Apart from a couple of tracks, ‘In Rainbows’ sounds exactly like a band playing live in a studio. ‘In Rainbows’ is no return to ‘The Bends’, however. It’s more like Radiohead have taken the template and the way the songs were constructed from ‘Kid A’, yet recorded them straightforwardly. Straightforwardly, and in places, with Johnny Greenwood orchestration. ‘Reckoner’ for example, utterly gorgeous and mournful. Opens with an imaginative drum pattern which repeats throughout. Latter on, the orchestrations frames Tom Yorke beautifully. It’s the kind of cinematic soundscapes ‘Kid A’ benefitted from, yet played by real musicians. ’15 Step’ opens the album in a style we’ve become very familiar with from the past few Radiohead albums. Squelchy, furious beats wail away. We then get the sound of real drums, real bass. Fascinating lyrics. It’s an uptempo opener which serves to highlight the superb ‘Bodysnatchers’, rather than being a showboat of its own. ‘Bodysnatchers’ is a Radiohead classic, guitars interweaving, melodies playing off each other. Wonderful guitar for those of you that like your Radiohead to rock.
A lot of these tunes have been doing the rounds live and on youtube for several years, leading some fans to complain the recorded version of whatever their favorite tune is being inferior. ‘Videotape’ appears to have come in for the most flack. I deliberately haven’t sought out live versions myself, so can’t comment on this. In the context of the album, this slow, lonely sounding version of ‘Videotape’ with clicky sounding beats against mournful piano works perfectly. Highlights abound, apart from the ones I’ve already mentioned. ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’ is a bit of a stunner, for example. So is, ‘Jigsaw Falling Into Place’. A nice ringing guitar sound, an urgent sounding drum pattern and Thom Yorke at his most beautiful fills up the first couple of minutes. The bass is subtle yet groovy. The lyric and Thom’s performance is arguably his finest on the LP, wonderful lyrics and a commanding, fascinating and hypnotic vocal throughout. ‘Faust Arp’ is the sounding of obscure Thom lyrics married to folky acoustic guitar and a string section. It’s a brief two minutes, yet a welcome sonic variation. ‘House Of Cards’ is so lovely, with its ghostly ‘whooo whoa’ vocal intro, plenty of echo on the lead vocals. ‘I just wanna be your lover’ sings Thom, a moment of clarity before slurring the next phrase quite deliberately. Opening up, then pulling back. Another very clever set of lyrics is a feature of ‘House Of Cards’, then.
One more track I need to mention before I let you go to continue listening. ‘Nude’ has attracted comparisons with ‘Exit Music’ from ‘OK Computer’. It has a similar spooked feeling. It’s also every bit as good. Oh, when the strings come flourishing in towards the end? How beautiful is that? So, ‘In Rainbows’? Seems approriately named as well as being the most cohesive album long statement Radiohead have been since ‘OK Computer’. Also, it’s their best since ‘OK Computer’. Much like Pink Floyd with ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, ‘OK Computer’ is something of a noose around the bands neck, yet through their constant exploring, they may just a found a way past that. Excellent stuff.