To put this review in context: the morning In Rainbows came out was the first morning I'd seen for three weeks. Maybe as a result of this horifically early start (9am) my initial impression of the album was... undecided. A four year break (the longest gap between albums for the Oxford-based five) suggested Radiohead were going to come back with more of a bang than... well, a Fender Rhodes and a string quartet.
But Radiohead have more than justified their long break (as I realised three cups of coffee later), and turned out a complex, sophisticated piece of work, simultaneously taking the world by storm with their 'pay as much as you like' release. As Jonny Greenwood said, 'it was an interesting thing to ask people to do and compare it to whatever else in their lives they value or don't value''. So how much is an album worth? A pint? A packet of cigarettes? Radiohead aren't trying to bring on the revolution, but it's a good point, entertainingly made. Meanwhile, the NME has reported that James Blunt has accused Radiohead of undermining music, and pissing off James Blunt is easily woth the price of a sandwich any day, musical genius aside.
And musical genius it is: from the funky IDM breakdown of opener 15 Step to the evocative space-majesty of Nude, this is an awesome example of a band learning to love themselves. Thom has worked out ProTool urges on solo project The Eraser, so trademark Kid A 'brick sliding over marmite' moments are rarer (shame). Jonny Greenwood, meanwhile, tood advantage of the break to moonlight as the BBC Composer in residence and while Newsom, Wainwright and Silverchair wheeled in Van Dyke Parks to add weight to new projects, Radiohead are manifestly lucky to have him around to add scenery to sparser tracks. Selway's drumming (and assorted dumming/frozen peas in a paint-can shaking etc.) is treated as so much more than the engine beneath the track. On Weird Fishes/Arpeggi it's as crucial as the bluesy distortion on Bodysnatchers.
Admittedly there is a sense with Radiohead touring the majority of these tracks for the last couple of years, In Rainbows is more fleshed out old work than it is original in the Amnesiac sense. Still, even if Radiohead haven't made it over the rainbow this time, it's hard not to love the results of their having traded blue skies for this kaleidoscope of spectrum-hopping sound.