Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Radiohead "In Rainbows"

Artist: Radiohead
Album: In Rainbows
Label: Self-Released
Release date: 10 October 2007
Genre: Rock
Style: Indie Rock/Electro Rock

01. 15 Step
02. Bodysnatchers
03. Nude
04. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
05. All I Need
06. Faust Arp
07. Reckoner
08. House Of Cards
09. Jigsaw Falling Into Place
10. Videotape
Total running time: 42' 34"
"Had there been a nationwide power cut last Monday, you could have lit a town the size of St Albans with the envy that Radiohead instantly elicited among their peers. Take away the glamour of a pop star’s job and that fact is that most of the currently extant names in your record collection are slogging through severe record deals for percentage points that Radiohead left behind a long time ago. And yet, among all the excitement, it’s worth pondering a small but important question. If the music industry collapsed tomorrow, what would most of those bands do with their new-found autonomy? In a world without A&R men and people who are paid to tell you the truth about whether your new stuff sucks, how many musicians would ultimately resist the gravitational pull of their own rectums?

Ever since OK Computer made them big enough to ignore the advice of those around them, Radiohead have somehow beaten down a path between the expectations of their fans and the abyss of absolute freedom. That they’ve done it again with In Rainbows isn’t entirely clear from the first few bars. Even before he sings the lines, “One by one/Comes to us all,” the hand of Thom Yorke, the incorrigible contrarian, is evident in the jackhammering machine beat that kicks off 15 Step. Once you’ve effectively been told to sit up straight and listen, everything is played out around rhythm that resembles a sectioned patient trying to escape their straitjacket and Jonny Greenwood and Ed O’Brien’s simple, pretty guitar playing. Occasional bursts of shouting children do little to dissipate the presiding air of strangeness. Welcome then, to Radiohead’s favourite default setting in 2007.

At various times, they’ve sounded like a great live band and like hermetic musos prodding around on laptops in the hope that the next noise might offer a new direction. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi is, strangely, neither. Its airless, bunker-bound anti-ambience recalls Kid A and Amnesiac, but the band themselves sound thrillingly alive, thrashing out a melody replicates on “real” instruments the gorgeous Cornish digi-folk of Aphex Twin’s Richard D. James – an album for which Radiohead have all been vocal in their affection.

Much to the ongoing chagrin of a minority who want them to repeat 1995’s The Bends, doggedly experimental rock is just what Radiohead do these days, finding common ground between hitherto ingongruent parts. Hence a song like Bodysnatchers. On it, Greenwood and O’Brien feed a chugging, elementary riff through an amp that barely sounds like it can take it, while Thom Yorke’s mostly indistinct vocals compete to be heard over the hyperactive raga-rock being played out around him.

Their attitude to the medium might be one of uncompromising modernity, but Radiohead’s almost quaint belief in the album as an art form is borne out by their dispute with Apple (the absence of their music on iTunes is down to their refusal to allow the sale of individual tracks). In Rainbows compounds their stance. In time you’ll scoot to your favourites on In Rainbows – in particular, the baroque fever-folk of Faust Arp is just, when it all comes down, an endlessly repeatable treat – but taken as a whole, In Rainbows adheres to a loose musical narrative of its own.

The herky-jerky clatter of earlier songs gives way to acoustic guitars, bigger melodies and a musical sense of resolution. Finally, Thom Yorke even finds himself slipping into the vernacular of the pop songs we thought he never even listened to, let alone sang. That’s him on House Of Cards, singing “I don’t wanna be your friend/I just wanna be your lover” like Prince’s shy baby brother, amid swirling strings that simulate the postcoital fug of a Sunday morning. Lest we imagine him guesting on the next Sugababes album, it’s worth pointing out that the next verse begins “Infrastructure will collapse”, but no matter. It’s one of their very best songs.

Ditto, All I Need, which lobs another relatively direct Yorke lyric into sonic waters that appear to meander by the Get Carter soundtrack. Listen once and you’re unsure. Listen twice, knowing that, three minutes in, a plangent pounding piano leads you out into a snowblind crescendo of melodic light and, you’re excited before you even get there. Quite how it all ranks alongside other Radiohead albums – well, let’s be honest. It’s far too early to tell. In time, the excitement of waiting for a new release by one of your favourite bands to land in your inbox will separate from the role it will go on to play in your life.

For what it’s worth, In Rainbows was sent to me at 6.30am. Three hours later, this insidious index of sonic surprises is stacking up in my mind, like planes waiting to land. The trick, I guess, is to give your fans what they didn’t know they wanted. Radiohead, old hands at this, have been doing it for over a decade now. With In Rainbows, they appear to have done it again." [source]

Music industry reaction to Radiohead album

The music industry woke to a potential revolution today with the first downloads of Radiohead’s In Rainbows album being eagerly copied to MP3 players.

But the prospect of fans choosing how much, if anything to pay for a hotly-anticipated release, provoked a mixed response from the Oxford band’s peers.

James Blunt, the three million-selling singer songwriter told The Times that Radiohead’s approach could undermine the principle that artists should be rewarded for their work.

“I definitely think there is value in music,” he said. “I don’t think they should devalue it. I’ve got to pay a band and a producer and a mixer. I don’t know how I’d necessarily pay them if I sold my albums for 1p. I’d have to work it out, but maybe they know how this works in practice.”

Johnny Marr, the former Smiths guitarist, now a member of US cult band Modest Mouse, is an enthusiastic supporter. “I think it’s a really fantastic idea because it puts the responsibility back on people’s own consciences and deals with people as grown ups,” he said.

Bands will have to up their game, predicted Marr. “Everyone knows you can get your music for free, so let’s see if you really want to show the band your appreciation.”

Alex Turner, Arctic Monkeys’ singer, said he had been “reading up” about Radiohead’s exercise. He said it was “very interesting”, but would not commit his band, voted Best Act in the World Today by Q magazine readers this week, to following suit.

Artists such as David Bowie, a web pioneer who has one further album to deliver on his current record deal, are said to be taking a close interest in the Radiohead project.

Oasis are releasing their new single, Lord Don’t Slow Me Down, as a 99p download only. But the band are currently without a record deal and are discussing a new contract with corporate giants, including Universal Music.

Sources say Oasis want the international marketing power that a large record company can offer, and the one-off advance payment would be an incentive for some band members.

But Jamiroquai, another former Sony artist with a live following, is said to be interested in pursuing the web-only route because the band makes a large amount of its earnings from live performances.

Record companies are expected to fight back by cutting the advance payments they offer stars. Robbie Williams negotiated a record £80 million deal with EMI but the company, under new management, is likely to be less generous when negotiations begin shortly.

Manchester veterans The Charlatans announced that they are giving their new album away as a free download through the XFM website. The band argued that signing to a record company was similar to “joining the army” with a similar lack of financial reward. But the group, who sold out their latest tour within hour, have probably passed their recorded sales peak. [source]


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