As I'm writing I recall walking into the bar of a restaurant in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles the day I first heard Radiohead's OK Computer. It was roughly August 1997 and I ran straight into the radio promotions rep of Capitol Records [who shall remain nameless.] I grabbed his hand and shook it vigorously as I congratulated him on being associated with what I considered a serious work of art, an album that I thought could help determine rock music's future for many years to come.
[Seriously, OK Computer hit me like the proverbial bolt of lightning and I spent many hours soaking it up.] He looked me in the eye and rather acidly said “You're kidding right? I'm looking for another “Creep” [a Radiohead hit single] and they've turned in (bleep) Dark Side of The Moon Part 2…!”
10 years later after many triumphs facing down the cookie cutter, cloistered (bleep) fest that is the music industry, having delivered genius recordings such as Amnesiac and Kid A, they take things into their own hands and deliver In Rainbows.
And here's where things take a turn.
The recording industry as we know it is surely staring oblivion in the face if it does not quickly and efficiently make amends with it's customers. We no longer require the shiny plastic discs, we want access with value. With that in mind it's fair to say that Radiohead have delivered access and value for sure.
In Rainbows is not the ground-breaking existential, (bleep)-with-our-heads records that Amnesiac or Kid A were. It doesn't take me on that helter skelter ride that OK Computer took me; it doesn't even take me down the dark paths that Thom Yorke's Eraser explored. Yet still it's the most enthralling rock album that you'll hear before the year is out. Let's remember, in the early years rock music was all about sticking it to the man; Elvis, Chuck Berry, James Brown, think about it.
And the list goes on – Iggy And The Stooges, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone – and later The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Public Enemy, Patti Smith; they all spat in the face of conformity, of suburban comforts, of conservative mores. In Rainbows doesn't reach the heights that some of those artists' recordings attained, yet it's an album delivered in a moment in time when those of us here, now, today, can feel things shifting beneath our feet – the end of an era – to live through this is, for me at least, enthralling; I don't want to sound overly hyperbolic but In Rainbows could just be the soundtrack to the end of…well, you get it
Radiohead – Bodysnatchers [MP3]
Related Post: The end of the CD