In Rainbows is the seventh album in Radiohead’s discography. Here we have a record that is concise, yet deep and immersive. It has a lot of colour and a plethora of sounds ranging from electronic and simple drum beats to spacey vocal effects. All of the effects and experimentations work together to contribute to the moulding and formation of the songs. Here, the infamous band from Oxford are at the top of their game. In 2003’s Hail to the Thief, we see the start of ?a fusion’ of the two sides of Radiohead: the alternative rock side of Pablo Honey, The Bends and OK Computer and the electronic side in Kid A and Amnesiac. In In Rainbows, the approach is still the same, but a lot of the fat which was on its predecessor has been cut out, and the result is more directed and focused.
When In Rainbows was released, it created a furore in the music industry because the band released the record online as a digital download without any price tag, but instead asked the buyer to pay the amount he/she felt was necessary. Experts in the field of music and marketing were saying that Radiohead would revolutionize the whole way music is sold and marketed around the world. Nine Inch Nails then followed suit by releasing their latest album entitled The Slip entirely for free on their website. Vocalist, producer and multi instrumentalist, Steven Wilson thinks that in the future, music will probably only be released in two formats: the digital download format and the deluxe/limited edition format with the actual cd/vinyl, with greater care given to the quality of the sound and the artwork, and extra features incorporated in the package. The latter option is obviously aimed for collectors and for those who love something more tactile.
In Rainbows wasn’t an easy ride at all for Radiohead. They wanted to release an album which was hopefully better than its predecessor. In my opinion, they succeeded, because In Rainbows is a very strong release and it sounds more focused than its predecessor. My favourite tracks on the album are All I Need, Reckoner and Videotape. All I Need is a a very slow paced number which somehow reminds me of Blade Runner. A video for the track was recorded by MTV to promote the EXIT campaign. Reckoner features some very beautiful and ethereal vocals by Thom Yorke. The last track on the record; Videotape, gave the band a hard time to record, until Johnny Greenwood and Nigel Godrich stripped it down to the version we can now listen to on the record.
In an interview, Thom Yorke explains how the lyrics of the album deal with the feeling you get when you’re stuck in a traffic jam, and deep inside you feel that you should be doing something else.
In another interview he states that they’re about the feeling of realising that you’re about to die or that you can die at any moment. Stanley Donwood created the artwork to the album, which looks quite colourful but also “toxic”. Donwood put the prints in acid baths to produce this effect. His aim was to produce images which reflected suburban life, but then he realized that they wouldn’t fit the sound of the album and so he turned to the idea of the “toxic” rainbows. In Rainbows is sort of hypnotic in a way. It is made up of a number of short and slow paced songs, yet there are a couple of them which take an interesting and unexpected turn.
Radiohead are minimalist, yet they are also experimental. This is one of the traits which has put them head and shoulders above the rest of the bands in the alternative rock genre. In Fact, with In Rainbows they were nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2008 and won two Grammy Awards in 2009: one for Best Alternative Music album and another for Best Special Limited Edition Package.