In Rainbows

Notwithstanding the anomalous mediocrity of Pablo Honey, there are two categories of Radiohead albums. First, there’s the troika of The Bends, OK Computer, and Kid A. These are the classics, the albums that will be listened to 50 years from now, which represent three of the finest achievements of rock. Then there’s the two albums immediately preceding In Rainbows, Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief, which are merely very good. The question when listening to In Rainbows isn’t whether it’s good or bad; everyone knew it was going to be good before it was even announced. The question is whether it’s another classic or just another fine entry in the Radiohead back catalog.
I’ve only listened to it two times now, but I’m prepared to file it under “classic”. It doesn’t have some big overarching theme, like the other classic albums do. It doesn’t fit neatly into a single genre, like they did, either. But it does contain 10 of the finest songs put to record by Radiohead, or any other band for that matter. There is not a weak track here; more than that, there is not a simply good track here. All of them are fantastic, and all of them melt your mind the way classics like “Fake Plastic Trees”, “Paranoid Android”, and “How to Disappear Completely” did. The Aphex Twin-like drum programming on “15 Step”, the full-frontal guitar assault of “Bodysnatchers”, the understated balladry of “Nude”, and the alternating fierce and gentle rhythms of “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” make for the best opening run on an album since I don’t know when. “House of Cards” and “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” contain two of the best build-ups in music, and “Faust Arp” is the best song Nick Drake never wrote. And “All I Need”, “Reckoner” , and “Videotape” are all just as awesome.
In Rainbows might not be quite as good as OK Computer, but at this level that’s just splitting hairs. It’s better than Kid A and The Bends and orders of magnitude better than anything else released or yet to be released this year. And with the price being $AnythingYouDamnPlease, you really have no excuse not to get it right now.

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