So. New Radiohead album.
I've kept coming back to Radiohead hoping for something as good as OK Computer. Granted, this is not the way to approach an album so that you love it. And this isn't to say that Kid A or The Bends were lost on me, but much of their work has found itself filed away under I for "Intelligent Pop" and rarely gets playlisted.
I'll admit that this isn't fair to them. And I'll also admit that I lost some serious hipster points for being less than enamored by Radiohead.
The arrangements are masterful, and never fail to impress. In Rainbows is no exception. But I get the feeling that they'd be served well to loosen up every now and again. It seems that only Thom Yourke's vocals are given license to draw spotlight. Not every band has to go crazy on lead guitar like Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of the Mars Volta. This I do concede. And I also concede that I have a bias that extends to guitar solos (and trumpet solos for that matter, but it doesn't come up much in rock save for Cake, who are awesome. Ska doesn't count in this case, though I do enjoy it from time to time).
All this being said, at it's worst the album is, well, pretty. Which isn't bad. If I ever do make a background music playlist, most of the tracks on this album would be featured. And the rest? those are the good ones. Specifically, "Nude," (actually a 2001 composition that has been previously performed live but only now recorded) which sounds a bit like Dire Straits (though with a better vocalist in Yourke and minus Mark Knopfler on guitar) and I think is one of the better examples of Radiohead's ethereal sound. Reckoner reminds me of a sort of Massive Attack infused Chili Peppers, though more mellow than either. There's something haunting about what Thom Yourke's voice does when it hits the upper registers.
The album peaks at Jigsaw Falling Into Place, wherein a notch is kicked up. It is my humble supposition that this would have been a far better album if the energy and intensity present in this track were more pervasive throughout.
But it's solid. Absolutely worth a listen or two or five.
The most important thing about it is the distribution of course. It's a big fuck you to EMI, and the recording industry in general. If it works, this could be something that could finally cause the labels to realize the fucking stupidity of their ways. Or if not? Trent Reznor has said that the next NIN album will be released the same way. Coming from a dude who has used enemity with his label as fuel for his work to great result, this is particularly exciting. Here's a clip from one of his concerts
Radiohead may not specifically be out to take down the system, but sure as fucking hell that man is.
Oasis is considering it as well, as are Jamiroquoi. Look for that list to expand.
this whole thing is making me wish I could start a record label. Because I know how I'd handle digital distribution.
First of all, what Radiohead did would absolutely be implemented. For a nominal minimum fee, maybe five dollars, all of the materials that would come with a standard cd would be mailed to the customer in addition to both MP3 and lossless audio compressions of the download so that if one had an empty jewel case, a CD-R, and a labeler, one could have something that passes for a standard retail cd. The record stores would get a special edition; maybe a dvd/dualdisc version with footage from sessions, interviews, music videos, concert footage, etc, and if marketable, vinyl LPs and singles (all of which come with free lossless downloads). Every optional dollar spent would go to the artists.
Of course, I could do much of that if I were the artist, save for maybe the special edition stuff. And it may come to pass that record deals will be signed wherein the label only is responsible for putting out the material that the artists can't handle themselves.
What this would mean, as Jason pointed out when we chatted earlier, is that to make it big you need to put on a killer live show.
Hey, I can dream