Radiohead - In Rainbows- In Review.
Released as a "pay whatever you want for it" download last week GIITTV staff writers Stas Werno and Chris Farrance compare opinions, track by track, of Radiohead's new album 'In Rainbows'.
Stas Werno: Having become accustomed to the loose, crowded recordings of “Hail To The Thief” that have been keeping my ears warm for the last 4 years, “15 steps” comes as quite a shock in its crisp, clean and uncluttered production, setting the mood for the rest of the album. A crunchy programmed drumbeat is pushed aside in favour of dry, tight live drums and clean jazzy chords. As the track progresses, spooky pads and samples of cheering children add an early Boards Of Canada-like texture to the song, creating what is typically another fantastic album opener for Radiohead.
Chris Farrance: This opener starts with sampled drums with Thom's self conscious high vocal in and out of the bass drum which moves into live snare/cymbals mixed in with the synth percussion. Soft guitar chords overlay, then the whole song kicks in full with the whole band moving towards swirling synths and drums mixing together in an outré, doing what Radiohead have mastered bringing comfortable and new sounds together, and knowing where to hold back.
Stas Werno: "We can still be a rock band when we want to be" says the dirty opening rock 'n roll bass line of 'Bodysnatchers'. Naturally it doesn't stay so 'by the book' throughout, progressing into choruses (used in the loosest possible sense) of discordant wailing, reminiscent of moments from their last LP, eventually climaxing in a mess of distorted screaming guitars. Typical of Radiohead's more upbeat moments, this is the hardest track on the album: rather, it is the only hard track on the album.
Chris Farrance: Fuzzy bass line riff on guitar leaks into running drums and the whole pace is set as Thom's high pitch wail “I've no idea what I am talking about” sits comfortably on top of UFO type noises similar to that of “National Anthem.” It's a great fast paced song that changes your comfort zones throughout, moving from clear to fuzz and ending in a nervous scared frenzy of “I see them coming!!!!”
Stas Werno: 'Nude' is a perfect example of the new stripped down production working wonders. A brief, lush orchestra opens the track, quickly fading away to leave nothing more than gentle drums and a deep bass line to accentuate Thom Yorke's simply gorgeous vocals on this beautiful anti-ballad. When the strings return, the track is taken into dreamlike territory for a last two minutes of pure bliss.
Chris Farrance: This is an old song the band did live, but it's been slowed right down for this release. Sometimes bands change unreleased songs and lose what they had live, but this works so well it making my hair stand on end, even pausing the insane madness around you for a few minutes as I found out whilst listening to it on my iPod this morning on the tube. The track starts with looped sung melodies and strings, then breaking for a brilliant bass line that Thom works the vocal over. After this set up the whole song just builds until a 'Creep'-like sung “thinking” hangs in the air at the end of a small drum run up, dropping into a silence broken by the melodies from the start of the song. Very satisfying .
'Weird Fishes / Arpeggi'
Stas Werno: A deceivingly dull jazzy guitar riff opens a track that gently builds with layer upon layer of spooky backing vocals and atmospheric keyboards, before abruptly halting to make way for Thom squealing about being eaten by worms, in his typically (though less typical of this record) cryptic way, before it kicks back in to something much darker. Don't be fooled by what appears to be a rather uninspiring beginning, give it a chance and you'll find it evolves into something quite amazing.
Drums snap in straight away and that great sounding warm guitar tone hits it head on, again this is a perfect example of how a song can build and build. Every part occurs at just the right time layer upon layer, vocal upon vocal. As the backing vocal melody comes in the cymbals crash to action and a delay effect runs over the top, then as it all peaks at the word “weird fishes” the second part of the song like a refrain singing “I hit the bottom” kicks in and the song is played out in this ad-lib style. It makes you feel like the band just left the tape running and caught this tight jam at the end. This is a song I look forward to hearing live because I can see the amount of potential this will have to play out at the end.
'All I Need'
Stas Werno: The highlight of the record with out a doubt, 'All I Need' is the most hauntingly beautiful song Radiohead have written since Kid A's 'How To Disappear Completely'. Thom is at last sparing us the lyrical guesswork, and hearing him sing a line as simple as 'You Are All I Need' creates an intensely emotional listening experience in a way that only he could, just staying on the right side of the line from the embarrassingly crude nature of “Pablo Honey's” lyrics. In keeping with the band's trademark dynamics, it eventually crashes into something overpoweringly giddy. Compared to the likes of 'Exit Music (For A Film)' and 'There There', it's a much more subtle climax, but one that's just as powerful.
Chris Farrance: Cello-like aquatic noise possibly from a guitar opens this up and then a synth like bass line meets Thom's vocals. It's sung much like 'Talk Show Host' but it has more depth and layers than that track. You can already hear thousands of people howling back the line “you are all I need” which make up a chorus. Piano and xylophone start up, which will warm the heart of any nostalgic OK Computer fans out there and again a crescendo of cymbals crashing and Thom's tingling high pitch wail take the song to its finale.
