Review Summary: Radiohead's unusual marketing ploy on In Rainbows may be what is most remembered looking back, but the cohesiveness and themes of the album make it one of their best yet.
There was intense hype surrounding the release of Radiohead's seventh album, In Rainbows
. However, this was not necessarily due to the music itself, but to the unorthodox digital release. This involved paying your own price for the album (you could even pay no money at all), and it was extremely huge in the music world. This release is one of the most ambitious by any artist in recent history, and it has left a large mark on the digital world. But what makes In Rainbows
such a great album is the ambitiousness and overall quality of the music.
With the manic drum-filled opening of 15 Step
, the listener might assume that this album will be similar to Radiohead's past works, such as Hail to the Thief
and Kid A
. By the time playful and creative guitars have come in to suit singer Thom Yorke's earnest voice, there is already a special feel about this album. The momentum carries into the next track Bodysnatchers
, which includes one of Radiohead's heaviest guitar riffs yet. A major quality that distinguishes In Rainbows
from Radiohead's past albums can already clearly be seen here, the plethora of special effects and layers that coat each song. This may be due to this album being the first independently produced album by Radiohead.
The next two songs easily keep the quality of music up in the stratosphere. The sing-a-long feel of Nude
coupled with haunting strings and shimmering arpeggios (another trait common in the album) make it one of the most memorable tracks so far. But the amazing drum-led build-up of Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
easily steals the show out of the first four tracks on In Rainbows
. Yorke's lyrics, which are some of his most straightfoward in a long time, send chills down the spine over and over again. On tracks like Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
and 15 Step
, one can clearly hear drummer Phil Selway's influence and spot-on drumming, which helps the album immensely.
Radiohead's complete feeling of control on In Rainbows
gives even the ballads, like All I Need
and House of Cards
, a strong backbone and an almost immaculate air. In particular, the bass-esque synthesizer of All I Need
is the cherry on top, making Yorke's painful and almost obsessive plea seem down to earth. The nearly chaotic ending of this song, with chilling piano on top of all the intensity, make it one of the highlights of the extremely consistent In Rainbows
. One almost gets the feeling during this song that it could fall apart at any second, seemingly being held together merely by a string.
Once again, the arpeggios make a lead appearance on the short but strong Faust Arp
, which shows a Beatles influence in the immaculate songcraft shown. The song is mainly the intermission of the album, giving the listener a break between the first songs and what's to come. In Rainbows
is an extremely apt title for the album, as almost every song is a rush of colors and emotions, and Faust Arp
is no exception.
Next on the album is Reckoner
, which is yet another drum-led song. This is the first song that is not quite up to par with the other tracks. This is because the tribal feeling that the drums give off simply does not match up well with the vocals and guitar. However, the quality is picked back up quickly with the next tune House of Cards
. The song seems to be an earnest plea from Yorke to someone he is deeply in love with, and it is extremely convincing. The constant synth feedback in the background gives the song an undeniably beautiful feel, and Yorke's vocals are at his best here.
Jigsaw Falling into Place
opens with an open D-plucked riff, and it sounds undeniably good. Much like Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
in song structure, Jigsaw keeps a rushing energy continuing throughout the entire song, never leading to a build-up, but rather keeping it's flow the entire time. The biggest disappointment on the album would have to be the closer Videotape
, as it seems like it was underwritten. Nothing seems to gel on this track, which is just rather average compared to the stunning highs of some of the other songs. It still works all right as a closer, however, as it helps wrap up the album.
Overall, this album is extremely creative and emotional, displaying Radiohead's full musical prowess. This is recommended for any listener, especially those who enjoy fairly chilled-out songs. The song adds a colorful tint to Radiohead's ballads, as well as their straight-up rockers. Few times, an album has been experienced which is this cohesive and consistent. So why remember it for it's release when it should be remembered as an album Radiohead released in their prime, with surging tunes and addictive hooks?
All I Need
House of Cards