Radiohead: Real-time Review

RadioheadUnless you’ve been asleep for the ten days, you’ll know that to day is the day that Radiohead release their new album, In Rainbows. Using their “pay what you like” system, I have downloaded the album and now (in honour of the speed at which this album was announced and released) I’m going to review it for you in real time as listen to it. So, here goes…

1. 15 Step
We kick off with some drum n bass beats and Thom Yorke’s voice. There’s some summery, plucked guitar and that seems to be pretty much it. It’s subtly building up as it goes. It sounds good. I hope there’s more of this. Since I heard Idioteque on Kid A, this is the side of Radiohead I prefer. It’s harder but not dissimilar to Yorke’s solo album.

2. Bodysnatchers
More, digital beats and some scratchy guitar. This is quite punky. Thom is singing, “I’ve no idea what I’m talking about”, which brings him up to speed with the rest of us. Some heavily reverbed starts guitar wailing over the top about halfway through and just as it sounds like it’s all going to run out of control they pull it back, ready for a big, loud ending.

3. Nude
Ooooh, ambient. Strings and soft, waltzy drums. Now Thom’s crooning over the drums, the other drums are slowly coming in. That chilled guitar from the first track is back. It reminds me a bit of Chill Out by The KLF. So far, three songs and all of them are very different from each other.

4. Weird Fishes/Apreggi
This is faster but not that far removed from the previous track. The drums beat is pushing forward but the guitar is in no hurry to get anywhere. It’s another slow-builder and Thom is back to the poorly enunciated drawl that has run through last few albums. Apparently we’re fishes and there’s some weird loop going on, too.

5. All I Need
This is more of a trip hop track. It has quite a dark mood, even with the glockenspiel that’s just come in. Atmospheric is probably more the word. Now it’s gone big with a piano and heavy crash symbols use.

6. Faust Arp
Strings, acoustic guitar and voice. This is nice. It’s just a short one, clocking in at just over two minutes. More of an interlude than anything.

7. Reckoner
Oooh, there’s that plucked guitar again. Thom’s got a hint of jazz in his voice. This one is particularly string-heavy and there are some good vocal harmonies. Traditional song structures have definitely been eschewed in favour of a more stream of consciousness approach.

8. House Of Cards
Hey! Plucked guitar! Jazzier this time, but plucked nonetheless. Thom’s voice is echoing with reverb. There’s a lot of space between the instruments here, aside from a few string embellishments, it’s based on one dreamlike loop repeated throughout.

9. Jigsaw Falling Into Place
The intro suggested that this was going to be more of the same but it’s actually pretty upbeat – mainly because of Phil Selway’s drums. This one’s like El Oso-era Soul Coughing. It’s just occurred to me that, apart from a little bit on Bodysnatchers, Jonny Greenwood’s trademark lead guitar is noticeably absent. However, the strings are doing a good job of replicating it now.

10. Videotape
What’s this? A piano ballad? Perhaps not, but so far it’s just Thom singing over a one bar piano loop. Where will it go? Are they going to go out with a bang or quietly slide to a close? Here come some drums. More like a metronome, really. And now there’s some delay on the drums. Nice. The piano’s getting a little louder, there are some ooooooohs and the drums now sound more like a train but I think we can rule out the big rock ending. It’s a gentle and sedate close to an album more gentle and sedate than those first couple of tracks suggested.

So, first impressions? I like it. It’s more cohesive than the last few Radiohead albums. For the most part, they’ve settled on a style and stuck with it, rather than darting wildly around genres. This probably means it’s an album you’re more likely to sit down and listen to in its entirety. Overall it’s very understated, nothing is overplayed and on the whole the number of instruments on each song is kept to a minimum.

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