Music Reviews
In Rainbows

Radiohead In Rainbows

(Self-released: Rating - 9/10

When word began to circulate that Radiohead's seventh studio album would be a self-released, set your own price download extravaganza I was inundated with requests from writers desperate to review it. I quickly decided that a traditional review might not be the best way of covering what in many ways is a landmark release (plus I didn't want to disappoint anyone) so I invited all of our critics to submit a short review with both a rating and the price they chose to pay for these ten 160kbs MP3 files.

I haven't written a review myself but for what it's worth I'd give it a solid eight out of ten and I paid £2.45 on account of the file quality and the fact that I'll be buying the CD, too. Well, probably. Anyway, let's move onto the reviews. -- David Coleman, Editor

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George Booker's Review:

Radiohead challenge listening pleasure, but they've learned to be classy about it. Perhaps a great influence upon their post OK Computer work is guilt. What do they have to feel bad about? Perhaps that their own derivative avant pop symphonies are slavishly internalized by millions while the artists they are inspired by toil away in relative obscurity. They bothered to book Antipop Consortium and DJ Shadow in Europe before either had racked up 6 figure sales, and that kind of searching keeps them vital, both on the band releases and excursions such as Thom Yorke's excellent electropop dabbling The Eraser or Jonny Greenwood's dig through the Trojan crates, Is The Controller.

After the masterful Kid A, Radiohead's recent albums have been stellar but thuddingly massive guitar driven wallows through the best that pop has to offer at the moment. In Rainbows, however, comes from a more composed place in their personal and musical pantheon, creating an unassuming but worthy addition to their revered discography. The weirdness comes early, as opening track 15 Step seems an homage to dated glitch with Yorke's vocals coasting over them. In due time, however, the tracks drift into an unsettling groove that sticks to the ribs. The production, naturally, is top notch, shoving every element into its own compartment placed to perfectly offset the next. Synths seem endlessly tinkered with to find just the right spot, sinister and inspirational, in the mix. Guitars offer hypnotic and emotional loops. It is the percussion, however, that makes the album, recalling Damon Albarn's recent Tony Allen inflected work. Both the overall placement and tone and each individual strike seem laboured over in a productive way. Standout tracks include All I Need, with threatening bass keys mingling occasionally with orchestral ephemera and dub effects, Nude, in which swirling symphonics meet finessed electronic noodlery and top flight balladry from Yorke, and the closer Videotape, in which a sad tune with lonely, repetitive piano accumulates power as a lone dub beat sinks in to mimic rewinding.

Paid: £2

Rating: 8/10

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Paul Roylance's Review

Radiohead have long been the primary musical conduit of that undercurrent of global unease that manifests geophysically as melting polar ice-sheets and strange weather. No-one does the silent scream - the articulation of fury in a vacuum, the sound of the snail sliding along the razor blade - better.

The trajectory flattened after Amnesiac. How couldn't it? Having succeeded in constructing one of the Himalayas of modern music - and I'm hardly sticking my neck out by asserting that that's what that trilogy of pan-millennium releases (OK Computer, Kid A, and Amnesiac) amount to - there's little point in trying to boost yet higher. In space no-one can hear you whine (sorry - irresistible Radiohead detractor joke). So what to do? Explore the plateau, that's what. Plenty, after all, to explore. No-one's been up here before. And what Hail to the Thief achieved through a kind of desperate waking nightmare, In Rainbows achieves, astonishingly, differently, through a kind of militant, eyes-wide-shut optimism.

The irony, the paradox is that it should all sound so beautiful. The overwhelming emotional resonance of this album's closer - Videotape - has now to be added to Amnesiac's Pyramid Song in any self-respecting list of songs to die to.

Paid: £2.50

Rating: 9/10

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Alan Shulman's Review

At first blush it sounds like another retreat, like the subdued puzzle of Kid A after the flamboyant OK Computer. At 10th blush the word 'retreat' takes on layers of meaning. The songs are a landscape of fragile human relationships; people falling apart, running apart, pushing apart, being pushed. The tone is tense as usual, but more so. The quality that makes Radiohead the most compelling band recording is their inability to relax. It's obvious on the herky-jerky rhythms of 15 steps and the hyper guitar-riffing on Bodysnatchers, but even on the laconic Nude and the astoundingly beautiful House of Cards the underlying synths are a bed of nails. The band is taking its time here and they are slowly devastating. Disparage them if you must for their cynicism and narrow emotional palette, but face the fact that they do it better than anyone else. They unabashedly push those buttons in clear defiance of any post-modern ironic stance - which is why they are essential.

Paid: £3.50

Rating: 9/10

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Simon Briercliffe's Review:

In my mind at least, Radiohead have been simultaneously trying to flee the looming spectre of OK Computer's popularity and trying to recapture the singularity of vision that abounded within its dystopic confines, for the last decade. Don't get me wrong, I'm not making that as a rash, sweeping indictment, nor am I in anyway disparaging the band's work in the last ten years: that's not to discount the grand iconoclasm of Kid A's sparse landscapes, nor the glitchy polemic of Hail To The Thief.

