Radiohead – In Rainbows
Record Label: None
Release Date: October 10, 2007
Ambient music is in. It seems many bands in all genres are following the modern trend of using delayed guitars, electronics, and ethereal, somber-like vocals in their music. While some may be pretentious attempts at originality, others shine. However, none do it quite as well as Radiohead.
Radiohead, with lead vocalist Thom Yorke, guitarist and pianist Jonny Greenwood, guitarist Ed O’Brien, bassist Colin Greenwood, and drummer Phil Selway, have been releasing records since the early nineties. Their newest release In Rainbows is an ambient, percussive album that showcases smooth vocals, gaunt, bony percussion, electronics, and minimalist elements that define what Radiohead is.
The album opens up with the Latin-influenced “15 Step,” a mid-tempo song utilizing electronic percussion, drums, guitar, and the ever-present synthesizer, followed by “Bodysnatchers,” a grunge song that sounds much like it belongs on OK Computer. The album hits its stride with “Nude,” a slow, delicate song that shows a smooth, controlled side of Yorke’s voice. However, the standout track on the album is “All I Need,” a dark, mysterious track that features DJ Shadow-like drumbeats and an angular, deep synthesizer that is sure to capture the ears of any listener.
Although Radiohead may not be walking on sunshine yet, In Rainbows does seem to be less cynical and more optimistic. It’s much less an attempt to reach out to different audiences, but more of a leakage of subtle pop influences, such as vocal and piano melodies.
Despite their ages (four of the five band members were born in the late sixties), Radiohead show an awareness of the state of rock music in the modern age, at appropriate times drawing from those influences and other times abstaining; a choice that is bound to grab the ears of younger listeners and add to their already massive growing fan base. Many bands with Radiohead’s longevity often release a few good records and then seem to slip off the edge and release a few sub-par ones. However, Radiohead have been at the top of their game with every release, including this one. In Rainbows is a relevant, refreshing album which is quiet, yet disturbingly robust. Yorke’s voice is at its best, often avoiding the meandering babble that has sometimes clouded Radiohead’s reputation, but instead balancing quirkiness and angularity with soul and honesty.
With that being said, many either love or hate Radiohead.
When I told different people about In Rainbow’s release, some jumped for joy while others cocked their heads to the side and sighed, complaining about Radiohead’s slow, repetitive nature. However, at heart, that’s what has made Radiohead famous. From the electronic album Kid A to Pablo Honey, which sported their first big hit with the single “Creep,” Radiohead have always been a band that seems to reinvent itself with almost every record, while sustaining a candid and genuine identity.
In Rainbows isn’t a reinvention. It’s a rejuvenation. Although the album may have added some newer, hipper elements to the mix, it’s still Radiohead. The band still creates music that is utterly Radiohead – music that makes people scratch their heads in confusion and smile in wonder. There is something awe-inspiring about a Radiohead release, and the story is no
different with In Rainbows.