Thursday, October 11, 2007

Something Like a Review - "In Rainbows"

You really don't want me to post a song-by-song review of this album, do you? I mean, seriously, people. There's scads of reviews all over the internet. My two cents won't change your mind one way or the other. But I'll share a few random observations with you.

Random Observation #1: Around 6:30, I was driving home when I was seized with the urge to hear "Bodysnatchers." Usually, the Radiohead songs that inspire me in this sudden-urge way are crunchy numbers like "Electioneering," "Just," or "The National Anthem." "Bodysnatchers" is a fun, crunchy song and will make you accidentally drive over the speed limit.

Random Observation #2: This is a headphone album. Some songs work on speakers, played at top volume, like "15 Step" and the aforementioned "Bodysnatchers." But you'll want to savor this record like fine chocolate. Put on the headphones. Sit in a comfortable chair. Enjoy it. There are moments on this album that will pass right by you if you're not paying attention, and these are the moments that you want to appreciate. The killer bass work throughout the album. The gentle pulsing beat of "Reckoner." The mesmerizing, haunting ebbs and flows of "Nude." This is an album in which to invest time and attention.

Random Observation #3: I read one review that described "All I Need" as Thom Yorke fronting Boards of Canada. I hate those "it sounds like x mixed with y" lines, but that one seemed particularly well chosen.

Random Observation #4: I never heard the early versions of "Reckoner" or "Nude" (once called "Big Boots) or "Videotape," so I'm not offended by any versions here. The artist always has the right to change songs any way they wish. Hell, I've heard at least four versions of Patty Griffin's "Top of the World" and I like all of them.

Random Observation #5: There isn't a second of dead or wasted space anywhere on this album. You can see the five guys in a room together, staring intently at each other, nodding or exchanging knowing smirks at each other. This is a band that is playing its heart out.

Random Observation #6: The guitar work on several songs is almost unfathomable to me. I once looked at the chord patterns to early Beatles songs, and couldn't believe how many chord changes George Harrison would cram into a dozen beats. Jonny Greenwood is playing out of his mind here. Especially check out the tasteful if bewildering work on "15 Step" (I find myself thinking of Wes Montgomery's clean style) and the baffling chord progressions on "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi".)

Random Observation #7: Is there a singer out there with the range of Thom Yorke? Imagine anyone else swinging from screaming banshee to churchlike whisper. Very few singers would even attempt what he does effortlessly. Again, break out your headphones and check out his vocals, especially on songs like "Weird Fishes" where he layers multiple vocal tracks behind his lead. The effect is often otherworldly.

Thom Yorke is a man in complete control of his instrument here.

The verdict: I love this album. There - I said it. I love it. I've played it maybe a half-dozen times, and I think it's right up there as one of my favorite Radiohead albums. Right up there. The boys did good.

Can't wait to hear the second CD of songs they've recorded.

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