Yep, this was released back in 2007, but has made a surprise release on streaming services. The timing is odd, but then again, Radiohead have been significantly more generous when it comes to Apple Music and Spotify recently. It’s also going to be good news for anyone that had no idea this existed – I’d owned In Rainbows for at least a year before finding out there was a second disk. As the title suggests, it’s a continuation of In Rainbows, but has an off-cuts compilation style. That’s not to say these songs are any less good, some of the songs on here, specifically ‘Go Slowly’ and ‘Four Minute Warning’ could have easily replaced a song like ‘Faust Arp’ on disc 1 (the song does nothing for me). It emphasises a creative peak for Radiohead, as always they were overflowing with songs, but it’s hard to find a weak link on In Rainbows, plus it actually sounds like a band that were having fun for the first time in their career. There were no limits by their label, who they’d cut themselves off from, there was the entire ‘pay-what-you-want’ innovation, and nobody had any idea where they would go after the musical collage of Hail To The Thief. In response, they combined the more electronic elements that made up Kid A and Amnesiac with the rock side of HTTF. If anything, Disc 2 gave Radiohead the option to go slightly experimental again, with ambient interludes that recall ‘Treefingers’ spliced with snippets of the In Rainbows sessions. It’s hugely underrated, but maybe it’ll receive some more attention now that it is on a broader platform.
‘Last Flowers’ could have been ‘Videotape’, easily. It’s breathtaking in the same way, incorporating an acoustic guitar over Thom Yorke and a piano – essentially revisiting the ‘How I Made My Millions’ style. In Rainbows is interesting because it was infinitely less political than their last few albums, but didn’t go back to the personal side of Pablo Honey or The Bends because Yorke was also bringing in the more leftfield style that scattered Kid A and Amnesiac. He marries ‘appliances have gone berserk’ with a line so simple as ‘You can offer me escape’ (it’s actually hard to tell whether it’s ‘can’ or ‘can’t’). Yorke can often write songs that require interpretation and reading into, but he also has a knack for a simple line in the middle of more wordy verses, and it can stand out hugely – in a very good way. It’s a shame that songs like ‘Last Flowers’ don’t get the proper album treatment, but in a strange way, isn’t it more exciting to stumble upon ‘Last Flowers’ whilst combing YouTube for lost recordings? Maybe that’s the appeal of being a Radiohead fan, you’ve never found all the gems, there’s always another live version you haven’t heard yet.
‘Bangers + Mash’ and ‘Go Slowly’ will be familiar to anyone who watched the Basement session Radiohead did for In Rainbows and The King Of Limbs. ‘Bangers + Mash’ is the one where Yorke actually plays drums alongside Phil Selway whilst Jonny Greenwood gets the chance to properly rock out once again. ‘Go Slowly’ is the tearjerker where Jonny Greenwood plays those crystalline piano notes. Both show how Radiohead really could go where they wanted to at this point and were under no obligation to either write a scathing political electronic freak-out or a back-to-the-basics rock song. Disc 2 serves best as a slowed-down EP that blooms on the piano-based tracks, of which there are plenty. Arguably the guitar works better on ‘Up On The Ladder’ than ‘Bangers + Mash’, despite the emphasis on the distorted sharp teeth of ‘Bangers’. It sounds more menacing on ‘Up On The Ladder’ and with Colin Greenwood’s bass much more prominent it becomes scary. Yorke paints life as a game of snakes and ladders, and I think when he says he’s a puppet, he imagines someone is playing with him in the game, it’s never his choice as to where he goes next, as someone much higher always has the dice. The song could have easily slotted onto Hail To The Thief.
It’s an interesting mini-album/EP. It was the first and last time that Radiohead attempted to do something like this, and that’s interesting. Of course many bands write songs for albums that don’t end up making the cut, but if they are ‘good’, then why not release them in some other form. The only other band I can think of off the top of my head that did something similar was Modest Mouse’s Interstate 8 and Building Something Out Of Nothing. But this feels more meticulous than just a compilation of songs from an era, it sounds like a continuation, and maybe this ‘Disc 2’ system has been overshadowed by the other innovation that Radiohead presented when releasing In Rainbows. Should every band release another mini-album a couple of months after the original with more songs from the session? Probably not, but in the case of bands that are prolific and/or consistently write good songs, it could be the case. Disc 2 is one of the best non-album collections that Radiohead have released, an essential part of what could be considered their We-Have-Nothing-Left-To-Prove trilogy of In Rainbows, The King Of Limbs and A Moon Shaped Pool. Also, while we’re on the subject of In Rainbows, listen to ‘Videotape’ backwards, you’ll have a lot of fun.
Funnel Recommends: Go Slowly / Last Flowers / Up On The Ladder