October 15, 2007

in rainbows in review

Filed under: music — johnxavier @ 10:34 pm

Listening to In Rainbows feels oddly reminiscent to returning home for the first time in years – sure all those bits and pieces from your past are there, but somehow it’s different. Both the scenery (or music in this case) and you have changed. Simultaneously you feel comfort in the familiar and curiosity in the foreign. So where does this devoted disciple of Thom Torke and co stand on their latest product? Even after four days and countless repeated listens, it’s too early to say. I’m impressed, but I’ve also had most of these tracks on repeat at some point over the past year and half. Anticlimactic? Perhaps. Dissapointing? That’s an unequivocal no.

Rainbows is as dense as any other Radiohead work; yet it’s surprisingly accessible due in large part to the lo-fi production qualities of these ten tracks. At times, it feels like the band themselves are post-Radiohead, more derivative than an evolution of their former selves. The paranoia of the impending doomsday to financial gluttony and self-righteousness familiar with most of their material from the past decade seems replaced with more personal matters and musings. Indeed both the song writing and instrumentation seems more human. Thom, vulnerable as ever, is in touch with emotion and his peers. The blips and beautifully bizarre instrumentation is now presented straight forward guitars and drums – well, at least as straight forward as Radiohead gets. Yet, this new approach yields wondrous results – whether the gripping guitar hooks of “Bodysnatchers”, the sauntering bass line of “All I Need”, or the cool confidence of Thom’s delivery in “Jigsaw Falling Into Place”. Shining brighter than any other track, a few listens to the percussive pitter-pattering of “Reckoner” reveals true beauty, Yorke’s vocals stretched to their limit gushing over the deceivingly intricate band performance.

The first time I put on this record, sleep deprived and all, I remember an initial feeling of almost being let down. It was difficult at times, as in hearing Yorke’s sing-song stream of consciousness on “Faust Arp”, to think “These guys are never going to create another ‘Exit Music’ or ‘Let Down’”. Certainly, this album pales in comparison to OK Computer, but then again all but a few albums do in the history of rock music. Please don’t get my feelings confused – there is plenty of brilliance on this album. This isn’t a band that’s outpaced itself but simply grown confident in its sound, and these tracks exude this sentiment perfectly. While I feel the band missed an opportunity to unearth a musical Holy Grail in a studio translation of “Videotape” which was simply celestial in its live renditions last year, the band consciously decided to end this outing with a subdued elegy, moving at a slow funeral pace. Yet after this track meanders into the darkness of silence there’s nothing the listener can do but awe in the beauty that’s presented in the ten songs that have passed. This may be a new look Radiohead, but it’s a band at the top of the game that is quite simply unmatched in the world today.


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