In Rainbows, happily for me, is the sound of Radiohead finally ditching the ghosts of the past. Where once the desire to 'boldly go' weighed too heavily, In Rainbows is content to revel in the occasional fuzzy guitar and cinematic string section. Where once the electronics threatened to overtake the realms of sensibility, here they've been harnessed to proper pop songs. Where Thom Yorke's The Eraser was wonderful in terms of songs and sounds, his voice really needed Radiohead behind him to fully showcase itself; and where Kid A's need to express its own individuality resulted in underusing their frontman, here they use Yorke as a once again potent, affecting hook; the likes of All I Need have an intensity on an Anthony Heggarty level. Even Johnny Greenwood's wilder moments add to the amiable tone of the record, House Of Cards in particular reflecting his dubby side.

Radiohead's savvy playing of the record industry has led to a short, sharp shock of hype, with none of the usual promo/leak/disappointment of conventional releases. OK Computer's marketing campaign read 'Remember albums?' Well, here the attack starts again, and In Rainbows? It's a bobby dazzler.

Paid: Not known

Rating: 9/10

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Alejandro Martinez's Review:

Let's get a few things out of the way:

1. In Rainbows is not the strongest album Radiohead has recorded.

2. In Rainbows is not the weakest album Radiohead has recorded.

3. On the pure genius of their live shows and previous work, Radiohead can cruise through the end of the decade as the best band in the world.

4. $81.00 is a lot of cash to spend on one album.

5. $81.00 is not THAT much to ask for a real fancy, horrorshow version of the latest Radiohead record.

The first thing that struck me when the song titles were revealed was that most of these songs were already a part of their live sets as recently as their latest tour through Europe and as long ago as 1999-ish as is the case for the third track, Nude. This is clearly a new approach for a band that, for the most part, has previously done the opposite; first releasing Kid A/Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief before developing those songs live on tour. Whether this approach had any influence on the sound on the record itself, is not clear to me yet. What is clear is that the band, no doubt with the blessing of producer/consiglieri Nigel Godrich, decided to use Thom's vocals as the glue that binds together these 10 songs. In that respect, the album is more analogous to Thom's solo effort, The Eraser, than previous Radiohead records. That said, the rest of the band does fill enough of the voids left unfulfilled on The Eraser to make it distinctly a Radiohead album. From the Johnny's fuzzed-out riffs, to Selway's metronome beats , In Rainbows is an elegant, almost joyful statement by a band taking a hiatus from examining the maddening state of the world, and instead allowing it's leader a bit of time for introspection.

Paid: Not known

Rating: 8/10

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Lewis Parry's Review:

Multiple listens into In Rainbows and it's hard to pinpoint where exactly the love for it comes from. It doesn't immediately astonish like OK Computer did, and it doesn't seem like it could grow and bloom like Kid A did. Instead, In Rainbows just feels like a breezy, easy listen, Radiohead sitting in its living room and simply jamming, where sounds float in from the open window (the kitchen noises and children laughing to 15 Steps), where Bodysnatchers feels like a Hail to the Thief outtake, where Weird Fishes/Arpeggi simply dotes along like modern Minus the Bear-alternative rock. Is it the Radiohead we knew and loved? Not really, but when were they ever? It's just another building block to a discography not like the other, with more than a few mixed results (you can pretty much skip the first three songs without any real consequence). But the forgettable tracks are balanced by In Rainbows' finale (starting with the smooth jam of House of Cards and ending with the piano ballad Videotape), and fortunately the final rating is untouched by hype. Strangely fitting for a band that seemed destined to be marred by it.

Paid: Not known

Rating: 7/10

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Matt Erler's Review:

I remember going to the record store every Tuesday when I was in high school, to buy CDs. I remember unwrapping the shrink-wrap and putting the record in the CD player or computer and listening for the first time.

Torrents, promo copies and leaks have kind of ruined that experience for the average American teen. It's zapped a lot of the mythology and mystery behind of a major release.

Radiohead's last release, 2003's Hail to the Thief is one of the last albums I remember buying without having heard the album in its entirety or hearing two-thirds of the album in mp3 format. It's appropriate that Radiohead's seventh LP, In Rainbows, has brought some of that joy back.

This record, like most of Radiohead's prior work is an entity entirely unto its own. It's as brazen, bold and brilliant as anything it's done thus far. It is, as Thom Yorke claimed, very minimal. Yet, the album never sounds half-finished, but instead focused and refined. It's as vital as anything the band has done.

Fans who want to hear atmospheric and jarring guitar-shredding courtesy of Jonny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien should go listen to OK Computer and The Bends. Fans of the icy, electro-clash isolation and desperation the band championed post-millennium should go listen to Kid A and Amnesiac.

Fans who want to hear Creep should just go to the mall.

With In Rainbows the band takes a chance - both with the album's stark, barren landscape, but also with the revolutionary and anarchic distribution method of release. It's good to see a band 15 years old taking these kind of chances.

Paid: £0.00

Rating: 9/10

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