(Credits: Far Out / Radiohead Public Library)
Fusing the experimental with the melancholic and forcing them both into the mainstream, Radiohead popularised and pioneered a new form of rock music. Since delivering their debut three decades ago with Pablo Honey, Radiohead maintained an unwavering grip on the alternative scene, permeating record collections and inspiring budding bands worldwide.
Radiohead may be one of the most essential bands in modern experimental rock, but long before Thom Yorke’s oscillating vocals and Jonny Greenwood’s adaptive instrumentation dominated the playlists of indie kids, the likes of The Beatles, Lou Reed and David Bowie paved the way for them to thrive.
While The Beatles had a mammoth impact on the modern music industry and pioneered rock and roll, Lou Reed was an unconventional underdog who was ahead of his time, and David Bowie infused rock with art and glam. Decades on from their heydays, they are still widely admired for their musical feats, inspiring generations of songwriters.
Yorke is no exception. He once compared one of Radiohead’s most beloved releases – 2007’s In Rainbows – to three classic albums by his predecessors, Reed’s glam-infused Transformer (also produced by Bowie), The Beatles experimental and psychedelic Revolver and Bowie’s art pop classic Hunky Dory.
“In Rainbows is a conscious return to this form of 45-minute statement,” Yorke told The Independent. “Of course, it was possible to make it sorter. But our aim was to describe in 45 minutes, as coherently and conclusively as possible, what moves us. In Rainbows is, at least in our opinion, our classic album, our Transformer, our Revolver, our Hunky Dory.”
It’s a bold claim to compare your own work to some of the most well-loved and acclaimed records of all time, to records that spawned all-time greats like ‘Life on Mars‘, ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ and ‘Eleanor Rigby’. Still, In Rainbows isn’t necessarily undeserving.
Spawning modern alt-rock classics in ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’ and ‘Jigsaw Falling Into Place’, In Rainbows can certainly be considered the band’s classic album and a modern classic within the genre. Though the album seems to have little in common with the glam stylings of Reed and Bowie or the psychedelic influences throughout Revolver, the record was built on the same premise as its predecessors.
As Yorke sums it up: “I believe in the rock album as an artistic form of expression.” In Rainbows was Radiohead’s own exercise in artistic expression, combining the sensibilities of the genre’s origins with electronic experimentation, at once reinventing rock and reinventing Radiohead.
Revisit In Rainbows by Radiohead below.