Stas Werno: A nice little track featuring Thom, his acoustic guitar, some strings and nothing else. It's as if he's tried to have a go at becoming an extra recruit in what is a seemingly endless army of dull male singer songwriters but, gosh darn it, he just can't seem to stick to the basic chords. Whilst not as exceptional as other songs on the album, it's a cute wee thing indeed, and has its deserved place on it.
Chris Farrance: Based around an acoustic guitar and moving strings this song sets a kind of respite in the album. The guitar strings follow the vocal that falls over itself in a good way and over lapping lines play out in to a Nick Drake acoustic sound, which probably comes to my mind because the guitar is raw but warm with the violins in the background.
Stas Werno: A fantastically hypnotic track built around Amnesiac-esque booming drums, near undecipherable singing and strings stolen from the soundtrack of a depressing art house film. It's the kind of song only Radiohead could make work, and makes for brilliantly curious listening.
Chris Farrance: Echoing drums bouncing off prison cell walls move into clearer percussion. There is something great about the rag and bone drums which highlights why in my mind this album has worked so well. It has perfect pace, in each song the band know when to hold back and when to unleash noise in the right form. Not to mention a vocal talent that you cannot go wrong with. The layers of voices work well as they have done in the past. In an instant the song loses drums and strings and vocals take over. If you take time to appreciate the beauty of the strings towards the end of the song, the track opens up in to something special.
'House Of Cards'
Stas Werno: Not a favorite, 'House Of Cards' would be most at home on the sound system of a hired barge, exploring the canals of the Home Counties on a warm summer's day. The warped strings make the track unique to its creators, but overall it lacks... pretty much everything. It's not terrible enough to ruin what is otherwise a great record, it simply plods along inoffensively without leaving too much of a mess in its wake.
Chris Farrance: Quite a slow paced song, something which you could have imagined being on “Pablo Honey” in a stripped down form. It has a delay on the vocals that is quite haunting and sits around a relaxed guitar. The song builds in parts with interesting noises and ends with the pitch shifting strings and backing vocals softly sung over the top.
'Jigsaw Falling Into Place'
Stas Werno: A fun (as far as they can be), upbeat, folk-ish track. Whilst, again, nothing particularly stands out about it, it's still a joy to listen to, something 'House Of Cards' lacked. I always like hearing Thom humming (though I assure you I'm not weird).
Chris Farrance: Acoustic guitar follows a click track-like drum tap of the high hat and bass, whose pace is faster than previous tracks. It moves from acoustic to electric guitar layered over the top, but the song is never too much as Thom's vocal increases its pace and severity, up to an acoustic lead guitar. The strings are back in this song and work really well with the vocal. It's a song hinted at on the last two albums that really has fallen in to place here.
Stas Werno: Although shamefully predictable, nothing is more fitting than the words 'brilliantly', 'mournful' and 'haunting' to describe this brilliantly mournful and haunting album closer. A morbid piano repeats endlessly throughout the track, the creepy, abrasive, scraping percussion slowly adding layer upon layer to itself, creating the atmosphere of a funeral that no one wishes to attend. There's also something spookily nostalgic for someone in their mid twenties hearing the word 'videotape' in a song. It could go on for hours if it wanted to.
Chris Farrance: Some, if not all of us, heard this on a random MySpace page in a slightly different version. It's going to be on every docu/film soundtrack because it is beautiful. Approaching issues of life flashing before your eyes and what might happen to us all, it can be read in many different ways, perfect memories played out on tape or just a love of VHS! It's no doubt a key Radiohead track with enough gravity created as songs like 'Street Spirit'. In the background you can hear what sounds like Thom's wife chopping carrots that you could hear on an old B-side track called 'how I made my millions'. The song is played around a recurring piano build up and is aided by slow marching drums and many layers of backing vocals sliced together and swirled. Welcome back, Radiohead.
Stas Werno: Radiohead's last Album Hail To The Thief required persistence from the listener to fully appreciate it due to the complex textures, intricate layers and diversity of styles it held within. The same is the case for “In Rainbows,” though for the opposite reason. The album is so sparsely produced and unvaried that repeated listens are required to notice the subtleties that make this record great. In a way it is Radiohead's most personal album, so unforgiving in its minimal production that the songs themselves are purely the focus. At times this can be the record's down fall, with the odd track occasionally fading into banality due to chord structures predictable to those familiar of the band's output. Whilst its by no means a classic Radiohead album (media hype aside) it's a special one, and, like every record preceding it, one that very much contains its own unique character and soul.
In Rainbows vinyl box set is still available at 40 pounds retail price here, a physical release is rumored to be penciled in for early in 2008.
How do you rate In Rainbows?