Review Summary: In Rainbows is beautiful in its simplicity and once again proves that Radiohead are the kings of reinvention.In Rainbows
, just like all six of the other albums, presents a band reinvented. Although already criticized by many for it's simplicity and minimalist approach, especially compared to the band's past work, it is the two aforementioned qualities that create the beautiful album that is In Rainbows
. The album's flow is smooth although the tracks manage to vary in tempo and style. You have the catchy, dancy "Bodysnatchers," the acoustic driven "Faust Arp" and "Jigsaw Falling Into Place," the dark piano ballad "Videotape," the almost jazzy "House Of Cards." Every song is a beautiful piece of art and the way each song fades out and/or in gives the album a remarkable paradox of a feel; the sense of the album as one large portfolio of art is there, yet each song is presented as a different sphere or movement that is the symphony of In Rainbows
Also present is a large influence of many of the elements used in Thom Yorke's solo album The Eraser including the simplicity, the electronic elements ("All I Need" is a great example) and the computerized/simplistic drum beats. The last element also works wonders for the flow of the album, defining a very steady beat for most of the songs, making this Radiohead's easiest album to bob your head to, follow along with or relax to. The album does have its crescendos and intense moments. The endings to “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” and “All I Need” are honestly breathtaking, with the former creating a wall of sound that seemingly swallows you whole and the latter just completely enveloping you in a beautiful blend of guitar, piano and thick bass. But gone are the wild tempo changes of "Sit Down. Stand Up." or "Paranoid Android," each song remains constant. Also absent is the multitracking and almost symphonic arrangements, the key factor that separates this album from their past work. Although "Nude" has the occasional violin swell, the song, much like many others on the CD, can be described simply as intimate. At one point, it's just vocals, bass and a simple drumbeat. "Videotape" starts with only Yorke's voice and piano. “Faust Arp” doesn’t even have any drums. The guitar work is not distorted, flashy or wild; instead it's introspective, soft and simple, often relying on small arpeggios or silent picking lines. Also absent from the album are the intricate and soaring harmonies of "Hail To The Thief
," as Yorke takes a much more personal approach to the vocals.
At this point, you may be saying, "well, this album is sounding pretty boring boring." But it's not. The simplicity only works in creating what I think is Radiohead's most intimate album to date. And I don't mean to make it seem as if the band abandoned their past work for something totally new, the influence of past work is definitely there. The overall mood of the album is definitely dark, a la Hail To The Thief
, enhanced by elements like the despondent lyrics of "Videotape," the dissonant swells at the end of 'Weird Fish/Arpeggi" and the eerie chord changes and harmonies on "Jigsaw Falling Into The Place." “All I Need” incorporates both the electronic elements of Kid A
and the piano driven work on Hail To The Thief
. “Bodysnatchers” is reminiscent of wild tempo and guitar work of “Electioneering” on OK Computer
. Yet the only Radiohead song I'd be confident saying would fit on this album would be Kid A's "Optimisitc," as much of the album reflects the strange, eerie guitar and vocal interplay exhibited on the aforementioned song. But to compare In Rainbows
to any single Radiohead album would just be unfair.
Most importantly, Radiohead have accomplished once again what they've been doing for 7 albums now: reinventing themselves. Yet it seems that because In Rainbows
has more of a focus on simplicity, the album gets criticized. I truly believe that Radiohead wanted to make a simplistic and minimalist album. And honestly, In Rainbows
is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I have heard in a while and certainly one of Radiohead’s best works to date. Every track is astonishing in it’s own way and the album simultaneously establishes a unique sound and feel for itself while varying tremendously from track to track within that identity. Just as it’s useless to attempt to compare Kid A
to OK Computer
to The Bends
, In Rainbows
stands alone as yet another persona that Radiohead has both created and perfected for themselves and comparing it to their past albums is unfair and fruitless. The influence of their past work is there, but In Rainbows
exists in it’s own picture frame as a work of art that will be appreciated for years to come.