It’s Wednesday the 10th of October, and the new Radiohead album has been released! Yes, after four long years, the much anticipated follow-up to 2003’s Hail To The Thief has hit the shelves…well…the ‘online’ shelves at least! So, is it all it’s cracked up to be? Is it another experimental masterpiece? Well, the answer appears to be both yes and no, in my opinion at least – will it get as much critical acclaim as OK Computer…not a chance…in fact, i’ve already read reviews panning the album, some claiming it’s the same old Radiohead who have done nothing new or original…and i wonder if they’ve listened to the same album as me!?!?!?!
Album opener, 15 Step, begins with electro beats before Thom Yorke’s vocals pierce the noise, ‘how come i end up where i started?’, before the guitar kicks in, subtle and minimalistic. The song continues in this fashion until 2 and a half minutes, where it subsides into ambient synths, until it breaks down towards the end, the music seemingly falling apart! On first listen, this track immediately reminds the listener of Yorke’s The Eraser, but yet, it is not nearly as dark as the material on there, with a special, children’s ‘YAY!’ being included at one point. Of course, in typical Radiohead fashion, the lyrics do reflect much darker imagery…as is continued in the rest of the album!
The perfect example being next track, Bodysnatchers, which opens with perhaps the album’s most catchy and prominent guitar riff, whilst the drums pound away underneath, creating a frenzied atmosphere, especially when mixed with Thom’s Yorke’s strained vocals and lyrics (‘I see they’re coming!). This track could easily have fit on OK Computer, and is certainly one of the highlights of the album for me – especially the breakdown at 3:10 – reminiscent of There There but faster!
Nude takes the tempo down a notch, as the infamous non-album live song finally finds it’s way onto an album! The glistening guitars float dreamily underneath the beautiful vocals, with lush strings entering the song halfway through. Simple yet magical! Phil Selway’s drums lift the album’s pace again on Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, with Yorke questioning ‘Why should i stay here?’ over the top of clean guitars chiming away. This song has one of my favourite lines, ‘I get eaten by the worms, and weird fishes’, just because i like the imagery of weird fishes! It is certainly a track that is more experimental, hinting back to Kid A and Amnesiac.
Next track, All I Need, is a slow-burner, with the album’s most prominent bassline, opening darkly, until synths and glockenspiel create an epic sound, before a piano crescendo and cymbals lift the track into much more memorable territory. Before this, the song threatened to burn out and fade into the background, as has happened to similar songs on previous albums!
Faust ARP, is this album’s Wolf At The Door, but much more minimalistic, as it is backed only by finger-picked acoustic guitars and delicate strings! It is the shortest song on the album, but also one of the strongest, as Yorke’s vocals again stand-out! Following the trend of this album, is Reckoner, as it retains the use of the clean guitars used to punctuate the music, as the drums pack the punch underneath! A break in the middle again introduces strings to the song, before it kicks back in to life. This song is perhaps not the strongest, but is still a pleasure to listen to!
‘I don’t want to be your friend, I just want to be your lover.’ Yes, this is the first line of House of Cards, which appears to have kicked up a bit of a fuss amongst other reviewers for not a being a very ‘typical’ Radiohead line…but don’t worry, the rest of the song is nowhere near as romantic – ‘Infrastructure will collapse’ – order being fully restored! Again, this track is a mid-tempo number that shows Radiohead in full ‘dreamer’ mode – a sweet song with gorgeous music again.
Upbeat drums and acoustic guitar introduce Jigsaw Falling Into Place – one of the few songs that actually includes some distorted guitar, with the guitars being a bit more prominent in this song! A foot-tapping number that has the chance to become a fan-favourite live.
Finally, we reach the most controversial moment on the whole album, Videotape, which has been derided by fans for not sticking close enough to the live version, thus disappointing many! I have tried to steer well clear of the live versions of the new songs – I didn’t want my judgement to be affected by songs still in the demo stage – and so have an unbiased opinion of the song! Consequently, i think it is a beautiful song, the piano slowly punctuating Yorke’s mournful vocals, with only some scattered effects and eventually some electro beats thrown into the mix – it is simple yet effective, the perfect album closer for me!
On a whole, i think the album is a success, it does, of course, have its faults, the main one for me being that the second half is maybe not as strong as the first, but that happens on many albums! This was not the album i was expecting, as i remember some comments being made from the band that it would sound more like The Bends than any other album, and yes, in parts it does! However, the approach is very different, as the guitars are much more minimalistic and jazzy, and the drums are venomous and pounding – creating a different atmosphere and tempo. The focus of the listener is immediately drawn to Thom Yorke’s vocals, which stand out so beautiful and emotional – this album will surely secure him his place as one of the best vocalists of this generation!
So, would i recommend that you buy the album – certainly – i mean, it’s not going to cost you that much if you want, and it is certainly a very strong album! An all-time classic like OK Computer? …no…but maybe it will earn it’s place as one of your favourite albums, as opposed to the album that the critics choose is the best!
Recommended Tracks: 15 Step, Bodysnatchers, Nude, Faust ARP, Videotape
Again, this review is sort of repetitive and long – although i can’t remember some of the things i wanted to say, but I’m sure you get the point!!!
Radiohead Official: website