(Radiohead's new album In Rainbows was available to download this morning, with fans choosing exactly how much they wish to pay for the album.) For the record (no pun intended), I paid for the discbox option and the digital download portion was part of that package. Acquisition of said 160k bitrate mp3 files earlier today was efficient and surprisingly fast (less than 2 minutes). With that distribution method alone Radiohead have singlehandedly set the record industry on its ear. Creatively speaking though it's still early and my critical opinions on this one will change. They often do. This has been the case with me for every Radiohead release since 1993. For that reason, it's best not to write a conventional review directly. Further, due to the fact because it's not yet fully clear whether I should be critiquing Radiohead the corporate entity, who have made a soundtrack to their latest commercial outing, or Radiohead the musicians, who have made another album full of conceptual minutiae for fans to love worldwide. For now I offer a review of sorts; Remarks and observations on something important in my life, in all of our lives perhaps. Life changing? Not really. Life affirming? Indeed.
One particularly hot August night ten years ago I had an unusual brush with celebrity behind London’s Centennial Hall. A small throng of fans had gathered for a chance meeting with Radiohead who were in town promoting OK Computer. As he left the building, head “Head” Thom Yorke wryly commented that I appeared to be, “…the only one at the show without pimples”. Marginalization by celebrity is such a capricious thing, (damn you greying temples for belying my age!) but what a story for the grandchildren.
Yes, my teenage days are quite behind me at this point but this morning I felt like I was 15 again. Today I, like so many others was downloading the new Radiohead release, In Rainbows; today, for the first time in a long time I was truly excited about a new music release. My excitement in fact was two-fold. First, that I finally have some new music from the most important band on the planet and second, that this brave step in music marketing was actually working. The new Radiohead distribution model is genius and record companies had better pay heed. The future is now.
Bleary eyes aside, it seems rather appropriate that I hear In Rainbows for the first time in the early morning. These are my initial impressions. The first two tracks "15 Step" and "Bodysnatchers" are like that time in the morning just before the sun begins to squash the darkness of the night before. Announcing its presence quickly and assuredly, the record feels like the calm ‘after’ a storm. It feels exceptionally bright and airy and lacks the compression of earlier recordings. No heavy chords and little to no guitar strumming, In Rainbows is a record full of empty space. For as much as Kid A revelled in its darker themes this one absolutely sparkles. That is not to say it is a cheery romp. The third song “Nude” makes that clear immediately. The fourth track Weird Fishes/Arpeggi was somewhat familiar since the demo showed up earlier this summer throughout the interweb. The results though, even more captivating this time as the song is fleshed out, the treatment exquisite.
To be continued.