Wild Mercury Sound

More on Radiohead, plus Nick Cave

John Mulvey

It’s pretty embarrassing to have only finally got the point of Radiohead in 2007 but, 24 hours on, my “In Rainbows” epiphanies continue apace. Getting off the bus this morning on London Bridge, listening to the complex subtleties of “Reckoner” (a song I’d barely noticed this time yesterday), I was struck by the guns of HMS Belfast looming out of the mist on the Thames.

I’d like to put this down to some kind of Yorke-induced paranoia, but I think it was actually one of those moments when listening to music on the move somehow enables you to notice things you hadn’t noticed before, to aestheticise or mysticise the everyday. I guess my iPod works best for me when it doesn’t block out the real world, it re-interprets it for me. “In Rainbows” works wonderfully at doing this, and the caveats about the band I expressed yesterday seem to be melting away with every play.

I’m beginning to suspect even some of my problems with Thom Yorke’s voice were historical rather than quantifiable: that I associate it so much with a record I really disliked (“The Bends”) that it’s taken a long time to be able to appreciate its strengths in different contexts.

Anyway, a bunch of things I’ve read have helped me crystallise my thoughts about the album. Pete Paphides at The Times filed this very good review, and I was especially taken with this bit: “[“Weird Fishes/Arpeggi”’s] airless, bunker-bound anti-ambience recalls “Kid A” and “Amnesiac”, but the band themselves sound thrillingly alive, thrashing out a melody replicates on “real” instruments the gorgeous Cornish digi-folk of Aphex Twin’s “Richard D. James” – an album for which Radiohead have all been vocal in their affection.”

I think that’s spot-on, a sense that this time their love of Warp electronica has been organically absorbed rather than merely appropriated. It ties in with a point that Jamesewan made on my blog, where he identifies “In Rainbows” as “generally more understated and less histrionic than some recent material. Yes, it's lush, a little jazzy, less self-consciously experimental and generally lighter, less contrived. I think it might become one of their best.”

I still think it’s a fairly experimental album, but it definitely feels less self-conscious. That thing I wrote yesterday, superficially facile I know, about a sense of five men playing in a room: there’s a real easy confidence to the playing here, an effortlessness to the way they deploy ideas. For all the anxieties explicit in the lyrics, “In Rainbows” is a really warm and calm 42 minutes, never feeling as uptight and over-thought as some of Radiohead’s previous music.

Good point, too, from Gwiz, whose conclusion is something that’s occurred to me too. “The real genius here is Phil Selway's chaotic rhythms,” they write. “Nothing is allowed to drop into straight 4/4 leaving tracks feeling jumpy and nervous only to be resolved by Yorke's sweeping melodies - lush.”

Another bit of news from your comments – Ro speculates on the forthcoming Bad Seeds album: “I was talking to Martyn Casey just after they finished the Bad Seeds record- he said it was the most straightforward pop record they had done... Hmmm....” Also, in response to Poorly Sketched Chap, the “I’m Not There” soundtrack is out on October 29, I think. Worth picking up, I think.


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Editor's Letter

The 46th (And Last) Playlist Of 2014


Sorry I didn't manage to post a playlist last week; a combination of germs, deadlines and various other professional/seasonal distractions meant that I ran out of time.

Here, though, is our last office list of 2014, with lots of strong new entries. A few highlights...