The idea of liveblogging the new Radiohead album isn’t exactly original. Actually, Kids Pushing Kids have me beat by several hours. What can I say? I had important business to attend to.
Although there’s no shortage of posts on the subject, I figured we oughtta throw The Contrarian hat into the ring. (It’s a black velvet derby, in case you were wondering). So here goes. . .
1. "15 Step"
The second I heard the squelchy drums, I felt a slight rush of disappointment. Was this record gonna be a rehash of Thom Yorke‘s solo album? Still, it’s nice to hear him clearly delineate a melody for a change. Love the jazzy lilt of the guitars. Radiohead always remind me that hard panning (when an instrument is pushed to one or another speaker) can be an inspired production choice. Oh, and props to bassist Colin Greenwood for rocking the dub-prog.
Has anyone noticed that this song’s central progression bears a striking resemblance to Iron Maiden‘s "The Number of the Beast?" This is one of my least favorite Rainbows cuts, but once again, the bass line is tops.
My, my — what an absolutely gorgeous tune. Yorke’s vocals are perfect, with an intimacy not heard since the OK Computer days. Whereas other post Kid A albums have leaned towards the soporific, here the band sounds relaxed yet alert. To me, the song comes across like a serotonin-balanced "Exit Music For a Film." Definitely among their best work.
4. “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi”
Another pleasant little drifter, which, if it weren’t so *cheery,* could’ve fit on Amnesiac. Am I detecting a theme? Yorke has spent years crafting his bittersweet goodbye to samsara; these days he seems to have embraced the Wisdom of No Escape. Good on him. The end of the tune is classic Radiohead, all swirling, atmospheric arpeggios and skittery acoustic percussion.
5. "All I Need"
Fat analog keyboard bass = squishy delights! Yorke’s somewhat morbid lyrics directly confront the limited viewpoints we often assume to be the sum total of existence. "I’m an animal trapped in your hot car," he sings detatchedly. The track features familiar Radiohead themes: the compulsion to cling to something, anything, countered by a strong desire to stop grasping and surrender completely to life’s realities, no matter how ugly. Also, it’s a love song! And let’s not ignore the absolutely lovely piano and celeste in the coda.
6. “Faust ARP”
Acoustic, but harmonically complex. Somewhere between a George Harrison ditty and the intro to "Paranoid Android." The strings are a little much, though.
Another amazing vocal performance from Yorke. He hasn’t been this audacious with his falsetto in years. This one could really come to life on stage, with members getting polyrhythmic with sundry percussive whatnots. So hushed and slinky, with an emotive, almost acapella mid-section. Babies will get made to this track.
8. "House of Cards"
Another sexy number. Yorke’s really getting his mack on here: “I don’t want to be your friend / I just want to be your lover”. I thought he was
married girlfriended with children child? Must be one of those healthy relationships like you read about. I dig the mellotron-style strings (or is it EBowed guitar?) and concise chord vamps.
9. "Jigsaw Falling Into Place"
This one thrums right along. Listen closely, and you can hear the sound of fingers sliding on acoustic strings. Another Yorke-ian admonition to mindfulness. Can I get a motherfuckin’ witness? Man, Colin’s bass parts are tasty. He’s a major contributor to the forward motion and general lushness of this record, that’s for sure.
Warm piano is met by gorgeous tenor vocals that sound like they’re coming from inside your own head. Unusual percussion akin to Monty Python’s King Arthur in full coconut gallop. Pillow-soft bed of background vocals. Sleepytime. A subdued and stately finish to a sweetly seductive record.
There you have it. I wasn’t sure if it were still actually the case, but having listened to In Rainbows, I can confidently say that Radiohead are the best enormously popular band on the planet.