Review Summary: This is the album that shows the most variety within Radiohead’s quarters.
For those who have not yet pledged allegiance to Radiohead, with their 2003 release ’Hail to the Thief’ you have all the more reason to commit to their mighty sounds. Personally, a few words that come to mind when I think of this album are: varied, colourful, alternative and unique. Take the album cover, for example, and notice the warm, colourful, experimental impression which it generates.
After consecutively acclaimed and immensely discussed albums, was this long awaited follow up the expected or unexpected delivery? An immediate answer to that is possibly.
Even the band themselves have claimed this as a happier album. The signs of optimism are evident in the track 'Sail To The Moon' which is a simply beautiful song. Dominated by piano with interesting lyrics such as “Maybe you’ll be president. But know right from wrong”. Lead singer Thom Yorke does an excellent job to further convince people of his superb vocals. Even if, lyrically, the album might not be as positive elsewhere on the record, a good majority of the music definitely combats this.
Needless to say, there are a handful of tracks that could attract any fan of alternative music upon first listen. A prime example of this is the quirky opener titled ‘2 + 2 = 5‘ which shows an ascent back to the times when Radiohead weren’t afraid to use the guitar as a primary instrument, fully emphasised with a short and sweet solo. The next song 'Go To Sleep' also resurrects the guitar for this album acoustically and electrically and with emphasis on the line “Over my dead body”, this perfect jigsaw of a song still contains that special formula Radiohead are known for.
As this is 21st century Radiohead, there are a bunch of songs that can be perceived as "Weirdies" or at least "Hang on a second, this sounds nothing like The Bends or OK Computer!" and the most obvious is the bizarre second track which, even with a dynamic switch of tempo, still suffers the disease of repetition. The soundscapes in 'Backdrifts' and 'The Gloaming' are pleasant but are also drawn to the more tiresome side of the spectrum, at least for many casual Radiohead fans.
After further 'Love-or-hate' songs such as the poppy 'Where I End and You Begin', the shrill and creaky 'We Suck Young Blood' or the spooky, supernatural 'There There', the album decides to shine again towards the end from a completely different angle. The paranoia frenzy of 'Myxomatosis' already sounds amazing merely due the song title and the delicacy of 'Scatterbrain' is terrifically... delicate. The true and unpredictable gem of the album has to be the closer as Radiohead are still able to write a song that sounds nothing like they've done before. Only they could get away with a line such as "Walking like giant cranes and with my X-ray eyes I strip you naked".
This album is definitely not their magnum opus, but Radiohead have discovered that it does not have to be. This is the album that shows the most variety within Radiohead’s quarters. Whereas the previous album Kid A was more experimental and revolutionary, this is truly their most alternative offering. This is less of an album, more extended evidence that whatever genre they tackle, whatever depth of mind they are in, they can still create truly magical musical numbers, despite the music occasionally carrying them away.