Since everyone is going to assess this only in relation to previous Radiohead releases, I'll just be upfront:
1. Kid A
2. OK Computer
3. In Rainbows
5. The King of Limbs <---------------- (Not bad!)
6. The Bends
7. Hail to the Thief
8. Pablo Honey
I never thought I would describe a Radiohead record as playful and sexy, but here it is. When I was in junior high, OK Computer hit me like a freight because I was paranoid and pretentious and it was too. Hail to the Theif came out just as I was developing an interest in (and by that I mean "a chip on my shoulder about") politics. In 2011 I've mellowed out quite a bit, and even if I wouldn’t describe myself as "playful and sexy" I will say I’m far less concerned with sneering technocratic rebellion than my teenage self. Like so many of their previous records, this one kinda hit me at just the right moment. I came home on a Friday after an emotionally exhausting substitute run at a local high school, found out it was available A DAY EARLY and collapsed to it. Just what I needed.
This is a good one. I even like the latest installment in Thom Yorke's quest to write "Pyramid Song" as many times as possible (this one's even better than "Pyramid Song"!).
I saw Radiohead do a webcast on the internet in 2007 or so. Part of it was the band acting as DJs and they played Fela Kuti, M.I.A. and Burial. MF DOOM claims he's making an album with ThomYorke. "Excuse me, I noticed you like the same bands I like - let's be best friends forever." See, Radiohead take influences from all these different things I like (Penderecki, Autechre, Can, Mingus, The Stone Roses - even Flying Lotus on this one) and then spit them back out as pretty pop songs. I'm on board with that project, and I think it's fine that Radiohead's influences (the usual stuff loved by insular music nerds like you) are so prominently displayed on the sleeves of their fashionable fair-trade jackets. This band is like a filmmaker who is so immersed in the oeuvres of the auteurs that his own work is covered in Bergman sauce and minced Ozu. What's-a-mattah, you don't like a little Ozu on your pulp?
We were playing this at my after-school job and these were the reactions:
First Coworker: "I don't like this. It's just a bunch of sounds."
Me: "That's what music is - a bunch of sounds."
First Coworker: "Yeah, but this is too... different."
Second Coworker: "It's like being in a tripped-out video game."
Third Coworker: "I'm glad we're listening to this because this music makes me feel really good."
Third Coworker wins.
My girlfriend, upon discovering that after three years of silence Radiohead put out an album that is 38 minutes long, said "That's all they've got after three years? In that time, I earned a doctorate." She did, too, and I perfected my Thom Yorke impression. It scares little kids and old people.