Music Review: In Rainbows
Two things are evident right off the bat on In Rainbows. First, I really am not digging the title. Wasn’t that the title of an Up with People release? Second, this is Radiohead’s most accessible record since OK Computer. It sounds like the next logical progression in Radiohead’s career. It’s still heavy with electronic backing tracks, and aural moods set by synths, like every record since Computer. However, the song compositions hearken all the way back to Pablo Honey in some cases. The kids on 15 steps are quite inspired, and a great choice, though the energy that they provide doesn’t seem to surface anywhere else on the record.
Compared to the immensely dense Hail to the Thief, this album does feel light in comparison, and perhaps in that respect the title fits. I still think that Thief may be Radiohead’s most accomplished album, and the reason I felt it was so successful was the overall consistency of spiritual angst manifested in the overall experience of the album. However, Rainbows is a much more personal record. This isn’t Yorke fighting against a spiritually and individually repressive society, but instead trying to find love in spite of those larger systems. The lyrics are more straightforward (for Radiohead), as are most of the songs, and titles.
The major problem is that the last third of the album is amiably inconsistent, lacking the energy of the first third, and the immediacy of the second. Not that Radiohead makes any really poor decisions. It’s the opposite. Radiohead feels safe. And in a musical world where Radiohead’s influence is nearly foundational, I really was hoping for something that would stand out, be new, challenging or different. That would stand alongside their bold, flippant marketing campaign. Especially after such a long absence. This makes for a good companion to the rest of Radiohead’s catalogue, but probably only as a secondary source.