In Rainbows



by Tom Gellatly USER (40 Reviews)
May 11th, 2011 | 23 replies

Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An understated, consistently enjoyable album, In Rainbows feels like a wonderful comeback album, even though Radiohead weren't in need of one. It's both back to basics, and a great evolution of the group's sound that continued their decade-long hot streak

'How come I end up where I started?' is the first lyric we hear Thom Yorke sing in 2007's In Rainbows, which was Radiohead's seventh album. And never has an opening statement been further from the truth; from their basic alt-rock beginnings in the decent Pablo Honey, to their electronic focused sound on Kid A, and then to their mixing together of these elements on Hail to the Thief, one place that Radiohead haven't ever, and most likely won't ever, venture, is back to square one of their sound. And yet In Rainbows is frequently referred to as a 'back to basics' album, one that saw Radiohead reconsidering their experiments in the last decade or so and getting back to being just a great rock band. And whilst this is certainly true, it equally feels like a true step forward and an evolution of their sound, as much as ever.

2+2=5, the opener to the band's previous album Hail to the Thief, was an energetic, furious, multi-faceted track that served as a great introduction to the album. The first track on In Rainbows, 15 Step, could not be further from HTTF's opener in terms of mood. After the initial outburst of electronic drums, the song quietens down, with an interesting vocal melody from Yorke, some jazzy drum work and, much to the surprise and delight of older fans worldwide, an equally jazzy guitar line. The track is the perfect example of how Radiohead have, in In Rainbows, managed to go back to their roots as a great rock band, but also managed to push the boundaries of what that description would seem to entail.

And that jazzy feel is an interesting, and unexpected, stalwart of the album. Whether it's the hypnotic arpeggios of Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, the restrained vocal delivery and drum brushes of House of Cards, or even the haunting falsetto of fan favourite Reckoner, In Rainbows really does feel like the closest Radiohead will come to making their equivalent of a 'jazz album.' And sure, there are still some now-trademark moments of rocking out, such as in the underrated Can-inspired Bodysnatchers of the perfectly hectic ending of standout track Jigsaw Falling Into Place, but they stand just as tall as the other key component of the band's sound, the more atmospheric side. The group's penchant for almost ambient sounding sections is alive and well here, as the endings of both Nude and All I Need reach some incredible emotional peaks.

With the breadth of the musical ideas being tied together on In Rainbows, one would be justified in being concerned about just how cohesive it would even be possible for the album to sound. But, miraculously, these three facets come together perfectly: the jazzy drums and guitar feed engagingly into the more rocking sections, and the atmospheric passages of songs always serve to heighten the tension, or create a beautiful outro that seems like the only logical conclusion. To use a horribly cliched Radiohead joke, everything on In Rainbows really is in its right place, and the whole album just comes off as feeling about as 'well-judged' as some of the best rock albums of all time.

Despite this, I obviously have a few minor gripes with the album; whilst I understand completely what Yorke was going for with toning down the epicness of closer Videotape in order to give the album an understated whimper of an ending instead of a cliched bang, one can't help but feel that In Rainbows really had created such a buildup in the preceding nine tracks that the juddering, uncertain conclusion it finds in Videotape is a slight disappointment, even if deliberately so. The shortest track on the album, Faust Arp, also doesn't quite pull off the vintage vibe that its strings and creaky guitar aim for, coming off as sounding like one of the band's few failed experiments.

But if the problems I have with In Rainbows are as minor as the above, then it seems pretty clear to me that this a great, great album. Whilst Hail to the Thief was an underrated gem that didn't really even necessitate a 'comeback album' at all, In Rainbows still, somehow, comes off as feeling like a suitably triumphant return to form, for a suitably brilliant band. It's just one of the most consistently pleasing listens in the group's discography, and the jazzier elements help it to stand out from the pack, aside from its other new musical ideas which are all genuinely engaging in their own right. I feel like there's no better way to close this review than to use yet another tried-and-tested cliche when talking about Radiohead; everything on this album really does see Thom Yorke's often indecipherable jigsaw falling resoundingly into place.

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user ratings (5633)
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    Tyler Fisher EMERITUS (4)
    With the addition of a second disc, In Rainbows loses some flow but maintains the original...

    Daniel Incognito EMERITUS (4)
    Another continuation in the overall Radiohead style, and one which executes its design wit...

    jack CONTRIBUTOR (5)
    Facts For Whatever: A 15 Step Guide to In Rainbows...

  • Ryder631 (5)
    After crafting songs of exquisitely Orwellian paranoia for over a decade, Radiohead give u...

    RJayZ (4.5)
    It's not easy writing a masterpiece. It's a lot less easy following one up....

