It’s refreshing to have Radiohead back

ON THE B-SIDE: APOLOGIES for my lack of noise, or rather words, just lately. I’ve just moved house. It all happened very quickly, which brings me seamlessly on to...Radiohead.

What the chances? I turn my back for one (okay, maybe two) weeks and what happens? Radiohead go and release a new album. I should’ve known...

Well, they’re sneaky like that. Monday: Hey, we’ve got a new album coming out. Friday: Here it is. Download it if you like, but the CD’s not about for a couple of months.

Radiohead can do that because they’re Radiohead. They set the rules in their universe, not record label bosses. So there’s no interviews, no press copies, no advertising campaign, no warning.

That’s something of a blessing. Radiohead are one of those bands that music writers save their “special” adjectives for, so we’re spared the pre-release reviews even more incomprehensible than some of the music. It would have been one of those records that you hear so much about before you actually hear it, that you’ve made up your mind ahead of the first spin.

But this way the music is just dumped on your desktop; plonked on your iPod. There you go. What do you think? We all hear it at the same time, while those viewers are forced to get down their thoughts on the first listen.

So what do I think? Well, I’ll spare you the adjectives, but I really like it. Sure, it’s not commercial; no radio hits, no tunes the postman can whistle and in places it’s a mish-mash of manic beeps and beats. But it’s another fascinating, intriguing, ingenious Radiohead record.

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Fans have been posting reviews online, which have veered between due reverence and disappointment. For many, the Radiohead name above the door seems to be enough, while others just yearn for the more populist songwriting and guitar rock of The Bends and OK Computer albums.

Some seem aggrieved that not enough new ground has been broken this time, incredibly.

Personally, I loved their earlier stuff on first listen and I’ve learned to love much of the later work (the tuneless years, you might call them), although there’s no doubt it’s hard work. As for the new album, I keep playing it; 18 times over according to my iTunes statistics. I definitely think it’s an iPod album. The tracks are subtle and intricate, and they worm their way into your brain. It’s not a record I’m going to play out loud in a house with two young kids and a wife who loves pop music.

So I’d say yes, I’d recommend it. It was one of two records I was really looking forward to this year (well, I think was looking forward to it; I think I thought it was coming out, but I didn’t know, if you know what I mean).

The other? The new record by Elbow, due out on March 7. I’ve learned a lot about it over the past few months: the title, the tracklisting, the interviews, the reviews, the lead single; all before hearing it, which I still haven’t.

Then Radiohead went and crossed the finishing line first.

Not everyone can do that, but I’m glad at least that the ‘Head are still a law unto themselves.

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