RADIOHEAD – In Rainbows (Download)

I am not the biggest Radiohead fan, having never heard ‘Kid A’ or ‘Amnesiac’ and getting rid of ‘Hail To The Thief’ after finding it mostly boring. So, while admiring the band for having the guts to put the album online with a price at the purchaser’s discretion, I did not head straight for the laptop and download it. I was actually looking for some rare Mumm-Ra tracks a couple of weeks later when I came across a site that had it available for free, and so I thought that I might as well hear it. If I liked it I could buy the CD and if I didn’t than no harm done. So, how does it compare to the albums of theirs that I do like? Quite well, actually, being enough like their classic 90’s albums to draw me in, while having a smattering of experimentation to bring the band up to date. ’15 Steps’ is an odd choice to open the album as its beats and dance feel make your nervous about the rest of the album, but ‘Bodysnatchers’ distorted intro leads onto a piece much more in the vein of classic Radiohead, with an excellent solo by Jonny Greenwood, and as it turns out the most overt guitar sound on the record. ‘Nude’ is the first song that I liked straight away, being an atmospheric, string-laden ballad very much in the mould of ‘OK Computer’, and this feel is carried into the next track ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’. ‘All I Need’ has more electronics that previous songs, but the brooding vocal suits it down to the ground. ‘Faust Arp’ is their most experimental piece, with Yorke almost rapping over a backing of acoustic guitar and strings, but for me it works really well, and fast becomes a favourite. ‘Reckoner’ is an upbeat interlude, with a vocal by Yorke reminiscent of their classic albums, and ‘House Of Cards’ is one of their most straight-forward ballads, with a delicious melody and commercial edge, but given the Radiohead treatment by having guitars and effects interwoven behind the song. ‘Jigsaw Falling Into Place’ is a great rock track, and fittingly is their next single, and the album closes with the fragile ‘Videotape’ – just Yorke on vocal and piano, with stuttering drum loops giving it some structure. Overall this album is much more electronic than previous releases, with the guitars much less in evidence, and Yorke favouring the falsetto vocal, and even though I have never heard ‘Kid A’ I would guess that this album is very much in the same vein. For me, it was definitely worth hearing before buying as this is so different from the albums of theirs that I love that had I bought it I may well have been disappointed. However, I must admit that the more I hear it the better it gets, and while it will never reach the heights of ‘OK Computer’ or ‘The Bends’ for me, it is still better than ‘Hail To The Thief’ and so I may still end up purchasing the CD when it appears on XL Records.