(Editor's Note: The reviews below of Radiohead's new release, In Rainbows, were written by the four members of local band IQEQ.)
Radiohead: In Rainbows
I've listened to this album about 30 times so far in an effort to know it as intimately as possible. I'm still at a loss. On one hand, In Rainbows finds Radiohead at their most subtle, most controlled and most calculating. On the other hand, In Rainbows seems to be missing the passion and intensity of previous albums. Of course, like any Radiohead album, there are moments of blinding beauty, dramatic musical peaks and valleys and sounds both inspired and inspiring. And, of course, as on any Radiohead album, the band stretches and branches off in new directions.
In Rainbows kind of rides on an undercurrent of jazz. It's weird to think of Radiohead and jazz together, and it's not like they are improvising, but there are extension-filled chord progressions that seem to have an uncommonly (for Radiohead, at least) conventional direction and movement to them. In fact, conventionality seems to be a theme throughout In Rainbows. Some songs even border on singer/songwriter. Unfortunately, I don't look to Radiohead for conventionality. For me, it's a matter of artistic ideals. As a standalone work of art, In Rainbows is beautiful and amazing. And Thom Yorke's singing is at its finest. In comparison to other albums, it doesn't move me as much. In all fairness, every time Radiohead comes out with an album, they're competing with themselves. Every reviewer is going to make comparisons to their previous works. I felt the same way after they came out with Amnesiac, but they broke new ground with Hail to the Thief. So there's always hope. I certainly don't love them any less, but I'm already anticipating their next release.
Every so often, the gods of the arts tend to smile down upon us with a light so bright you can hear it. With their seventh full-length studio release, Radiohead has overcome all odds by producing, recording and realizing In Rainbows without any help from a label.
Within the album itself, Radiohead sticks to its usual ambient beauty with electronic drum sounds and amazing melodies, all the while tracing over a collage of sounds from here and then. In "Bodysnatchers," I was able to pick up on a Queens of the Stone Age/Pearl Jam mix. Between the dirty guitar tone keeping the overall movement of the song going and the intricate lead melodies coming together, Thom Yorke's vocal timbre makes the song impossible not to love.
The band quickly switches gears throughout the album, making it hard to tell what was going to be thrown out next. "All I Need" starts with a standard hip-hop beat then develops into a rainy-day cuddle-by-the-fire Postal Service/Death Cab for Cutie feel. It explodes with a wall of sound, engulfing any listener. Not being the biggest Radiohead fan going into this assignment, I was definitely satisfied with the amount of heart and intelligence that went into the production of it all. I would recommend this CD for a time or place where you can listen and relax. I personally was taken to a level of music intoxication.
Radiohead's new album, In Rainbows, seems to encompass the musical range this band has explored through the years and then some. I was literally brought to tears by the sheer original beauty these wonderful musicians have and continue to make. The first three tracks show their diversity right away. The first, "15 Steps," is a minimalistic tune in five-four, vocalized as only Yorke can do it. Track two, "Bodysnatchers," is fairly straight-up rock 'n' roll, reminiscent of The Bends. Three, "Nude," is, well ... so beautiful. So beautiful that it leaves you wanting more at the end. I think you have to take into account that Radiohead toured with Icelandic band Sigur Ros. The flowing strings, epic chords and use of voice as an instrument are a pick from any of Sigur Ros' songbooks.
Along with all that ear candy is a seemingly heavier jazz influence. Songs laden with heavily extended chords and intricate rhythms lean easily toward this. My personal favorite jazz pianist, Brad Mehldau, has done a number of Radiohead songs. This gives him a whole new bag of tricks to play with. He should thank them. I do.
Radiohead made this album available to anyone for any price they feel willing to pay. I paid $3.14159. As a social idealist, I commend them.
Finally, Radiohead must have just the right mix of musicality and personality. Whatever it is, these guys continue to push the envelope. They've probably created their own envelope at this point.
I've finally sobered from the I.V. shot of hype surrounding Radiohead's curiously titled In Rainbows. The first cut, "15 Steps" is a creepy schoolyard hopscotch anthem with a passing hint of optimism in the opening vocal lines. It's an alluded-to joy that'll reappear throughout the album. Featuring one of those intricate electro-acoustic hybrid beats they've been perfecting over the course of the last few albums, this track is intent on making dancers of gloomy academics the world over.
Brawny guitars and all, "Bodysnatchers" sounds just as spirited here as it does live. A cleaned-up recording and inspired performances is all we needed from this track, and we get it, no alarms and no surprises. And such is the case with much of In Rainbows. Understated and narrower in scope than OK Computer, we simply get a handful of brilliant tunes.
Another stand-out track is "Jigsaw Falling Into Place." I can already see the kids driving around fast, alone, bobbing and shaking heads and limbs in their best Thom Yorke impressions. Pulse-raising rockers like this are at a premium here and easily cherished. Not to detract from the tender beauty of tracks like "All I Need" and "Faust Arp" with its heavenly strings, but this album leans to the mid-tempo for sure.
Improbable, I know, but part of me waits for Radiohead to re-write The Bends. Radiohead makes it apparent every time that they're uninterested in backtracking. Many bands mature and just get boring, but any lack of rock on this album is aptly replaced by subtle and creative sonic arrangements.