Sound — 10
Radiohead return with their eagerly anticipated 7th Lp and it does not disappoint. 4 years after Hail To The Theif, which recieved much criticism for its rushed recording and mastering, "In Rainbows" sees Radiohead totally reinvent themselves once more. With a sound that had once been described by the media as melancholy, this album takes away all of the stadium anthem feeling generated by previous albums and replaces it with beautiful stripped down melodies and rhythms, complete with the heavenly string section, arranged by Jonny Greenwood which features heavily throughout. There is not a note in the entire album that is there for no reason. This is complemented by the recording of the album, despite the download quality, the sound is absolutely perfect. look out in particular for the binaural recording on several tracks, notably "Jigsaws falling into place" and "Videotape." For those fans who heard or watched bootlegs on youtube, Radiohead present the same exceptional song writing they toured last year but now it all comes together to create a 10 track masterpiece that (as we have come to expect)runs like clockwork. Put simply "In Rainbows" sounds like an album one of the worlds best bands have taken 4 years to make.
Lyrics — 10
Like the overall sound of the album the lyrics now present a more stripped form of beauty and seem to speak directly to their listener. 01. 15 Step - Radiohead once again demonstrate their abilities in creating something technically challenging (5/4 timing) yet simply catchy. The use of effects on children clapping works fantastically among the drum beats for a short intro and then you are hit for the first time by Thom's voice, sounding like he is right beside you in the room. Sang with no great volume in his voice, yet the lyrics come through clear above the mixture of drum patterns: "how come I end up where I started?" the perfect start to the album. Jonny's sweetly laid guitar riff then brings the song into another dimension before it's chaotic climax. also watch out for Colin's nifty bass solo! 02. Bodysnatchers - the guitars then step up in the 2nd song, layering riffs on top of one another. Contrasting greatly from the song that was toured during 2006 in the way it has now been stripped down, yet the distorted guitars lead it to be the heaviest sounding song on the album. The clarity of each instrument is something that is perfect throughout the album and it really shows here. The build ups and background noises compliment the energy of the track perfectly and Thom gets to stretch some of his more "rock" orientated vocals. Will be a favourite with fans of Ok Computer and The Bends era Radiohead. 03. Nude - possibly the most beautiful song Radiohead have ever created. The song begins with an introduction created of a string section played backwards and Thom Yorke's voice; this then gives way to the subtle, simplistic sound of Colin's bass playing the simple chords just below Thom's voice. The song is then overtaken by the string section, not at all overwhelming, but blending in with the rest of the band, before the most perfect moment where Thom's voice "you'll go to hell for what you're dirty mind is thinking" is left to hang before beg drowned in sound again. Perfection. 04. Arpeggi/Weird Fishes - starting with a basic drum beat and then building up gradually, the guitar overlaid with beautifully placced effects, the arpeggio's sound beautiful doubled up. The breakdown in the song is a fine example of how Radiohead can suddenly switch to moments of chaos, the cymbals become particularly prominent and there is an array of sound effects taking you to some other world. The song ends reasonably abruptly and there is barely time to breathe before the next track begins, as is the way with the rest of the album, fully creating a landscape of songs and sounds. 05. All I Need - I personally was unsure about it's inclusion until I heard this version. This album version takes you on some dark journey of desperation through Thom's analogies "I am a moth that just wants to share your light." The dull strings and Colin's distorted bass line are lucrative against the desperate vocal and in the 2nd verse the hope begins to arise with the introduction of the glockenspiel adding a tinge to the darkness before the dramatic and powerful ending to the song. 06. Faust Arp - the previously unheard song. a beautiful acoustic once again with a beautiful string section, reminiscent of Nick Drake. Comparisons will also inevitably be made to the beatles "blackbird" The chord pattern is irregular but is carried perfectly by Thom's voice but the song takes on a whole new dimension when the slightly choppy string section enters, yet another face of radiohead shown. This possibly contains some of the albums best sung lyrics. This serves as a brilliant mid-point for the album. 07. Reckoner - the surprise. Expecting a 3ish minute "heavy" rock track, I was overwhelmed by a stunning 5 minute masterpiece. Sounding slightly like "I want none of this" from the war child EP, Reckoner contains beautifully sung vocals, both lead and backing once again complimented by Jonny's string arrangements but it is Phil Selway's drumming that really carries this track from start to finish. Thom Yorkes falsetto really shows the limits of his voice and the stretched lyrics are heavenly. Beautiful. 08. House Of Cards - another brilliant transition from the live version of this song. The guitar is played with such smooth crispness that you cannot help but be relaxed by it and the low sounds of drums and bass sway you into the metronome of the song, but in true radiohead fashion it is the vocals that create the cruel juxtaposition, sounding distant and echoing the repetition of "denial" is chilling. The string section and sound effects once again swarm the song. This is Radiohead at their most lucrative creating something so double edged in both it's happiness and beauty against it's despairingly honest lyrics. 09. Jigsaws Falling Into Place - starting with solid guitar lines overlapping each other, Jigsaws sets out to be the penultimate track to the album in the same vein as bodysnatchers was the 2nd track. However, Jigsaws takes the album to yet a new level. the sinister backing vocal, seeming dark and knowing. The binaural recording becomes so obvious as Thom's main vocal line begins, each line is crisp and precise. The song builds as more parts are added and by the songs conclusion "she looks back, you look back, not just once, not just twice, Jigsaw falling into place" you feel the full dramatic effect of the song. in a word: captivating. 10. Videotape - toured live as a full band version, some may be disappointed about the lack of instrumentation. I urge you to listen closer. This song is absolutely perfect. Thom's piano and voice ring clear throughout, the drumming is sparse and simple and acts as a background noise to the main song creating the full effect of the songs meaning. You are forced as a listener to concentrate harder on the main melody and in doing so realize the beauty of the words "this is my way of saying goodbye, because I can't do it face to face" "no matter what happens now I won't be afraid because I know today has been the most perfect day I've ever seen" Anything more climatic would have fully ruined the effect and brilliantly illustrates how the album works as a whole. There is no need for a dramatic climax as it has already been achieved in "all I need" earlier. This is subtle sweet and magic. A radiohead classic, that leaces you feeling just as disorientated as their earlier work did, yet now there is a heavenly feeling of contentment within oneself.
Overall Impression — 10
Firstly, the way in which this album was released and the stir it has caused in the record industry in itself has been fantastic. however, I do encourage the listener to go beyond the hype. Without making comparison to other works, I would say that in rainbows is an album any music lover should hear. Thom Yorke himself described the album as terrifying and on first impression it may be hard to see why. However, to me, I find that this statement is true. Where previous albums dealt with fear of politics, being alone, climate change etc., albeit in an uplifting way, "In Rainbows" takes it to a new level. The "terror" now comes from being content being in rainbows, untouched by society, with the perfect balance of sad rain and uplifting sun and the painful yet now fully achieved knowledge of life and what it entails. The songs of course, have their own meanings, but that is for the listener to shape. Personally I find it very hard to choose a favourite track as I am impressed by all 10 and the album works best as a whole though this collection is perhaps the most impressive done so far by radiohead, with another disc still to come.