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The International Writers Magazine: Review

In Rainbows - Radiohead
Aby Davis

I bought a jumper in a charity shop the other day. I quite like it because it fits and only cost me £3.50. Also, originally it was from French Connection. In short I netted myself a bargain and my mum would be proud of me.
I also bought Radioheads new album online, In Rainbows. It set me back £1. I'm wondering if it will get the charity shop treatment....

I remember the first time I heard 'The Bends'. When it came out I was probably more into lego than brit-pop, but I was twelve when I truly listened. Then, as far as I was concerned, The Spice Girls could drop dead.

When I was fifteen I saw them live at Glastonbury. The air smelt funny and a drunk man tried to sleep on my feet, but I didn't care because I was about thirty people away from Thom Yorke. I felt like I was singing with the entire world as Karma Police thudded through my body.
Despite the trend for teenage melancholy, I was uplifted by Thoms ethereal wailings, and inspired by the intricate workings of 'OK computer'. Then, I fell in love with The Strokes. I wore my trousers ripped and craved stories by girls and boys on guitars.

Music is a fickle business. Liking it can be so confusing! Its never been a simple matter of choice, and is usually as much a part of fashion as of thought. According to many music magazines and websites, the newer the music, the better the sound. And, if we're honest the next big thing usually sounds like the last one, but with different hair. New bands are everywhere, and anyone with a Myspace profile can be a groupie. This is the digital revolution.
So when Radiohead announces the latest album will only be available online,and at the buyers chosen price, everyone's talking about it.
'No way!' the nations students cry, 'Splendid!' trendy dads agree, and the internet music thieves shrug as they would have downloaded it for free anyway.

A clever marketing ploy? A cynic might say that Radiohead have been building up such anticipation for a new album they're scared of a flop. Surely, by making it almost free, they're guaranteeing good press? Or, they're simply being nice. They want to spread the love to all those who have remained faithfully sombre through seven years of their music.

'In Rainbows' is pretty good. Letters written into pop mag NME certainly think so. (Although, give a breadstick a vintage jacket and a trilby and some NME reader will give it 'Album of the year!!!'). 'In Rainbows' certainly stays true to the rock-gone-electronica that Radiohead are celebrated for. The songs are tried and tested, 'Faust Arp' is the only song not previously played on tour. Hardcore fans may then be disappointed, as the digital versions will certainly not be as heart pounding as when played live. In fact, Rainbows sounds a lot like Thom Yorkes solo effort 'The Eraser' in which he perfected angsty electro. Except 'The Eraser' came in a nice cardboard case with pretty drawings on it. Getting the newest offering from the internet feels second rate, like a digital hand me down copied from someone else. Its a nice enough album, but the only thing new about it is the price.

Meanwhile, my jumper has lost its charity shop smell, it feels like an old friend. I'll apply that metaphor to Radioheads latest offering. People like a bargain, and once the novelty wears off they can decide if it was worth it or not. Radiohead don't need marketing ploys, their fan base is committed enough to spend more than 45p. In conclusion, everyone will be happy. (Or suitably sombre, as is fitting)

© Aby Davis October 2007

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