In Rainbows by Radiohead (Review)

The sound of a band completely comfortable inside its own skin and supremely confident in their skills.
In Rainbows, Radiohead

In Rainbows has been out for over a week now and the general consensus has been overwhelmingly positive. The album received a 9.3 rating from Pitchfork, it currently has a score of 89 on Metacritic (which translates into “Universal Acclaim”), and numerous folks in forums and throughout the blogosphere are calling it one of the best in the band’s career.

I can’t really speak to all that. With the notable exception of OK Computer (and to a lesser extent, Kid A), I’ve not paid much attention to Thom Yorke and Co. Not because I don’t like their music, but my interests were simply held by other bands exploring other sounds. All that being said, though, I am enjoying In Rainbows quite a bit, and more with each listen.

Some of that is due, in part, to the guerilla-like feel I get every time I listen to the album. Yes, I paid full price for my download, so it’s all legit. But there’s still an illicit feel about the whole thing. Every time I put on my headphones and press “Play” on my iPod, I feel like I’m sticking it to the Man, the recording industry, Big Brother, and all of the other nameless authorities that have fueled Thom Yorke’s paranoia and alienation throughout the years — and that’s a good feeling.

But there’s the simple fact that In Rainbows is just a good, solid album. As a poster on one of the forums I frequent put it, In Rainbows sounds like Radiohead once again enjoying their music. Not that the album is an upbeat affair, but it is a relaxed and confident one.

There’s no better example of this on In Rainbows than “House of Cards,” which sounds as unlikely a Radiohead song as I can imagine, especially given the rather dystopic image that has surrounded the band for so long. I’ve listened to it countless times, and there’s something about Yorke’s wordless falsetto echoing off into the void, with lethargic guitar noises, crisp drumming, and a loping bassline providing the lightest of anchors — something that just makes me smile on the inside with each listen.

Even this Radiohead n00b (yes, I’ll admit it) recognizes it as the sound of a band completely comfortable inside its own skin, supremely confident in their skills, and not at all concerned with the Pitchforks and Metacritics of the world.