Late into the evening last Sunday night, Radiohead Guitarist Jonny Greenwood posted this statement on the band’s site:
Well, the new album is finished, and it’s coming out in 10 days;
We’ve called it In Rainbows.
Love from us all.
Radiohead fans around the world had been waiting for the band’s alleged seventh LP for almost five years since the release of 2003’s Hail to the Thief. In the eager minds of some fans, it was becoming the next Smile*. Aside from the fact that the band had played many of their new songs throughout their last tour, the band had been teasing and toying with its fans for weeks, posting encrypted messages on their website, making statements that the album was finished but that they didn’t know what to do with it, and even stating that the album would not be released until 2008. Thus, it proved difficult for fans to comprehend the meaning behind Greenwood’s unexpected statement of simple rhetoric “ . . . it’s coming out in 10 days.”
Later, fans attempting to reach the Radiohead website, http://www.radiohead.com, would be automatically redirected to a simple site with the URL http://www.inrainbows.com. The site’s homepage displaying the words “Radiohead In Rainbows In Rainbows In Rainbows Enter” backed by a distorted spectrum of colors would be the portal for purchase of the new album. One click and the real news came. Not only was the band releasing the album, but they were allowing users to choose the price for which they could pay (0.00 being an option). In essence, they leaked their album on their own, before it could be illegally leaked, and allowed customers to make a donation.
What can be made of this? Well, Greenwood claims:
It was kind of an experiment as well; we were just doing it for ourselves and that was all. People are making a big thing about it being against the industry or trying to change things for people but it’s really not what motivated us to do it. It’s more about feeling like it was right for us and feeling bored of what we were doing before . . . It’s just interesting to make people pause for even a few seconds and think about what music is worth now. I thought it was an interesting thing to ask people to do and compare it to whatever else in their lives they value or don’t value.
What’s more, artists such as Nine Inch Nails, Jamiroquai, and others are contemplating following suit.
Now, for the best part: behind all the hype and media coverage that this unique release has acquired, the album is actually GOOD. In fact, it’s better than good—it is shaping up to be one of their best efforts to date. In Rainbows is neither a reversion nor a strong leap forward. It is a career-spanning album. It shows a band no longer restricting itself with its own creativity and ambition, no longer forcing itself into a corner. This is not to say that these restrictions were not necessary in making their previous works of genius, but really, where else could Radiohead go that they haven’t already? With Rainbows, they have managed to fine-tune the strange electronic- fueled sounds of Amnesiac and Kid A, the basic pop qualities of The Bends, and the futuristic, space-age sounds of OK Computer to make an album that is masterful in its simplicity.
The album begins with the bangs and clanks of the electronic drums of “15 Step,” with Yorke’s famous falsetto vocals going through melodies he’s never touched before, backed by the perfect placement of children screaming with joy. It is analogous to Kid A’s “Idioteque.” Then the band takes us to the guitar-based “Bodysnatchers,” a small departure from the almost solely synth and electronic based sounds they had worked with on their past two albums.
Then the songs mellow down for the most part. “Nude,” a track that has been carried over all the way back from the OK Computer sessions ten years ago, creates a euphoric ambiance with Yorke singing a lullaby of a melody into the microphone as if he is trying to calm it to sleep. The streak of ambient tracks continues with “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi,” “All I Need,” “Reckoner,” and “House of Cards” each of which builds up to a breathtaking climax (“Faust Arp” being the only track lacking this culmination).
“Jigsaw Falling into Place,” comes together as one of the best tracks on the album, and as Yorke sings, “The beat goes round and round,” with increasing passion, the song continues and everything truly does fall right into place.
The album ends with the simple piano chord based ballad “Videotape,” one of the band’s most minimal tracks to date. The beauty is in this lack of complexity and layering, something the band is most known for. It is a near perfect ending to a near perfect album. And as Yorke sings, for most eager fans October tenth was “ . . . the most perfect day . . . [they] . . . have ever seen.”
*Brian Wilson of the beach boys took 40 years to complete this legend of an album.