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Radiohead - In Rainbows  CD (album) cover

IN RAINBOWS

Radiohead

 

Crossover Prog

3.77 | 400 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars Depressing existentialism drowning out the optimism

Radiohead's "In Rainbows" is one of those albums that landed and made a giant splash among the legions of fans and has quickly become a definitive Radiohead master work. As a non Radiohead fan myself, I still appreciate the way that the band consistently release innovative and experimental work that are absolutely unique to the band. The sound is like nothing else out there and each album tends to be a different beast, but I am not as impressed with this as "OK Computer", "Kid A" or "King of Limbs". Thom Yorke is the key member with his high falsetto relaxed vocal approach. Since 'Creep' was released, there has been nothing else like his vocal technique. It may even take a while to latch onto this at times as he becomes muffled and inaudible on some releases. "In Rainbows" gives him a vehicle to shine out his vocals, among some very powerful musical rhythms.

The album begins with fractured percussion and some familiar vocal sounds to Radiohead. I am quite taken with the heavier music on songs such as the driving rocker 'Bodysnatchers' that features an impressive lead break that has spacey Hawkwind overtones, long sustained atmospheric notes reverberate across the heavy soundscape. It has become one of my favourite Radiohead tracks. The ending section is incredible and reminds me a lot like The Mars Volta.

The album settles into soulful darker ambience with the backwards upsweeps of guitar and symphonic strings generating a ghostly preternatural atmosphere on 'Nude'. What is this song about? Yorke has a sad timber in his voice with very high octave range. The guitar is delightful, heard over a jazz fusion percussion.

I like Selway's drumming in particular on this album such as the driving rhythms on 'Weird Fishes/Arpeggi'. Yorke bemoans the though that we are all fishes and we get eaten by the worms. It ois not the first time he has likened us to an animal lifeform of course, you may remember he likens us to insects that are crushed on "Ok Computer". It is all about the infinitesimal human condition battling against the social power structures, or is it simply a suicide note to the world. In any case the music is magnetic and draws one in inexorably towards the darkest recess of the human conscious. Is this why they are such a popular band, the fact that they speak to a dying generation?

It is all rather depressing and continues to get darker on the buzzing drones of 'All I Need'. The synth sounds reminds me of Depeche Mode in their dark era, and it is hypnotically beautiful. "You are all I need, I'm in the middle of your picture, dying in the reeds, perhaps sums up the track, a low point in the protagonist's life.

The album flows into some streams of misery as it continues. We hear the broken fragments of a damaged soul. I am not interested in the droll 'Faust Arp' or the caterwauling of 'Reckoner' with a high falsetto that grates on my nerves, and I think the album really suffers in the final half after a promising start.

The musicianship is fine on 'House of Cards' especially the guitar screeches, and I am quite taken with Yorke's introspective vocals. This is the longest song with a chronometer of 5:28 but it tends to drone on too long with a simple structure and very little diversity, resting on a simplistic riff and spacey sonics.

'Jigsaw Falling Into Place' is a single from the album and certainly is more accessible, though still very Avante rock in terms of structure and feel. The vocals are lower and consequently more audible; "come on and let it out". There is a great rocking keynote metronome swinging beat. The instrumental break is excellent and overall it is a highlight on the album.

'Videotape' concludes the album with a minimalist piano, and Yorke's vocals mixed to the front. I am not a fan of this style, and it seems like it wallows too much on depressing themes and melodies to be enjoyable. Perhaps the appeal of Radiohead is the depressing vibe the band generate, and this no doubt speaks to an unhappy generation. I don't mind this thematic content as long as the music is consistently dynamic and appealing to the ears. Unfortunately this album runs out of steam well before the final piano note, and I can only enjoy the first half of the album and the one track at the end, therefore will have to stick to 3 stars on this one.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 3/5 |

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