Wednesday, November 3, 2010
My Favorite Vinyl Record | Radiohead’s “In Rainbows”
Michael Donohue | Eyes Around, Vocals/Guitar
When I was a small kid I remember grabbing one album in particular out of my dad’s record collection to stare at the most. I was too small to even play the thing, but Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” had the artwork that drew me in. My dad was a draftsman at the time, a house designer, and he would use these templates to color over to add brick to the drawings of the outer designs. The templates provided a short cut so he wouldn’t have to pencil in every brick. So I wondered if someone had used a template to put the bricks onto the album cover.
I made an immediate connection and decided this would be the first opportunity I took to actually open one and see what was inside. And this new realm of animation sprung out at me and caught me off guard. I felt that I was seeing something play out in those drawings that I had no concept of, no frame of reference to work with. I couldn’t have been any older than 3, but when I revisited the album as an avid listener in high school, I felt something strangely familiar—stimuli re-stimulated, if that makes since. I enjoy that album still, but it will always be my dad’s album.
I’ve heard Radiohead referred to as “Punk Floyd.” As a Radiohead listener I can say this doesn’t bother me, because I get it. Radiohead is my Pink Floyd so to speak. They’ve had a similar effect dropping their pebble in the water that the Floyd has. They activate the imagination; push the limits with spacey sounds and unconventional song structures and themes. And most importantly, they have no template. But it wasn’t until “In Rainbows” came out on vinyl that I realized I love that band on vinyl. I have all of the Radiohead albums on vinyl, but “In Rainbows” is the one I had to take out of the plastic.
I was on tour with my band recently out west, and that album was played on repeat. So the music was set to the landscape of the mountains in Arizona and the coast of California, all the way up to Oregon. I remember “Reckoner” playing as we first caught a glimpse of Vegas a few miles out. All these cookie-cutter homes housing people bustling in a city that never sleeps lined the road for miles as we approached the strip. The song made it surreal. Who knows where my mind would’ve gone without it? I can’t forget hearing “Videotape” played with the scenery out my window being the windy desert of spring. I don’t know why seeing tumble weeds to that song gave them more depth and purpose, and rhythm. Hearing “Faust ARP” in my ears with Mount Hood in Oregon in my eyes was sensational. The mountain seemed more cold and white than it would have without the song.
Of course that’s all on an ipod. My vinyl experience with the album would come later, with the extra tracks present that would’ve lent themselves beautifully to the soundtrack of the tour. Dropping that needle to hear Thom squirm around on the piano chair at the beginning of “Down is the New UP” is worth owning it. And that’s something you may not catch if there’s remarkable landscape to focus on.
Radiohead do take you through every color of the spectrum on this album. From quirky songs like “15 Step” and “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” to deep somber songs like “Go Slowly” and “Last Flowers,” it’s covered all the colors for sure, even indigo. I love how hearing this vinyl plays back the desert, the ocean, and the mountains so vividly. I can go back anytime without walking out my front door.
Confession: I don’t know the lyrics to my favorite vinyl. This is peculiar considering the fact I’m the lyricist in my band, and normally I’m delving into the meaning of the words if not just to sing along to what I’m listening to. “In Rainbows” doesn’t beg me to sing along, it beckons me to pay attention to the emotion released. That’s what I love about it the most; I don’t have to know the words to experience the record. Would knowing the words enhance it for me further? Maybe yes, maybe no. For this one, my favorite one, I choose to make the exception and leave the meaning lost in the landscape somewhere.
Who knows what Sigor Ros is saying? The point is, you don’t have to. “The Wall” has its animation and story line. “In Rainbows” has red, blue, green, etcetera, etcetera…
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Posted by Jon at 8:22 AM