In Rainbows: Radiohead Reopens The Door

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I have been reading some heavy theological books lately—the kind with sentences that are a paragraph long and have 12 commas in them. There was one point where I ran into a word I didn’t know, so I looked it up on and after reading the definition I still didn’t know what the word meant. I laid the book down and wondered if this kind of writing exposes my ignorance or if it simply shows the failure of some great minds to communicate what they have locked inside.

For the last several years I have feared that this is what was happening with one of my favorite bands, Radiohead. This morning I found waiting for me in my email inbox evidence that this is not the case. In Rainbows is a reopening of the door.

you’re all I need…just want to share your life…just an insect trying to get out…

The disc is filled with all of the best of Radiohead—great groves, Thom Yourke’s voice and layers upon layers of sound.

But rather than this being a retreat back to the more accessible style of The Bends or OK Computer, In Rainbows is a step forward. Radiohead has done what I hoped they would do: capture all the creative genius of Kid A and Hail To The Thief, but do it in a language that more people understand.

One of my favorite writers is CS Lewis. Lewis was one of the best thinkers of contemporary time. But Lewis knew something that many great academics lose site of—if you can’t share your genius with the world it isn’t that genius after all. Reading books like Mere Christianity, Till We Have Faces, and The Chronicles of Narnia are gateways into the brilliant mind of Lewis. They are simultaneously safe enough for a small child to play in their shallows and deep enough to drown an elephant. They are great works of art.

Radiohead has created just such a pool of water for us to swim in. In Rainbows has both accessibility and substance.

With songs titles like “Nude” and “House of Cards” the album immediately gives off a vibe of vulnerability. The album closes with “Videotape,” a song about what will play on your videotape when you are standing at The Pearly Gates. Just looking at these songs from the surface, it appears that Radiohead is going to call us into the hidden places of our life. Lewis wisely pointed out that what makes art great is not how we read it, but how it reads us. By that rational, we may have a masterpiece on our hands.

Here is one of the songs that is already saying something about me:


All I Need

by Radiohead