I was just listening to the track “Nude” from Radiohead’s latest, In Rainbows. It’s a track that swirls and meanders around a throbbing backbeat, propelled by heaving string sections and Thom Yorke’s pleading falsetto. Its repetition is hypnotic, and the electronic synth inventions echo an alien influence.
It’s weird as hell. And I can’t stop listening.
If people knew the secret to Radiohead’s success, we would have seen dozens of imitators by now. But any would-be mimics either come off too spacey and crackpot, or simply boring and derivative. Radiohead’s music isn’t rock. Not anymore, anyway. Its genre wavers between electronica and impressionistic orchestral music. Ravel by way of Oakenfold… with guitars.
But I still overhear conversations that question Radiohead’s quality. “Are they really THAT good?” After all, the praise they receive at each successive album release borders on hysteria. But its easy to miss the subtleties if you’re listening to downloaded tracks cranked through a tinny car stereo. Their music can’t blast through mediocre hardware like Jackie Wilson or Nirvana. My advice is to get the CD and pop it into a home stereo system, plug in some over-the-ear headphones of above-average quality, and listen to the album in a dark room. It sounds pretentious, but it’s the only way to hear all the colors being played.
The payoff is that you’ll realize the answer to this post’s title is an emphatic yes. (For those simply curious and not prepared to pay the steep, steep fee of $7.99 for the CD, you can listen to the tracks on my In Rainbows Anywhere.fm Playlist)