Independent release, 2007
REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/18/2007
The release of In Rainbows shocked the music world and many Radiohead fans this month. Obsessive fans were only given about a week to salivate and speculate about what direction Radiohead was going with this release and whether this album would continue Radiohead’s 10-year-plus streak of stellar albums. Fans weren’t given much time to work up their expectations.
If fan expectations were slightly lower due to the waiting time, In Rainbows sounds like a band that went into the studio with no expectations other than to make some sense out of the last 10 years. As good as Hail to the Thief was, the album did sound like one that was recorded for two purposes: to satisfy a recording contract and incorporate more guitar to satisfy fans who were put off with the electronica-heavy Kid A and Amnesiac.
Though In Rainbows starts off with the relatively underwhelming “15 Step,” the album quickly finds its momentum with “Bodysnatchers.” Splitting the sound up in both earphones, you hear buzzing atmospherics in your right ear and some wicked distortion that sounds like a broken printer courtesy of Johnny Greenwood. It perfectly captures the claustrophobic grandeur that Radiohead nails so deftly.
Whereas Kid A and Amnesiac buried Thom Yorke’s vocals under a blanket of techno blips, In Rainbows has Yorke’s vocals at the forefront for most tracks. The most striking examples are “Nude” and the lovely, weary “House of Cards” (the song that promises to supply the “get out your cigarette lighters or cell phones” moment for their next tour). Lyrically, In Rainbows represents the most straightforward batch of songs the band has recorded since OK Computer.
One reason behind the looseness of In Rainbows could be the lack of pressure to deliver another album to fulfill a recording contract. Another reason could be that most of the songs off of In Rainbows have been road tested for the better part of two years. Even during their Hail to the Thief tour, the band was slowly trying out new songs -- and using the road to perfect their sound before they got into the studio. This can be heard not only from
Radiohead’s much-touted strategy of releasing its album online and giving fans the option to pay nothing (or 5 pounds, or whatever) isn’t as revolutionary as the press is making it out to be. Wilco notoriously had Yankee Hotel Foxtrot available online months before it was released as a full-length CD. And recently, Nine Inch Nails (who have also celebrated being labelless) streamed Year Zero a full two weeks before the album’s release date.
Rumors are already spreading about the “proper” release of In Rainbows. A few fan sites have speculated more songs could be added to the release, which is slated for January 2008. Adding new songs to a complete album is always a gamble, especially if it’s as good as In Rainbows. Currently, the album is almost perfect in its length, clocking in at a lean 42 minutes. Also, adding additional songs gives off an air that the album we currently have is incomplete.
Right now, In Rainbows sounds like a finished work. The only thing that’s missing is a CD cover with liner notes, and that's a great place for a disc to be.