival of opener '15 Steps' suggests that 'In Rainbows' is another 'Kid A', with Thom Yorke repeating a bluesy melody over the top. This soon gives way, however, to a gorgeously laid-back guitar line, with organic and electronic drums merging seemlessly. This is one of the primary differences between 'In Rainbows' and the previous album; the organic and electronic influences are no longer fighting for space; they work together in such a way that even the most computer-based tracks feel like they're being played by a group of people in a room. 'Bodysnatchers' is 'In Rainbows' 'Electioneering' - a distorted, guitar-driven track that is both experimental and remarkably catchy. It is the third track, the Bjork-like ballad 'Nude', where it becomes clear that this time around, the band are wearing their hearts on their sleeves. With its delicate guitar lines and Yorke's breathy falsetto, it also conjures up the same fragile sensuality that is present on Jeff Buckley's 'Grace', if he'd decided to record it in space . 'Weird Fishes/Arpeggi' is just as beautiful; its jerky drums and guitars building to a chiming crescendo, with Yorke crooning such surprisingly direct lines as "Your eyes/ they turn me". Ok, it's not 'All You Need is Love', but as far as Radiohead is concerned, it's practically Boyzone. 'All I Need' takes this emotional honesty even further, with a chorus that actually could be out of a poppy love song. Before you start worrying that Radiohead are going to start miming to songs while sitting on stools, it also includes the line "I am an animal/trapped in your hot car." 'Faust Arp' is a stripped down acoustic number that most brings to mind Elliott Smith, which seeps seemlessly into 'Reckoner', which mixes understated guitar parts with jazzy synchopations. The most surprising song of all on the album is perhaps 'House of Cards', with its warmth and reggae-style emphasis on the second and fourth beat in each bar of music. Most surprising of all is hearing Yorke sing the line "Don't want to be your friend/I just want to be your lover" like a pan-dimensional Prince (as in the symbol, not royalty). The final two-tracks cement the album's strength in completely different ways. 'Jigsaw Falling Into Place' is the first single off the album and is one of its most immediate, combining intricate, inter-woven guitar riffs and a solid drum beat, building tension without ever fully releasing it.The melancholic piano piece 'Videotape' closes the album perfectly with its lingering beauty, backed by a heartbeat-like pulse, building up gently before drifting to it's conclusion. It's at that point that you will probably go back to the first track and start it up again. Then you'll probably listen to it again. And again. Once 'In Rainbows' has got hold of you, you won't be able to stop listening until every beat, word and note has been branded onto your brain. It's not often these days that you find an album that works so well as a whole, so much so that you only ever listen to it as one album, rather than a colection of tracks. By creating such a thing, Radiohead have inadvertantly (or not) made a statement against these iPod-dominated times where the 'track' is becoming more important than the album. They have proved that the album isn't dead - it's just been on hiatus.

Track Listing:-
1 MK 1
2 Down Is The New Up
3 Go Slowly
4 MK 2
5 Last Flowers
6 Up On The Ladder
7 Bangers + Mash
8 4 Minute Warning

Band Links:-

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