Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Radiohead's IN RAINBOWS is out!!!

You may or may not have heard (especially because it's almost immediately below this post -- I'm lazy) that Radiohead has a new album out. In Rainbows is not quite a new CD because there is no physical CD (yet -- but that super-deluxe disc box is coming in December).
The price? Damn reasonable, since you set it yourself.
The verdict? Well, it's Radiohead. Some folk will hate it, since they're still blazing the trail begun with Kid A and OK Computer. The stripped down, half-electronic warbling is something that some folk just love and others utterly despise. If you're in the latter group, don't expect to be swayed back to the fold. Just remember that they're absolutely amazing live, and you need tix to their next tour.
Track one is "15 Step", which begins with an almost marching drum sound and those lilting guitars that Radiohead's been known for for the last decade. It almost becomes a smooth jazz tune, though. That might tune people out before they delve deeper into the tracks. It's not a weak song by any means, but the almost sedate groove isn't necessarily what you use to get a crowd fired up.
"Bodysnatchers" might have been a more appropriate starting point. Distortion and real drums are the special of the day here. While the tempos for both songs are nearly identical, "Bodysnatchers" drives the music home with more force and urgency.
The action slows way down with the dreamy "Nude" and the once again lilting "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi". I can see both of these songs carrying more power live, but on the digital equivalent of a record, they're almost ephemeral constructions. They're not bad songs, but they're somewhat slight after the political charge of Hail to the Thief.
"All I Need", while down-tempo, carries some of the dramatic weight and power of Radiohead's aural-pharmatronic live show. I can see this one blowing minds at a concert, especially at the climax's crescendo.
"Faust Arp" is an almost folky side-step with a string accompaniment that drowns out Thom Yorke's voice. Still, it's a gorgeous sounding track.
It does little to prepare you for the thumping rhythm of "Reckoner". The drums seem almost more important than the guitars for the first 90 seconds of the song, when the style of play shifts and the rest of the instruments truly join in. Just when you think you know what you're listening to, the song changes gears and moves from a drone to an almost gospel-esque chant. One of the more interesting tracks for me (being a drummer, I'm all about the rhythm section), and another I'm certain will reformulate your brain chemistry live.
"House of Cards" betrays my age-old 45 Second Rule. If the song doesn't grab you in 45 seconds, it's not really right for airplay. It's not a bad song. Really. But out of the tracks on this album, it's the one I'd probably be least likely to listen to repeatedly.
"Jigsaw Falling Into Place", on the other hand, is the one I'm probably going to throw onto a few compilations. It's the most mainstream radio friendly of the songs, structure-wise (being almost straight-forward rock) and another that truly benefits from listening to LOUD.
The album's closer, "Videotape", seems soft and meek but evolves into an almost plodding drone. The vocals are more important here -- the music seems almost incidental to the process at points, repeating polyrhythms instead of finding a melody. Very odd track for beginning, middle or end.
As I said before, In Rainbows is unlikely to win new converts to the Radiohead fold. For diehard fans, this is yet another desert island disc that they'll be unable to live without. For the rest of the world, they might wonder what the point of it all is. They're missing out, but try explaining it to them and you'll find your arguments are falling on deaf ears.

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