Thursday, December 27, 2007
For all but blinkered loyalists, anticipation and trepidation ebbed and surged as the wait for a new Radiohead record stretched on and on and on. There were label issues, solo records, side projects and break-up rumors, but the big question was creative: Where could they possibly go after the Kid A/Amnesiac experiments seemed to cul de sac with 2003’s Hail to the Thief?
The answer, two years in the making, mixes the band’s adventurous inclinations with their earlier accessible guitar rock and lyricism for an evolution both familiar and fresh. Here, a host of acoustic instruments offer organic counter-balance to the processed beats and synths, which sound less aggressive overall and add space rather than fill it.
That mirrors Thom Yorke’s maturing narratives, as he tones down the existential dread for a warmer – if still resigned – acceptance. Opening cuts “15 Step” and “Bodysnatchers” bridge eras, the trip-hop beats anchoring computer glitches, Yorke’s soaring falsetto, and Johnny Greenwood’s jazzy or fuzzed-out guitar riffs. Then the record shifts gracefully with the ballad “Nude,” whose operatic vocals and subtle synth textures are more akin to OK Computer or The Bends; ditto for the more traditionally structured and up-tempo “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” and “Reckoner.” The penultimate cut, “Jigsaw Falling into Place,” completes the circle and would tuck in neatly anywhere in the band’s catalog, as acoustic guitars and straightforward drumming recreate what would have been done synthetically four years ago.