What Radiohead have done with the release of In Rainbows will be talked about for years to come. At best, and only time will tell, it will be looked at as changing the industry as we know it, giving the consumer more power than ever before. At worst, it will be known as a failed experiment, but still remembered with reverence as one of the ballsiest moves in the history of music.
I did pay money for this album. There was no promo copy received. I merely went to the site, entered in $0.00 as my payment and after a two-minute download, the album was on my computer waiting to be heard. By paying nothing, I meant no disrespect to the band or what theyre trying to accomplish. My actions were only for the fact that I will be buying the album when it is physically released in stores January 1, 2008 via ATO Records. Im funny that way - I like music to be tangible. I take pride in the collection Ive accumulated over the years. The idea of trading that for files on a computer obtained either legally or illegally has no appeal to me. Music these days is disposable enough without having it dissipate into the ether with the click of a mouse.
Personally, although I hope Im wrong, I dont think the release of In Rainbows will change the music industry. That said, I also dont believe that the potentially free release of the album months before it hits store shelves will affect sales either. This is because they are Radiohead. They are one of the few bands that have become virtually beyond reproach, both artistically and commercially. Their fanbase is such that if In Rainbows received a critical disemboweling by the press, it would not affect their success in the least. Radiohead knows this, but unlike so many bands of the past that have been in their esteemed position, they have never taken advantage of this fact because they are Radiohead. Theres a mutual respect between artist and audience that really is unparalleled. This album will not receive a critical disemboweling, however. As much as my jaded colleagues would love to rip this album apart or to dismiss it as half-assed due to the nature of release, this will not happen because they are Radiohead. They have a reputation of quality and a responsibility to those who listen. And because they are Radiohead, they do not take this responsibility lightly. As such, it cannot be denied that In Rainbows is a great album that stands strong alongside the bands previous releases, if not standing even a wee bit taller. Yes, that means Im actually stating, on the record, that In Rainbows is better than OK Computer.
OK Computer was way ahead of its time and as such, upon release, knocked listeners on their collective asses. The consistency of In Rainbows really should do the same, but it wont. Consistency usually goes unrewarded. Slow and steady wins the race, but not the glory. There is not one single song on this album that is less than great and as such, at the end of this review you will read one of the highest scores I have ever given for an album review. Dont get crazy - I dont make it a habit of giving perfect scores (indeed, it has happened once only) because I just dont believe theres such a thing as a perfect ..well, anything, but this is as close as Ive heard in a long time.
In Rainbows begins with 15 Step, a quick-tempo rhumba-stomp of an opener that has the band sounding more optimistic than ever before. Its this song that the album title would seemingly be most influenced by. This is then followed up by Bodysnatchers, an anomaly in that its very much in the rock vein, yet still very clearly Radiohead in its execution. Turning left, these songs are then followed by the rest of the album - an album of dour beauty and sublime melancholia. Ive never understood how a band could sound so stark yet so lush at the same time. Guitarist Jonny Greenwood moves effortlessly through the songs remaining either in the foreground, as in "Faust Arp," or in the background, as in the piano-driven "Videotape" but always being exactly where he should be. Of course, as most reading this review and certainly anyone who has seen the band live will attest, to call the multi-faceted Greenwood a mere "guitarist" is a gross understatement. Radiohead would not be a band of such note and merit, were it not for him. His vast talents will no doubt be made even more evident with his scoring of the upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson film There Will be Blood.
I'm an animal / Trapped in your parked car / I am holidays / That you choose to ignore.
- All I Need
When I'm at the pearly gates / This will be on my videotape, my videotape / Mephistopheles is just beneath / And he's reaching up to grab me.
Radioheads In Rainbows is another stellar accomplishment from a band that have a glorious way of pulling the listener into their music and almost suffocating them. After all, they are Radiohead. And as such, we are their drowning victims, breaking the surface for air in the brief moment between songs before being willingly submerged all over again.
9.6 / 10
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