Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Did Somebody Say Something About A New Radiohead Album?


Download: Radiohead - "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi"
Download: Radiohead - "Jigsaw Falling Into Place"
Download: Radiohead - "Bodysnatchers"

Radiohead
In Rainbows (MP3 version, self-released, 2007)
Grade: B+

While I am reluctant to add hyperbole surrounding Radiohead's unique, possibly revolutionary approach to releasing their seventh album, In Rainbows, (and, oh yeah, the music contained within), I will say this: Radiohead's stylistic evolution - from grunge one-hit wonders to Brit-pop pioneers to the Gen X Pink Floyd to new millennial electro-experimenters - rivals that of pop music's greatest band, The Beatles.

It's certainly too early to tell whether or not Radiohead's musical legacy will match that of the fab four's. What is certain is that Radiohead is now at the point where they can exist as an autonomous entity.

So the question, I suppose, is this: With the band in sole control of both its business model, and its music, where would the band's music evolve to next?

It's a pleasant, and interesting, surprise that In Rainbows is Radiohead's most straightforward effort since The Bends. In the first few songs, it appears as if In Rainbows is Radiohead's most humane record in quite some time.

While In Rainbows contains many trademarks of Radiohead's post Kid A work (elegant strings, mind-blowing soundscapes, electronic beats), most of the songs here show that the glacial anxiety that has informed the band's most recent work is starting to melt.

However, the price paid for energetic, bright burst of songs like the guitar-driven "Bodysnatchers" and "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" is that the band has lost some of their edge. Like it or not, Radiohead's best work has been fueled by an almost unbearable sense of dread (usually about errant Governments or technology). In Rainbows decidedly lacks this edge and the pacing of the album suffers because of it.

That said, if music is a human body, then edge is its appendix. As long as the parts that are essential to its survival (i.e., great songwriting, creative instrumentation, intelligent lyrics) are in tact, then what does it matter if the least useful part isn't functioning?

Even though In Rainbows isn't necessarily the pot of gold at the end of one, there's more than enough material to ensure that Radiohead continue to engage their listeners on a favorable level.

(Jonathan Graef)

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