In Rainbows, as a title, implies a sense of comfort and delightfulness. Symbolically, rainbows are more likely to be associated with kittens and warm blankets than the grim and glum circumstances Radiohead is known for soundtracking. There's a slight, if expected, twist at play. The band is more than familiar with the unpleasant moods associated with colors like red, green, and blue -- all of which, of course, are colors within a rainbow -- all of which are present, and even mentioned, during the album. On a couple levels, then, In Rainbows is not any less fitting as a Radiohead album title than "Myxomatosis" is as a Radiohead song title. Despite references to "going off the rails," hitting "the bottom," getting "picked over by the worms," being "dead from the neck up," and feeling "trapped" (twice), along with Radiohead Wordplay Deluxe Home Edition pieces like "comatose" and "nightmare" -- in the same song! double score! -- the one aspect of the album that becomes increasingly perceptible with each listen is how romantic it feels, albeit in the way that one might find the bioport scenes in David Cronenberg's eXistenZ to be extremely hot and somewhat unsettling. Surprisingly, some of the album's lyrics are even more personal/universal and straightforward than anything on The Eraser, the album made by Thom Yorke and Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich. "I'm an animal trapped in your hot car," from "All I Need," has to be one of the saddest, most open-hearted metaphors used to express unrequited love. "House of Cards" begins with "I don't want to be your friend/I just want to be your lover/No matter how it ends/No matter how it starts," and the one with the worms includes "I'd be crazy not to follow/Follow where you lead/Your eyes/They turn me." This effective weaving of disparate elements -- lyrical expressions commonly associated with the band, mixed in with ones suited for everyday love ballads -- goes for the music as well. The album is very song-oriented, with each track constantly moving forward and developing, yet there are abstract electronic layers and studio-as-instrument elements to prevent it from sounding like a regression. In Rainbows will hopefully be remembered as Radiohead's most stimulating synthesis of accessible songs and abstract sounds, rather than their first pick-your-price download.
In Rainbows Review
by Andy Kellman