Wednesday, October 10, 2007

In Rainbows

I'm loving this new Radiohead album. The music's great, of course. That's pretty much a given. Pablo Honey aside (hey, it was their debut!), every Radiohead album's been stellar (though I'm still don't feel enamored of Hail to the Thief the way I should).

But I just admire the band setting this kind of an example for their industry. Thom Yorke & Co. have mouthed off for years about the evils of massive international media conglomerates. (I have a bootleg concert in which each song is snidely introduced by Thom with corporate sponsorships. "This next song is brought to you by the good people of AT&T and the Walt Disney Corporation...")

But being such an epically-huge, massively popular band (Kid A debuted at #1 in the US! Think about that! Kid fucking A. Is that the strangest record to debut at #1 in America in my lifetime?), Radiohead's had no choice but to work in tandem with some of these very corporations they've spent years fearing and despising via rock music. Now, finally, technology has allowed them to side-step the entire system and bring the songs to the fans with maximum ease and convenience.

I have no idea if this project will work. After all, it's theoretically possible to pay about $1 in transaction fees (.45 pounds, to be exact) and download the album. I'm sure many, many individuals would make that choice. I paid 4 pounds, and happily, because I want to see Radiohead succeed and inspire more bands to release albums this way. (Nine Inch Nails and Madonna, of course, will both attempt similar feats for their next album.)

Also, I just really appreciate the level of respect for their audience this move demonstrates. Not only trusting people to pay them for their work when it could be obtained, legally, for free, but actually delivering a complete, kickass album. I can see other bands, even major labels, pulling this kind of stunt for an EP or a live album or some kind of B-side/oddities collection...but 10 songs of this caliber?

These are great songs. Every Radiohead album has that one brooding, mellow, creepy, near-perfect song that gets in my head and never leaves. The Bends: "Street Spirit (Fade Out)." On OK, it was "Exit Music (for a Film)." On Kid A, "How to Disappear Completely." On Amnesiac, "Like Spinning Plates." Hail to the Thief doesn't really have a song that fits ideally in this category ("I Will" is close, but I don't like it as much as those other ones.) In Rainbows' "Nude" alone, a variation on live Radiohead staple "Big Ideas (Don't Get Any)," is worth way more than 4 pounds (which hopefully comes to about $8.50, unless I got my conversion rates screwed up...)


drummer510 said...

I'm listening to it right now. It's another great one by the group. I was able to catch Radiohead a couple summers ago at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, and they debuted a lot of the music on this CD. It sounded great live and on the cd.

GimmeDaWatch said...

I don't know about these transaction fees you speak of, cuz it's possible to pay free fitty, which is naturally what I paid. I'd be curious to see the breakdown of donations, but I think it goes without saying that this is not going to be a more profitable method. It still fucking P'wns, though. At this point, the bar is set impossibly high, and I don't think Radiohead is going to top it. Still, that bass lick on "15 step" is pretty Patrick Sweezie, I have to admit.