Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Album Review:
Radiohead - In Rainbows (Disc 2)

Grade: 82%

(2007, self-released, In Rainbows DiscBox)

"Bangers & Mash" [mp3]

"4-Minute Warning" [mp3]

Ordinarily I don't like to read other critic's reviews before I write my own. I'm late enough reviewing Disc 2, however, that I've unwittingly come across several. What intrigues me is not just that most of these other reviewers have given Disc 2 a low score, but that they seem to be evaluating the collection of songs as its own album. To my mind, this makes about as much sense as evaluating dessert with the same criteria as you would the main entree.

Yet perhaps this slight is more a testament to the strength of the songs than anything. There is definitely a "feel" of an album to these eight tracks, though they total just twenty-six minutes. First we encounter the bridge between Disc 1 closer "Videotape" to Disc 2, "Mk1." It's brief and gauzy, and absolutely perfect for those other nerds listening to Discs 1 and 2 in succession. "Down is the New Up" is a piano-driven number that echoes the jazzy/lounge-y feel of "15 Step" and "Reckoner." It's followed by "Go Slowly," a haunting, breathy track that would probably be one of my favorites if the guitar riffs weren't so unabashedly thieved from "There There" (Go listen to it! Tell me I'm wrong!)

"Last Flowers" is classic Thom Yorke in the vein of "True Love Waits." I've read that the song, which was originally titled "Last Flowers to the Hospital," was taken from a road-side sign in Oxford. The song suits this anecdote.

"Up on the Ladder" is quite different from the other tracks on Disc 1 or 2, and sounds more suited for a Hail to the Thief b-side. (Isn't it interesting how, even though HTTT was in many ways a fusion of the band's styles over the years, it still has a definitive sound? Listen to "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" and tell me it's not HTTT material.)

My two favorite tracks off Disc 2 can be found side-by-side at its conclusion. "Bangers & Mash" is Radiohead at its most raucous. I can just see Thom Yorke, tambourine in hand, writhing on-stage. More to the point, I'd love to see him, tambourine in hand, writhing on stage to this song. This year. Please God. Please God.

"4-Minute Warning" is one of the most achingly beautiful songs I've heard from the band in some time. As much as I've defended the synthy production of "Videotape," I think I would have been even happier with this track in its place. Only Radiohead could make a bomb raid sound so soothing.

Though all of the Disc 2 tracks are accomplished, even for a band like Radiohead, I'm pleased they left them off the "real" album (with the exception of the latter two). So many times we Range Lifers joke about "Bands That Need an Editor." Radiohead is smart enough to never be one of those bands.


SonicRyan said...

Radiohead is smart enough to never be one of those bands.

Femme Fatale said...

Fair enough... They seem to be better off when they keep to 12 tracks or fewer. I'm just looking at the HTTT tracklist and wondering, what if they would have cut "Scatterbrain" and "Myxamatosis." That would leave them with a neat 12 tracks... and I'm intrigued by the segue from "Punch Up" to "Wolf at the Door."

The Moon said...

Your meal analogy is absolutely perfect in this case, for at least me.

While I don't think I could ever consider disc 2/the bonus disc an actual album. It is always there as an accompaning piece, dessert, when I want just a little more, after my "In Rainbows" main course...

....and it's no "one scope of vanilla ice cream"! =P

Femme Fatale said...

You're making me hungry now! It's more like "In Rainbows" Neopolitan... wow, Ben and Jerry should market that!!!