No Surprises: Radiohead – 'In Rainbows' Track By Track Verdict

The dust has finally settled after all the in-box checking, downloading and hours of scrutiny over whether Radiohead’s 7th and without a doubt most eagerly awaited album was actually worth the hype cleverly created by its makers.
Some parts of the media were quick to jump straight in with their 5/5’s, or in the case of Paul Morley, £3.05. Some even dared brand the album a flop musically without giving it the minimum 15 listens that every Radiohead album since Pablo Honey unquestionably requires. Although the BBC Entertainment journalist, who shall remain nameless, did go on to admit he does tend to “listen to it a few times (and) feel that there must be some greater artistic excellence that (he’s) not fully appreciating…” At least he understands just how wrong he is.
Here is a track-by-track verdict.

15 Steps

Jumpy electro beats come straight in evoking Bjorks’ ‘Earth Intruders’, before things slow down with Johnny’s stream-like guitar picks. The occasional children’s cries of ‘Yah’ do wonders and lighten things up over the obscure lyrics. I bet Thom even cracked a smile here. As an album opener it sends out an instant message – Those still waiting for The Bends pt 2 can keep waiting.


The rockiest song they’ve done since ‘Electioneering’, this has Johnny and Colin Greenwood all over it. We do get the occasional sound effect and Thom’s usual crooning however this is one for would be guitar heroes to master. Full of fuzz and attitude, this is Radiohead proving they can still ‘Rawwk’…. When they feel up to it that is.


Previously known as ‘Big Ideas’, this has been around for the best part of 10 years and finally; finally, they’ve nailed it. Fading in slowly, Colin’s bass takes control before Thom begins to gently moan, showing off just how high his voice can go. The most moving song on the album and in terms of sheer beauty, is right up there with ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ and ‘No Surprises’. Worth the wait.

Weird Fishes/Arpeggi

Thom Yorke is one of the most underrated songwriters working today and songs like this prove why. Full of talk of ‘being eaten by worms’, this is a mysterious and particularly harrowing song when looked at closely. There’s enough in here to live up to the ‘depressing’ tag in terms of lyrics although musically it moves along nicely and develops into a kind of dreamy jaunt ‘at the bottom’ of the ‘deepest ocean’. A grower.

All I Need

Starting in the manner of ‘Nude’, this is another beautifully melancholic dream-like affair – although in the wrong hands it could have easily turned into a ballad. With funky drums and polite piano’s, here there is also room for the glockenspiel to come back out of its ‘Ok Computer’ box and the track is all the better for it. Meanwhile Thom gets as close to romanticizing as he ever is, “I am a moth who just wants to share your light.” Awe.

Faust Arp

One of my personal least favorites from the album, Faust Arp is a potential track skipper. On the good side the acoustic guitars are reminiscent of classic Elliot Smith, while the orchestra adds something typically Johnny Greenwood to the convention. Not a tribute to 80s ‘krautrock’ masters Faust as many had thought – Merely a rare chance for them try some stripped down acoustica. Will probably improve with time.


Another song that requires at least 7 or 8 listens just to take in all the sounds possessed – There’s violins, tambourines, chirping birds, and not for the first time on ‘In Rainbows’, the unstoppable urgency to dance. This is a prime example of how much the Radiohead have evolved over the years – Thoms voice in particular, which again acts as a guide, taking you through the rest of the sky born imagery created by the rest of the band. Blissful.

House Of Cards

Underneath all the sound effects lies one of the most straightforward and catchiest songs the band have ever done. “I don’t wanna be your friend, I just wanna be you’re lover” is words I’d never have expected Thom Yorke to sing, but wrapped in the endless echo it sounds chillingly beautiful and sets the laid back tone perfectly. Again, the word here is beauty.

Jigsaws Falling Into Place

Starting with fast paced acoustic guitar picks, the drums soon join and the song gets quicker – the electric guitar riff kicks in midway through and propels the song onto a whole new level. At this stage one can only imagine how good this will sound live – Particularly at the point when Thom starts to snarl “Wish away the nightmare, you've got a light you can feel it on your back, Jigsaws falling into place”. This will eventually become regarded as the albums best track.


Some fans have already voiced their disappointment in regards to this tracks change of sound, arguing it more climatic nature in the live performances. True, the song does threaten to explode towards its end without ever doing so, however before that, the overall seduction of the classical piano, the funeral-like atmosphere and way the band lead you towards the finale, all make for its own unique climax. As with ‘Like Spinning Plates’, Radiohead prove that with their records and live performance, there is no one proper version of their songs. Each compliments the other, and this choice of album ending is further proof. Not for the first time in their career, Radiohead choose to bring things to a close with a gloriously gloomy classic.

Radiohead’s 7th studio album is a prime example of how far they are ahead of the rest – not just commercially. In terms of music, ‘In Rainbows’ is the product of a band oozing confidence, a band that are in control of their own destiny, a band who can afford to do what they like, when they like. ‘In Rainbows’ is sarcastic, romantic, melancholic yet utterly inspiring and bridges the gap that lay between the melodies contained in 'Amnesiac' and the eeriness throughout 'Hail To The Thief'.

For music at such a low cost (mines cost just 95p), is it ironic it’s so rich in quality?
The first installment of ‘In Rainbows’ will surely convince a few more skeptics to pay that little bit extra when the band release their £40 box set in December. Face it. You cant put a price on genius.

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