At sub-cd quality (160 kbs), In Rainbows fails to fully flip that final middle finger to major labels and distributors. If it was cd-quality, I'd say Radiohead had made men of themselves. But the fact that they're putting out a cd in '08 anyway (not counting the vinyl package; seems to be through them also) makes this move, while not a stunt, only an experiment. They're not the first, either, but they went farther than Prince.
Another reason their release strategy is all careful experiment: after I bought the record -- for 3 bucks American online (like the NYTimes said: it's a tip)-- I went to the robbery-software of choice and downloaded a copy or two illegally, aka the college-kid way, just to confirm my suspicion that Radiohead (or someone) had unleashed a bevy of demos and files split by minutes of white noise upon the net. And they have. Which makes it easier to buy In Rainbows from Radiohead than it is to weed through the bogus files and borrow it from another file-sharing felon.
Let's not forget these are Oxford boys.
Oh well. Good thing, then, that Radiohead has made their first decent record since Ok Computer. Decent meaning: when In Rainbows was over, I immediately listened again. Been a long time since Radiohead did that for me. Hail to the Thief had me yawning every third song and don't even get me started on Kid A and that other album that sounds like Kid A. This one has songs, and Yorke sings his good eye off. I think the Oscar for best supporting actor goes to their drummer (Phil Selway? Hugh Selwyn Mauberly?), though, whether looped and treated or whatever. Which is nice, considering past reports where he'd begun to find himself so close to obsolete on previous records that he'd been one foot out the door. If the guy helps you make that touring money, at least put him on tape.