    Alex Getter (4.5)
    Radiohead at their most intimate in years; In Rainbows is their own collection of "seducti...

    Nathan (4.5)
    Radiohead's unusual marketing ploy on In Rainbows may be what is most remembered looking b...

  • pye3214 (5)
    A modern classic and a must listen for everyone, not just Radiohead fans....

    David James Young (4)
    An unpredictable record from the biggest unsigned band in the world....

    someguest (4.5)
    When I'm at the pearly gates......

    i really need to find who i am (5)
    "You're All I Need..."...

  • jtswope (5)
    In Rainbows is another breathtaking passage into the mind of Radiohead, presenting an exqu...

    Chris Baranowski (4.5)
    In Rainbows is beautiful in its simplicity and once again proves that Radiohead are the ki...

    Reckoner (5)
    A modern classic from the best band in the world....

    Porter W. Richards (4.5)
    Dark. Disturbing. Lush, yet subdued. In Rainbows is everything fans hoped for....

  • UncalledFor (4)
    May initially feel like a Let Down with No Surprises to be found (because it has Everythin...

    CaliggyJack (5)
    IMpossbutnotwithexceptionNEW ER4...

    Brandon Garland (3.5)
    Although not as impressive as an Opeth album, Radiohead damn well tries to impress the Spu...

    shauryapatel (4.5)
    What were the fans left with after the 'pay what you want' hype was cleared? The collectio...

  • cagedbutterfly (3.5)
    Radiohead rises from the ashes of their past 3 albums and compose a beauty of a record....

    Leslie W (4)

    Kiet Truong (4.5)
    An album that will most likely go down in history as Radiohead’s album that revolutioniz...

    Kuo (5)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
May 11th 2011


Album Rating: 5.0

Yes, I know, 'another Radiohead review,' but I feel like things have gone a little quiet in terms of praising In Rainbows, whilst I really think it's one of their best efforts. Please read and, preferably, pos XD

May 11th 2011


I don't have a disk 2.
Either way, I bought this a few years ago and I'm just starting to get into it.

I can play Weird Fishes on the ukulele, I know that's lame... But, I wanted to own a portable instrument, since I can't take my piano with me haha.
Anyways, good review.

Digging: Brother/Ghost - Buried

May 11th 2011


Album Rating: 4.5

Easily in my top 10 favorite albums. Good review.

May 11th 2011


Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Great review of a great album. Pos'd.

May 11th 2011


Album Rating: 4.5

Videotape is awesome. Faust arp is a great interlude, it cleanses the palette while gearing you up for the epic reckoner . . .

May 11th 2011


Album Rating: 4.5

Faust Arp is my favorite song on this album. GTFO.

But I agree about videotape. Song is such a dissapointment.

Staff Reviewer
May 11th 2011


Album Rating: 4.5

10 amazing songs.

Digging: Counterparts - You're Not You Anymore

May 11th 2011


Album Rating: 5.0

I guess that's yet another positive thing about In Rainbows: there's no 'bad track' that all fans agree on, and every song here has loads of points in it's favour even if not everyone agrees. I'm beginning to think this is actually a 5, but oh well.

May 11th 2011


Album Rating: 4.5

Ehh, I just don't see this album as a five.

May 11th 2011


Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah, that's the thing. I love it a whole lot, but it just doesn't quite have that '5-ness' for me that, for instance, Kid A does.

Contributing Reviewer
May 11th 2011


Album Rating: 3.5

Radioheads easy listening album.

Digging: The National - Sleep Well Beast

May 11th 2011


Album Rating: 4.5

siqq review, pos

yeah that's right, siqq

May 11th 2011


Album Rating: 5.0

I'll 5 this sooner or later

May 11th 2011


Album Rating: 4.5

nice review man, pos'd

May 11th 2011


good read broseph album is in Radiohead's top 5

May 12th 2011


Album Rating: 5.0

At first, this album was just okay for me, than, after some listens, it became a great album. After about a couple of years now, I can easily put this album in my Top 3 of theirs. The flow of the whole album together is remarkable, reminding me of Kid A of course, which is my #1 Radiohead album

May 12th 2011


Epic review. Pos'd.

Digging: Ging Nang Boyz - ?

May 12th 2011


Album Rating: 3.0

Can't believe someone finally reviewed this.


Digging: Brockhampton - Saturation 2

May 12th 2011


Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Anyone ever try that 01 and 10 playlist where OK Computer and In Rainbows supposedly complement each other? It's probably a load of bullshit, but a lot of the song transitions are pretty crazy....

Staff Reviewer
May 12th 2011


Album Rating: 4.5

I tried it.

It was pretty cool.

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