With a “revolutionary” distribution system whereby fans can pay whatever they like for a download of the album (or pay $80 and wait nearly two months for the physical CD and vinyl box set), Radiohead have got the industry talking (and mostly what they’re saying is “Huh?”). Having submitted my download pre-order not once but twice on the band’s typically aloof Web site, I found myself on release day (Oct. 10) without the confirmation e-mail required to download the album. So despite having paid to legally download “In Rainbows” (both transactions were charged to my credit card), I ended up nicking it off my girlfriend, who got her copy without a hitch. I’m glad I only paid ¥100 yen for it (albeit twice).

Then we get to the music — and you can call me a pig in a cage on antibiotics if this isn’t the finest work Radiohead have made since 2000’s “Kid A.” Falling somewhere between that album and its career-defining predecessor “OK Computer,” “In Rainbows” is a set of 10 sumptuous songs, awash with underplayed guitars and vibrant electronics. The tracks often fall into a mesmeric groove with minimal melodies that are nonetheless tender, claustrophobic, yet less paranoid lyrically than the band’s other postmillennial offerings.

It’s hard to say whether it has legs; “In Rainbows” is all about atmosphere, and devoid of the sort of instant anthems that filled their earliest albums. Then again, those songs were largely to blame for the Coldplay-Keane-James Blunt-alike horror that is currently touted as the sound of the U.K., and Radiohead’s continued musical metamorphosis is admirable, even if the results are often questionable. What’s it worth? That’s up to you.

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