Radiohead’s In Rainbows Album Review

How a timeless album still manages to resonate in the hearts of thousands.

Daniela Salas

On October 10th, 2007, English Rock band, Radiohead, released their 7th studio album, In Rainbows, and let me tell you, from the 2 years I’ve been listening to songs from this album, it never falls short of a grandiose masterpiece for any listener that stumbles upon it. Aside from the fact that longtime fans were expecting to find another arguably mediocre and stretched-out album from the band much like the previous album they released, Hail to the Thief, In Rainbows soon started being worshipped from the voracious tunes it offered. For many, it became a long-time favorite, much like myself. I will not lie, the first time I heard one of their songs, being Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, I thought my eardrums were being rebirthed. Apart from the awakening my 13-year-old-self had when she first had a taste of this type of music, this album in itself has been able to transcend much of what Radiohead has tried achieving, a turning point that many fans have found incredibly admirable. With the gash it might leave in your heart after giving said album a listen, it quite literally might also change your life. All the hours I’ve spent listening to the songs in this beautiful album, I guarantee you, have not been wasted in the slightest.

Thom Yorke performing in Victoria Park, London
LONDON – JUNE 24: Thom Yorke of Radiohead performs during their first night at Victoria Park, in support of the album ‘In Rainbows’, on June 24, 2008, in London, England. (Jim Dyson)

With Thom Yorke on vocals, Philip Selway on percussion, Ed O’Brien on guitar, Jonny Greenwood on guitar, and Colin Greenwood on the bass guitar that coat the mind like some kind of voluptuous substance, it had given way to a whole new genre of music I had never heard of, something I will never forgive myself for the rest of eternity. And so, for the next few months, I subsequently listened to more of the album’s tracks, and eventually the entirety of it. That was two years ago and it still remains my favorite album of all time. So, let’s deep dive into some of my absolute favorite tracks from this chef-d’oeuvre of an album.

Starting with its first track, 15 Step offers an incendiary start to the album, with a melody that crashes right at you and sketches the rest of the song with its snappy snares and popping claps. The guitar melody then streams in and sets a soothing sound to the song. With Thom Yorke’s vocals and the most innovative mix of sounds, the band did not fall short whatsoever with this song. Out of all the tracks in the album, I’d say it’s one of the catchiest due to the way I wake up some mornings with its tune ringing in my head. It sets fire and leaves a lingering warmth to the rest of the album that helps it nicely transition into the upcoming songs.

In Rainbows Cover
As per usual for the band, they made sure to work with Stanley Donwood to make the cover art for the In Rainbows album. (Stanley Donwood)

Bodysnatchers offers a spasmodic melody throughout its entirety that screams at you to get up and start spontaneously moving to the beat, much like Yorke’s viral erratic dancing in the music video for Lotus Flower. Not only does this specific song have some of the more clever lines, but the vocals being done by Thom never fail to give the track what it’s missing– his iconic falsetto. “I have no idea what you are talking about / Your mouth moves only with someone’s hand up your arse” sets your nerves on fire and to be frank, hearing the words for the first time, made me laugh out loud to myself. The band’s lyric choices in their tracks always manage to bury themselves within a special place in my heart through their mockery and satire.

Nude is a very special track to me and many more due to its comforting palette mixing a new array of experimental sounds and intimate lyrics. Its repetitive words of “Don’t get any / Big ideas / They’re not gonna happen” indicate an underlying meaning, one that might point towards the rejection of new and unique ideas due to fear people hold over change. The song and its vocals by Thom Yorke eventually swell and climax at, “You’ll go to hell / For what you’re dirty mind / Is thinking”, a turgid belt that grips at the heartstrings and then almost caresses them to rest. A luminous lullaby hum that sways back and forth follows, and the song ends with a satisfying resolution.

Lead singer of Radiohead, Thom Yorke, singing into a microphone at Radiohead's from the basement
During quarantine, Radiohead decided to release a series of music videos featuring 5 albums and a couple of straying songs, one of the albums being In Rainbows (David Barnard)

Weird Fishes/Arpeggi is another one that’s very unique to me since, again, it was quite literally the first song I distinctively heard from the band. It eases in with a mantra of a drumbeat then an echoing zealous guitar arpeggio fades along, all credits to Philip Selway and Ed O’Brien, respectively. The lyrics come along and instead of getting the distinct vibe from ‘singing’, they’re more or less recited like a poem, making the words clear to the listener. Taking its entirety into account, the song recounts what it’s like to chase after someone whom one is obsessed with, and in turn, feel completely worthless because of the blind eye treatment coming from that person. It talks about the feeling of feeling at your absolute worst, and still after being so beat down to it, swimming back up to the surface and catching a life-saving breath. Along with the lyrics, it’s a collective ascension– what the essence of Arpeggi represents– which then comes to a full stop, a point of reflection for the singer. The meaning of this song in essence trails and hints to the entirety of the album. The notion is that there are tainted parts of life in which an individual can feel like they’re at their absolute demise, but still, after all the turmoil, one will be able to find the jeweled joys in life. 

All in all, it’s been a delectable array of songs to peck at for years and still remains to be due to not only its extraordinarily unique audios but its raw meaning. In all their years of producing music, Radiohead has never fallen short of creating albums and songs that go beyond the often heard shallow lyrics we get in mainstream music today. If anything, they handed over the key to open a door into emotions and thoughts that many didn’t know they had before.