…oh, you thought I meant me? It’s true that I haven’t done this for a while. I’m a fragile, delicate flower, as you may know, and it’s been a good stretch of months since I felt like I could really write anything except the occasional email. Just wasn’t going to happen. And on top of all the suffering I know that this caused all six of you, or whatever, it was an especially bad thing since I’m supposed to be writing a thesis. But now, with the semester just about half over, I feel like I’m getting it back. Got up at 5:30AM yesterday and wrote a philosophy paper, which is so out of character that it’s in fact alarming. Actually wrote some pages today about Macbeth—my chosen thesis topic; don’t ask—and that was an enormous relief. Wrote a decent little scene for screenwriting class. Got a gold star. (She really gives gold stars, and when you crave approval as I do, this is no laughing matter.)
And now, just in time, I can write about the Event That Will Shake the Music Business to its Core, and Change Us All Forever. I’m referring of course, as you can tell from my title, to the peculiar unveiling of In Rainbows, Radiohead LP #7. You’ve heard about this. (It’s free, you know!) Internet only, for now. Sticking It to The Man, i.e. iTunes. (Didn’t Thom Yorke used to have an Apple sticker on his guitar?) Pay what you want. We ride tonight. We hope that you choke. Etc.
Since you’re asking, I gave them £5. Or “bob.” Or “quid,” as we call them. Which worked out to about ten bucks—seemed reasonable to me. Now that I’ve gotten through it one and a half times, I feel like maybe owe them a few more bucks.
Yeah, yeah, I’m a sap, you say. A fawning fan-boy. But you know, it was great to feel like that again, even for an hour and a half or so. It’d been a while. They’re the special case, you know? This enormous presence for a decade now, but somehow insular and unapproachable. None of the bands that have tried to sound like them are any good. (But, Matt, you own three Coldplay albums, I hear you saying. Yes. Yes I do. And they suck.) They don’t really sound like any of the bands that supposedly influenced them. They’ve always been exactly themselves—and I, and probably anybody bothering to read this, would be an entirely different person if OK Computer, say, did not exist.
So I couldn’t help feeling a little excited, and also plenty ready for disappointment. Because that’s the fear, isn’t it? You hear that they’re putting it out themselves, untouched by hand of record company, and you’re always half afraid it’s going to turn out to be their Jazz Odyssey. Twelve minute songs about fair trade, or the Kennedy assassination, or something. I dunno, accordions. (Actually, that would probably be good.) Especially after the long delay—you had to wonder what we were in for.
But so far, I’m really happy with it. It’s certainly not a dramatic departure from anything but a marketing standpoint. Nobody who’s listened to Hail to the Thief or The Eraser is going to be shocked by anything here. But it’s all assured and dense and powerful and not boring for a moment. There aren’t even any noodling experiments like “Treefingers” or “Hunting Bears.” It’s ten songs, start to finish, and they’re rock songs, all of them, with melodies and beats. It’s Radiohead, of course, so the beats are nervous, stuttering, and often counted with odd numbers, and the melodies are plaintive and unsettling—but that just makes the moments of sweetness, like the ravishing “All I Need” stand out more. “Nude” is the spooky child of “Sail to the Moon” and “Pyramid Song.” “Bodysnatchers” has an eye-opening “Paranoid Android” riff. “Faust Arp” (uh, great title, guys) carries on in the dizzy, word-drunk mode of “Wolf at the Door,” though it isn’t that sinister because nothing is. In the end, In Rainbows is icy, sharp, and bracing. It’s the middle of October and it’s been 80 degrees where I live for weeks, almost creepily summerlike, but today it was fifty, and damp, and I walked around in the wind and felt like I could breathe again. This album sounds like that.