Okay, after much ado, your intrepid reporter with the silly DJ name was able to download the new Radiohead album In Rainbows (for which I paid £5), and my first reaction is it’s worth the trouble. The title at first put me off a little; its girlish cutesiness (will the next CD be called With Unicorns?) seemed to combine with the whole “almost-free mp3” thing to give the album an air of disposability. Was it all going to sound like homemade blog-house?
Perhaps this image was intended as contrast, since the music itself is more organic and, well, rock than the band has been in a while, a 180-degree turn from Kid A, the band’s most electronic release. Even “All I Need,” which nods to downtempo experimenters Boards of Canada in its synth-y bassline, turns out to be almost a traditional love song, with live-sounding drums and piano as well as a soulful side to Thom Yorke’s vocals we haven’t really heard before. “Soulful” is, in fact, the operative word here; there’s the Motown-style reverb and falsetto crooning on “Reckoner,” and the Beck-like acoustic number “Faust Arp.”
Not that it’s anything but Radiohead. I’ve always said the band sounds like they’re making music to be sent into space as an artifact of a dying-off human race, and the usual bleak majesty and immense mournfulness haven’t gone anywhere. But when the three-chord pattern from Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Silly Love Songs” pops up, you know this isn’t “Idioteque.” It may even grab some new fans who found the band’s screaming intensity rattling: play your anti-Radiohead friends “House of Cards,” a sweet, quiet ballad, with Yorke singing, plainly: “I don’t wanna be your friend/I just wanna be your lover.” Fine, let’s put on In Rainbows and make out.