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Radiohead - In Rainbows  CD (album) cover

IN RAINBOWS

Radiohead

 

Crossover Prog

3.78 | 406 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
4 stars How come I always end up 4.5?

If Hail to the Thief was the attempt to record the album that is the all there is Radiohead album, then In Rainbows is Hail done right. Hell, I cannot really describe how good this album is. I mean, perhaps the Radioheaders have done better albums before, but that only means that they’ve had pieces of plastic and vinyl out there that have a slightly better combination of songs. I am not in the business of reviewing pieces of plastic with songs on them. I am in the business of reviewing ALBUMS. And as far as ALBUMS go, and I mean the entire package, from opening song to back cover, In Rainbows has got to be one of the most impressive pieces of plastic I’ve heard in a while, and easily stands with the Decemberists’ The Tain as some of my favorite pieces of plastic of the decade.

We open with “15 Step.” Is it the best song? I don’t know. I think so, but stick around. It starts off with some energetic trip hoppy beats, then slowly but surely builds, piling instrument on top of instrument, until we have electronic drums, real drums, guitar, bass, God knows what else, all tied together by Thom’s frantic pleading, and culminating in a rushing instrumental swoop. Oh, and, there are children. But you can ignore them.

I’m less impressed with “Bodysnatchers,” an almost ugly piece of straight shooter guitarwork that proves that, yes, Radiohead can still pull that grunge thing out of their pants. And yet, once you get used to it, it’s pretty decent, especially when it hits that transition from the heavier part to the acoustic based one. More ear pleasing, however, is the gentle, psychedelic ballad “Nude,” based on this driving, repetitive bass arpeggio and jazzy drumming. It’s...dreamy is what it is. Gorgeous too.

“Weird Fishes Arpeggi” is a sort of ethereal sounding acoustic rock number. It’s a fun enough ride, but not a terribly lasting one. “All I Need” is a slow paced, heavily electronicized ballad, complete with whack job lyrics. It’s moody, but also lazy...until the end, when it explodes with drums and the like, and I actually end up almost liking it.

“Faust Aarp” was once my favorite song on the record, and remains a definite highlight. It’s short, just two scant minutes, and it’s stripped of all instruments save some acoustic guitars and some orchestral swoops. But it’s so...PRETTY. When it takes the musical bend halfway through, my guts literally sag or melt or something at the prettiness. It also makes a perfect intro to “Reckoner,” which plays itself like an epic in five minutes, complete with a slow, painful, gorgeous introduction, paced, deliberate build, a near acapella bridge, and a swooping, spinning outro.

Considering where we just were, “House of Cards” always strikes me as kind of a letdown. Even if you can get past the opening line, the song (which happens to be the longest on the album) never really picks up, so it just ends up sounding to these ears like a longer, sluggier “All I Need” WITHOUT the jumpstart ending. Oh well.

“Jigsaw Falling Into Place” oughta earn back some respect. Even though it doesn’t rock as hard as, say, “Bodysnatchers,” it’s one of the album’s tightest moment. Another acoustic rocker, this one drops spacey effects for paranoid moodiness. The result is a fantastic number that never stops moving, and drags you down with it, wherever it goes. Somewhere unpleasant and wet, I’d imagine. So if you need something to take the edge off, the closing number is PERFECT. I often wonder what the best way to end an album is . Well, here ya go. Winning my personal award for “worst song to listen to when suicidal,” “Videotape” is depressing as hell. It’s also beautiful. It’s also probably the best song on the album. Based on nothing more than four piano notes, it’s so cold in...everything. Instrumentation. Lyrics. Presentation. Even when it grows from the initial piano notes, it’s some scattered, chilling drum effects. And then it snaps out of existence. In other words, depressing, beautiful, perfect.

So why the hell do I love this album so much? I know I didn’t at the start. In fact, for the longest time, I told myself I hated it for being too slow and atmospheric and whatnot, rather than, ya know, being an album. “Oh,” I’d say, “This album sucks! Lemme hear it again, to hear how much it sucks.” After I realized I was playing the dern thing twelve times a day, I stopped, pulled off my headphones, and came to the conclusion that it contained some of the most fantastic material I’ve heard a band ever play.

As I said before, you could easily pluck the best material from this album, and merely have an excellent collection of songs on your hands. But that’s not the point. And the point is that it’s an excellent collection of songs. It’s a thematic album, a sort of druggy, hazy look into a slice of life that’s slowly going crazier and crazier and more depressed until it kills itself. And in that regard, it’s sort of like the modern answer to The Doors’ Strange Days. It’s not quite that record’s equal, since there are a couple of dips in quality, but in terms of album flow, diversity, emotional depth (TOWERING emotional...uh, depth here, which really doesn’t make sense), and all around song writing, it’s unrivaled. It’s hard not to call this Radiohead’s best record; perhaps Kid A has stronger songs and more inventive material, but as I said...I review albums, not songs. And from an album point of view, this IS Radiohead’s best album, and one of the best art rock albums ever made.

(Okay, what the crap Radiohead? Why’d you do it? WHY did you put out In Rainbows, and then a second In Rainbows disc, WHEN YOU COULD HAVE JUST TAKEN THE BEST MATERIAL FROM EACH ONE, PUT OUT A SINGLE DISC, AND MADE EASILY THE BEST ALBUM OF THIS GENERATION?!? Seriously guys, you kind of suck. Every song that’s kinda dull or slightly uninspired on the original has an evil counterpart here that, if swapped out, could create a perfect album. Okay, so “MK1” is some merely gorgeous piano noodling on the “Videotape” riff, but “Down Is the New Up” is a driving, almost gospel- esque, stomp of an acoustic rocker that’s practically as good as anything on the album proper, and easily the best of the bunch. “Go Slowly” is a gentle electronic ballad that beats the pants off “All I Need,” “MK 2” is...more sound effect noises, “Last Flowers” is another gorgeous, this time acoustic, ballad, “Up On the Ladder” is a spooky, trip hop rocker, “Bangers and Mash” is a savage, shape shifting, rocker. Only the atmospheric “4 Minute Warning” really fails to spark, but hey, it’s still a nice song, and a decent closer. All in all, the material presented on the bonus disc proves that, had Radiohead really wanted to make the best album of the new millennium, they could have. Bastards. Acquire it only if you enjoy good music that doesn’t sound quite like anything else out there.)

The Whistler | 4/5 |

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