In the summer of 1997, Radiohead released OK Computer and guitar rock has never been the same since.
A full decade later and Radiohead are shaking up the entire music industry again with their latest, In Rainbows. But this time it’s because of how they’re doing it, and less about what they’ve done. Radiohead have pulled the ultimate home job: release an album, make it available for everyone and anyone who has an Internet connection, and let them pay whatever they want.
Seriously, if you want to pay a buck — hell, pay $0 — the price is completely up to the listener. This begs the question that must, or at the very least should, have record execs a little restless at night: if one of the most critically acclaimed bands in history is capable of just giving their music away, how can they justify charging $15-$20 for the overwhelming amount of crap that they spew out 52 Tuesdays a year?
While that’s only partly rhetorical, I’ll leave the answer to you.
Now to the album: In Rainbows is a classic. Despite the pay-what-you-will concept, Greenwood, Yorke, et al holds nothing back here. The album launches with “15 Steps,” a track initially reminiscent of the best of the Kid A/Amnesiac days, which then flows into a perfect balancing act of thick layers of electronica and guitar that sets the tone for what is to come. Other standout tracks include “Bodysnatchers,” “Faust Arp,” and my personal favorite, “Reckoner” — a track that captures the very best of five individual musical geniuses from the beat and bass lines, the layers of guitars and keyboards, and the which are saturated with brooding vocals lines.
We’ve waited so long for the return of an album with each and every track being a standout on its own. In Rainbows is The Eraser (Yorke’s ’06 solo project) with guts and meat. It’s a mighty f–k you to the record industry, a collection of tracks that stands out from what the music industry has been relentlessly force-feeding all of us.