These wily boys may have a secret album-title exchange program with Kelly Clarkson, but everything else about In Rainbows is typically hard-rocking Radiohead. Like every other Radiohead album except Kid A— still their most famous album, but they only made it once —In Rainbows has uptempo guitar songs and moody acoustic ballads, fullof headphone-tweaking sound effects. All of it rocks; none of it sounds likeany other band on earth; it delivers an emotional punch that proves allother rock stars owe us an apology.
In a brilliant move, Radiohead released In Rainbows via optional-paydownload; I paid $5.27, in honor of my mom’s birthday. Almost all the songsare already familiar to fans from live versions, but here they becomeexpansive new creations. “Arpeggi” and “Bodysnatchers” ride on white-heatrhythm-guitar overdrive, while “House of Cards” is a fragile lovers-rockballad closely resembling Dusty Springfield’s (and the Byrds’) “Going Back.””All I Need” has erotic pleading (“I’m an animal trapped in your hot car”),sad chimes in the “No Surprises” mode, and an ominoso synth-piano rumble. On 2003’s Hail to the Thief, Yorke’s vocals were all punk rage, buthere his voice has an R&B lilt that suits the songs’ romantic directness.
The end of “Videotape” is the only time the band dips back into datedglitch-blip electronics. Otherwise, the music is full of vividlycollaborative sonic touches, from the Gary Numan synth-nightmare drones of”All I Need” and “House of Cards” to drummer Phil Selway’s surprisingly deftway with his brushes and woodblocks. No wasted moments, no weak tracks:just primo Radiohead. Hell, I’m going back and tipping them another quarterjust for the finger-cymbal solo on “Reckoner.”