Radiohead – In Rainbows

24 10 2007

Radiohead’s decision to axe the middleman (the-soon-to-be-helpless record companies) has resulted in a truck-load of money for them. The marketing decision that was being expected to be the biggest debacle of the year has proved to be otherwise and that too in the extreme. By selling their music online at whatever price their fans think to be fair, Radiohead might have created a ground-breaking business model for the other bands. The average music lover it turns out is honest and doesn’t mind paying the right price for what he deems worthy. As for me, I haven’t been able to get my copy yet because the website just won’t load! I’ll keep trying though.

But the good thing is that an old friend of mine has been able to get past the server overload issue. Here’s a big thank you to Vishnu Erramilli for sending in a really awesome track-by-track review of the last album of Radiohead — In Rainbows.

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Radiohead In rainbows

“Transport, motorways and tramlines/starting and then stopping/taking off and landing,
the emptiest of feelings /disappointed people, clinging on to bottles,/and when it comes it’s so, so, disappointing.” — Let Down, Radiohead

The above lines exemplifying 21st century existential angst mixed with an inevitable denouement of disappointment helped define and form perhaps one of the greatest music albums of modern times. That was from Ok Computer released in 1997. Since then, Radiohead have been busy breaking new ground, reinventing and redefining music as an art form. Siamese twins, Kid A and Amnesiac, challenged listeners to give up erstwhile notions of “pop/rock” music. With multi-layered, multi-themed songs, both albums were far more esoteric than earlier releases. Hail to the thief was more accessible, subtly political about the Orwellian Bush/Blair-era. 10 years since Ok Computer, the world seems both regressive and progressive at the same moment. It appears to be in transit into something with more meaning than the past and present. At least that’s the hope.

In Rainbows therefore seems to be a perfect in-transit album. It seems like the perfect blend of Ok Computer and Kid A – an album that reflects on the past, distills the present and laments the future. The music, lyrics, instrumentation and production come together with mathematical precision to create yet another classic. In fact, I doubt that anything that Radiohead puts out will be anything but. As with previous albums, In Rainbows deals with fate, relationships, life and death.

15 Steps: Perfect opener with beats in the vein of “idiotique” that get replaced by Selway’s precise drumming and Yorke’s soft vocals questioning the fate of “ending up where he started/ending up where he began”. Radiohead really gets experimental by introducing *gasp* children’s screams/laughter in the track. Something very uncharacteristically optimistic of the band 🙂

Bodysnatchers: An interesting fuzzy guitar based rocker with Yorke singing about a possible alien possession of the body. Song seems to revisit the futility of 21st century existence with: “Has the light gone out for you? /Cause the light’s gone for me/It is the 21st century”. Almost reminiscent of “Pablo Honey”. Wow.

Nude: Radiohead heeds fan requests by putting one of the favorite (and one of the older) bootlegs on this album. Nude is a ballad that can be seen as a template used by brit-pop bands that emerged during the turn of the last decade. Yorke is his usual mope-y self in this one warning against “getting big ideas” as “they’re not gonna happen”.

Weird Fishes/ Arpeggi: A fast paced song with a steady beat, interesting instrumentation and spiralling song structure. Lyrically the song seems to hint at a longing. A desperation to be together even if it ends in the inevitable (“hit the bottom/and escape”).

All I Need: A beautifully melancholic song, it reminds us of familiar feelings of personal insecurities, inhibitions faced in relationships. The listener is simply crushed under the sonic waves of the crescendo towards the end.

Faust ARP: Acoustic track with an undercurrent of sadness and soft vocals.

Reckoner: This is a surprise to the listener as it bears no semblance at all to the ferocious rocker that the band had been playing on previous live outings. The song has been softened with orchestration added to give it a regal sound.

House of Cards: A simple finger-plucked guitar song with an atmospheric background. Yorke juxtaposes the fragility of relationships (“house of cards”) against the typical response to breakdowns: denial. Beautiful.

Jigsaw Falling into Place: A quick-paced guitar based song with Yorke suddenly changing pitch in middle to shoot the already energetic song into outer space. Lyrically brilliant, Yorke narrates an event a lot of us are familiar with: a night out and meeting someone interesting. Yorke perfectly describes the night out as the universe conspiring to make things happen and a “jigsaw falling into place”.

Videotape: A sombre piano based closer to the album about a person saying good bye to loved ones via VHS because of an unnamed ignominy or the clear heart-rending nature of such an experience.

The best album of the last 4 years. Till the next Radiohead release.

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One response

26 10 2007
rohan

beautiful review.. cudnt have been worded better… just got this album y’day due to work.. if i’d be as ignorant as to pick favorites they’d be 15 Steps, Nude, Weird Fishes/ Arpeggi … this is just what was needed.. once in a while an album comes along and just fits some pieces of the puzzles around you.. here’s one such… radiohead fans cannot miss this one.. i’m now a born again radiohead fan..

“You used to be alright
What happened?”

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