REVIEW: Radiohead, In Rainbows, ?

Posted November 30th, 2007 by Logan Young · 1 Comment

For all their laurels, Radiohead’s kind of like the Pope – zealots claim infallibility, rationals know better. If you’re not in on the inside concept (or only had your elder brother’s Brother Word Processor 10 years ago), OK Computer is a cold, confusing mess. And Kid A and Amnesiac – both stellar portraits of a rock band at wit’s end with the genre – would’ve been tied for best double album since Royal Trux’s Twin Infinitives and the Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie. Moreover, Hail to the Thief (a.k.a. The Gloaming) was only slightly better than the Blair/Bush blundering I’d like to think it admonishes. But no matter what bit rate it’s encoded at or how much you actually paid for it (that’s between you and Benedict XVI my fellow sinner), Radiohead’s newest jaunt is their best foot forward since The Bends blew the balls off Pablo Honey back in ’95.

As with Fight Club and that time you came home from college unannounced only to stumble in on your parents scroggin’ to Tommy James and The Shondells’s “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” let’s not talk about Pablo Honey. In a way, it’s that group’s Mistrial or Kill Uncle – an embarrassing acne scar on an otherwise pretty fucking remarkable visage. And for those privileged enough to catch said visage live in concert, the 10 tracks on display here are hardly brand new bags.

Take the leadoff hitter “15 Step” for example. This 5/4 metered IDM flirtation has been a show staple for the Oxfordshire quintet since May of last year. And just like The Stones’s “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” a good song becomes great as soon as the blossoming children’s choir flitters in from the left channel.

Though as every pot needs a chicken, every incredible rock album needs an equally awesome anthem. The aptly titled “Bodysnatchers” is indeed that track. It’s a raucous, nasty, borderline subversive one for sure, but true rock anthems should never sound like “O Canada.” I’ve long given up on trying to identify whatever the hell instrument Jonny Greenwood’s using; you should too.

Warning: what follows next may kill you. “Nude” has been part of the Radiohead canon since the late ‘90s. You might know it as “Failure To Receive Payment Will Put Your House At Risk” from Grant Gee’s excellent documentary of the band, but it’s soul stealing malaise is anything but an excellent adventure. It’s a bogus existential journey actually, like watching Elliot Smith in a Beckett play directed by Antonioni. Couplet for one of Alexander’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days: “Don’t get any big ideas/They’re not gonna happen.”

The jingly noodles of “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” isn’t all that substantial, especially when it’s eclipsed five minutes later by my new favorite Radiohead tune “All I Need.” Sandwiched between a low end synth rumble and piezo-popping glockenspiel, when Thom Yorke coos the title phrase, it’s every bit low maintenance promise and high brow art…even at 160 kbps. Nigel Godrich’s perpetually couture makeover makes this one beautiful on the outside; the stylized sound of rock’s most restless band finally content keeps it real where it counts.

Likewise, the aphoristic brevity of “Faust Arp” is but a foretaste of the divine glory of “Reckoner.” Phil Selway’s drums have never sounded so spacious, sounding as if Phil Spector recorded them in the bathroom of an airport hangar. Jonny Greenwood’s definitely playing a kick-ass guitar on this one, and while I often have no frickin’ clue what words are coming out of Yorke’s mouth, when his falsetto soars “Dedicated to all you,” in my heart I just know he’s talking to me.

Cut eight’s “House of Cards” will never crumble in my lifetime at least – “a thing of beauty is a joy forever,” right Mr. Keats? – and “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” is in fact four minutes and nine seconds of what Kid A would deem “everything in its right place.”

Most rock tunes don’t know when to end. Contrary to pop music belief, a fadeout does not imply that the song goes on forever, eventually seeped up into the ether of infinity. Masters of the closing track, Radiohead bring it all back home – sans fade – with the abso-tively, posi-lutely stunning “Videotape.” It’s a classically perfect piano passacaglia, along the lines of Bach or Purcell. Closing argument for the best paean to sex and celluloid since Steven Soderbergh: “You are my centre/When I slip away/Out of control/On videotape.”

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 K // Nov 30, 2007 at 11:13 am

    “It’s a bogus existential journey actually, like watching Elliot Smith in a Beckett play directed by Antonioni. ” gold.