The seventh album by English alternative rock band made headlines via its initial release as a pay-what-you-want album, where listeners could pay as little or as much as they desired for the record. Let’s start by saying that this is arguably their greatest collection of songs, and their most accessible, with no weak tracks in its catalogue. Noted as singer Thom Yorke’s ‘seduction songs’, In Rainbows is largely very, very gentle and sparse in comparison to earlier work, yet it remains incredibly abstract in concept. The vocals are some of the strongest from any of their albums, and the instruments are toned down to become perfect accompaniment for the tender Yorke vocals.
The album’s best track lies in the immaculate Nude, which (suitably named), is probably as ‘nude’ or stripped down as any Radiohead song. Has the brilliant but pessimistic opening lyric, “Don’t get any big ideas, they’re not gonna happen.” Yorke’s vocal work (largely without lyrics) is incredible, and amongst the strongest he’s ever done. The guitar is subtle and pretty, and sets the mood with a deft touch. The album’s best tracks are the quieter and more subtle moments, with, All I Need, being a standout with its haunting instrumentation and ghostly vocal. Another standout is the similar styled, Reckoner, with a crashing drum loop, a simple guitar riff, and hard to distinguish lyrics at timed, it remains as one of the most oblique and lasting tracks from the album. House of Cards is probably the most accessible song on the album, elegant and refined, with surprisingly simple and honest lyrics like, “I don’t want to be your friend, I just want to be your lover.”
Radiohead album closers are notorious for being one of, if not the best track on their respective album. Usually sombre, dark, haunting, yet entirely fitting, Videotape is another perfect example. The piano riff, backed by drum loops, and a desperate-sounding vocal, set their signature mood as lyrics detailing a farewell, (listener’s relevance and own interpretation is the key factor) with it being either about death, a suicide note, a farewell to a love, or simply, a goodbye. The closing lyrics atop the settling down instrumentation is stunning, “No matter what happens now, you shouldn’t be afraid, because I know today has been the most perfect day I’ve ever seen.” In addition to the standard songs on the album, the bonus disc contains the gem, Go Slowly, which would have fitted on the record perfectly.
There are no wasted moments on the album, and to the listeners who were less keen of the experimental Radiohead, this is likely their favourite album by the Brits. Understandably so though, the album is nearly flawless and as said above, the most likeable and least difficult of the top Radiohead albums. You could easily place In Rainbows near the very top of the best albums of the decade, and it remains as a testament to the band that this record wouldn’t even be their highest placed album on that list.
Top Songs – Nude, Reckoner, Videotape