Premature Evaluation

Premature Evaluation: Radiohead – In Rainbows CD2

We’ve all done quite a bit (to say the least) of In Rainbows chattering. There are some truly inspired moments in that thread — thanks! On the whole, it seems like Radiohead brings out the best in some of us, so after went silent, it was great to nab another set of “new” Radio music to unpack. (Speaking of which, has anyone heard from Spuffmeister?) First things second: You’ve likely heard all the material on In Rainbows CD2 either live and in the flesh or via YouTube, but that’s not the point because each of the six proper tracks (there are two clipped and tucked incidentals) have received the requisite studio facelifts. As with In Rainbows the first, the fun is discovering how the band decided to arrange and transform the compositions in the studio, seeing where the songs are placed and how they interact. Really, it makes all the difference.

So let’s dive in: The brief, moaning whirlybird instrumentals “Mk 1″ and Mk 2″ are what comes in on “Videotape” around 1:25 (nice way of linking together the Rainbows, by the way). What you don’t get from that trivia, though, is how the outro pulses of “Mk 1″ drift into the grooving piano falsetto of “Down Is The New Up” (complete with shimmering atmospherics ice-quakes and classical swells) and how “Mk 2″ extends the ice of “Go Slowly,” creating a glacier from which “Last Flowers” tickled ivories can emerge.

We caught the cadential piano ballad “4 Minute Warning” at the Tower show in ’06 (along with “15 Step,” “House Of Cards,” “Nude,” and “Arpeggi,” but that’s a different end of the rainbow). We remember “Bangers & Mash” — it’s choppier and deeper, less reliant on the Lenny Kravitz-like riff in its studio form — and “Down Is The New Up” from MSG 2006 … and elsewhere. Like “Down Is The New Up” in basement session form:

On record, “Down” follows the clattering “Bangers & Mash,” which is CD2’s one hella freak out. It’s interesting to see how these pieces have changed over time. For instance, check “Up On The Ladder” from way back in 2002, working Thom into one of his manic dance fits.

The psyched-out recorded version makes more use of rattling electronics and multiple sonic threads with a clearer separation between the subdued but funk-ish guitar, cascading synths, and VU percussion. It’s a different song, basically … all the harder to spaz to. It seems like with CD2 the band thought about stretching a number of things more skyward: The aforementioned “Last Flowers” sounds more swooping and fake-plastic-y and “Go Slowly” is noticeably different, with its slower, ghostlier, more echoing arrangement. The studio treatment can often make it feel like hearing all these familiar pieces the first time … It’s so much more closed off, vacuum sealed, and alone, which seems essential to certain ‘Head-y ballads.

Other than “Bangers” CD2’s a largely downcast affair. You don’t get the pocket-change percussive crunch and lilting calypso of “15 Step,” “Bodysnatchers”‘s distorted rock and NYC 2002 riffs, the swing of “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi,” etc. But you do get the point: It’s more aired out and, with risk of sounding like a skipping record, balladeering. On a simpler level: More guitar on CD1, more piano on CD2. “Videotape” basically leads you into what to expect on CD2…

Maybe the most impressive thing about In Rainbows CD2 is how effortless it all seems. Hey Thom, did you guys even break a sweat on your way to making classics? We’d only ever heard “4 Minute Warning” in Philly, but when it popped up on part deux, it was like we knew every turn in the melody. How many bands can nail that sorta instant memory? Ah, Radiohead.

The tracklist:
01 Mk 1
02 Down Is The New Up
03 Go Slowly
04 Mk 2
05 Last Flowers
06 Up On The Ladder
07 Bangers & Mash
08 4 Minute Warning

Tags: Radiohead