Revisting the classic album from Radiohead released in 2007
No one does a big gut-wrenching crescendo like Radiohead. “Exit Music (For A Film)”, “All I Need”, “Fake Plastic Trees”, the list goes on. These super powerful songs sit amongst their best, which is probably what makes “In Rainbows” so addictive – it’s full of power. Some tracks, like any album, are obviously better than others, but not one falls below the mark. Not one.
Written in a less common timing of 5/4, the album kicks off with “15 Step”. A colourful, electronically influenced track, patterned with a drum machine, interesting vocal effects, and synths. It’s one of the more upbeat tracks on the album alongside ‘Bodysnatchers’.
Yorke claimed he was in a state of ‘hyperactive mania’ while recording “Bodysnatchers”. And it shows. It’s electric. With one of the best bridges on the album and a fuzzy guitar tone that feels like ASMR, it’s the ultimate injection of dopamine straight to the brain.
What’s unique about these tracks is, despite being upbeat, they still feel very emotionally full. There’s no emptiness at all. Every track has a deep meaning, even if you aren’t sure what exactly that meaning is.
Only two songs in and you’re already knackered.
To settle you down from that chaos enters “Nude”, a song that, if you didn’t know any better, sounds like it was written by angels. The sonic equivalent of light, Yorke uses his voice as an instrument. He knows just how to capture that “reaching out for something but just missing it” feel with his voice. That sound is also captured on “Reckoner”, an enlightening track inspired by the relaxed, clumsy playing style of John Frusciante of Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
Even the weakest tracks on the album serve their purpose. “Weird Fishes/ Arpeggi” is still a great song. “Faust Arp” and “House of Cards” are the perfect intro and outro to “Reckoner”. And “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” actually builds into quite the monster. These aren’t tracks you put on, but if shuffle presents them to you, you won’t skip them. They seem to focus on capturing a feeling, rather than being a true song. That’s not a bad thing though. We live in music and I’d rather live in a feeling than a riff.
Two of the most emotionally exhausting tracks on In Rainbows are without a doubt “All I Need” and “Videotape”. The vibraphone, the soft vocals, the perfectly crafted percussion, the lyrics, there is not a single fault in “All I Need”. I’ve never heard a song like it – musically, or in character – no song can match it. I’m not sure Thom Yorke will ever stop sounding like a crying little boy but I hope he doesn’t. His voice represents something everyone has – brokenness, fragility, vulnerability.
“Videotape” reaches into your chest and tears your heart out. The drums sound like marching, the vocals drone on, and it’s exhausting. But that repetitiveness isn’t for nothing. I hate to sound like a high school English teacher, but it’s symbolic. It captures that feeling of thinking nothing could actually ever get worse. Everything’s the same all the time, never-ending, until it finally does end.
Radiohead couldn’t just stop the experimentation at their sound though, could they? No, they had to experiment with the way their music was released too. In Rainbows was the first pay-what-you-want download released by a major artist. A truly stunning and unique album, “In Rainbows” is an album we won’t forget any time soon.
Do yourself a favour and revisit, or discover, the masterpiece that is Radiohead’s seventh album, now.
Words by Holly Quinn