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New frontiers

Radiohead - In Rainbows
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Oct. 16, 2007

Review by Tony Bonyata

It's weird but it's been decades since a single album from any artist or band has turned the music world on its ear the day of its release. But leave it to Radiohead - one of rock's most inventive and well-respected bands - to pull it off and unite fans from all over the globe into one singular music community, where they/we have been downloading, listening, blogging and giving their impressions on this amazing new album.

For those out of the loop, Radiohead made major headlines last Wednesday by self-releasing their seventh studio album, In Rainbows. After recently jumping ship from their six-album record contract with EMI their decision to self-release this effort is news in itself, but the real meat of this story is that they're offering this ten-song set for whatever fans are willing to pay for it - from nothing to as much as they'd like. And, surprisingly, it's a new business model that seems to be paying off (at least for a band of this magnitude). It's been reported by that over 1.2 million units of In Rainbows had been downloaded in just two days since its release. And with a reported average sale per copy of four British Pounds, it translates into a staggering nine million U.S. dollars.

In addition to releasing this album digitally, they'll also be selling a physical special "disc-box" through their website in early December, which will contain not only the mp3 download and two 12" heavyweight vinyl records, but also two CDs containing eight additional tracks.

How accurate these numbers are really isn't the point, though, as this is a band that has single-handedly figured out a method of successfully getting their music to the masses without any label support. Whether or not this will also work for other major players is yet to be seen, but it's certainly interesting, even promising, in this uncertain age of how music should be bought, sold and distributed.

With so much talk of their unconventional "name your own price" sales method for this release, the question that still needs to addressed, however, is, "How's the music?" Well, with ten tracks that work in some the edgy guitar parts from their 1995 effort The Bends ("Bodysnatchers"), as well some of their more experimental forays into electronica from Kid A and Amnesiac ("15 Step" and "All I Need") and the grand spaciousness of OK Computer ("Nude") In Rainbows turns out to be a colorful, welcome amalgamation of their entire career.

But despite the many elements incorporated from their past, this album also has it's own distinct feel and unique execution; with beautiful melodies just barely out of reach, yet constantly wooing you in closer. And while both Thom Yorke's haunting vocals and Jonny Greenwood's guitar-work are still both predominate forces, Colin Greenwood's bass work shines throughout - adding fragmented rhythms to "15 Step" and a driving backbeat to "Jigsaw Falling Into Place," while also weaving in a lovely second melody line on the beautiful standout track "House Of Cards."

It's refreshing to see that with In Rainbows Radiohead is still pushing their own limits as they continue to chart new frontiers - not only musically but also in the way that their music ultimately reaches their fans.

Watch Radioheads' - "Reckoner" video

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