Radiohead - In Rainbows

Exactly what you’d expect from Radiohead; intelligent, satisfyingly thought-provoking and sure to be lauded by all who appreciate the less conventional.


It’s official - all it takes is a clever way to get round the perennial problem of the album leak, a scourge which bands fear more than any other, and the world goes mad. In any circumstances new Radiohead material is An Event (complete with capitals), but if anything, the anticipation for their seventh long player has eclipsed any hopes of a second coming, cannibalising column inches like a particularly hungry shark over the past ten days. What we really, really don’t want now is a let down.

Thankfully, there’s no signs of one either. Laid back, introspective and often damn right vertical, ‘In Rainbows’ owes much to Thom Yorke’s solo offering ‘The Eraser’. No grand reinventions of the sound, and nothing even close to a regression to the guitar pop of old, there’s a plentitude of small steps and refinements which together almost perfect the direction the band have taken since ‘Kid A’.

Naturally, trying to judge a Radiohead album on the day of its release, without the days, weeks and even months required to appreciate every quirk contained within is to do it a great disservice. First impressions, however, are nothing if not positive.

‘15 Step’, a glitching, off-kilter opener led by the now custom beats (plus a few cheering kids for good measure) is pretty indicative of what follows. ‘In Rainbows’ doesn’t do singles, except perhaps ‘Bodysnatchers’ - a satisfying blast of noise in an otherwise sea of calm. Instead it prefers to stack up the atmosphere, making what could be called Radiohead’s most complete body of work to date. Certainly, as an album it works far better than it ever could individually, making the move to make sure everyone hears it all together, rather than a track here and there, look all the more impressive.

‘Nude’ (yes, that ‘Nude’) is one of two obvious standouts; a goosebump laden sonic showgarden of the kind only Yorke and co could concieve. If tracks could be timeless on the first listen, this would be the definition. To top that with the sublime ‘All I Need’ is an achievement in itself. Right up there with their finest moments, the centerpiece of ‘In Rainbows’ is frighteningly brilliant. A shimmering, twinkling grower, it’s the building piano that finally crechendos that defies the lack of chart-friendly hook lines and playlist-hogging juggernauts.

Elsewhere ‘Faust Arp’, an acoustic, string-laden aside (at just over two minutes it’s by far the shortest song on the album) and ‘Jigsaw Falling Into Place’ both more than hold their own. Only ‘House Of Cards’ seems a small (yet brilliant) luxury, though at five and a half minutes it’s fair to say it’s a track that will grow with repeated listens.

To the casual listener ‘In Rainbows’ is exactly what you’d expect from Radiohead; intelligent, satisfyingly thought-provoking and sure to be lauded by all who appreciate the less conventional. For the fans it’s the latest evolution of something really rather special. In short, it’s exactly what we wanted; an album that’s both brilliant and unique. Roll on December 3rd.

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