Reviewing the bonus disc that is bundled with Radiohead's discbox version of In Rainbows is a bit tricky. As a collection of bits from their sessions that were snipped from the album itself, it does offer an interesting insight into the directions that some of the other material was heading. It also makes the listener appreciate the fine art of song selection when piecing together an album, which Radiohead did a mighty fine job this time round.
Disc two opens with "MK 1," a song that seems to be pieced together from fragments of "Videotape." The piano chord progressions and vocal melodies are far too similar for that to be only a coincidence. It is only a minute long, which makes you wonder if it was originally going to be a lead-in instrumental to segue into "Videotape" on the album. This leads us to "Down Is The New Up," a track that I was personally very curious to hear how it would turn out in the studio. The edges were smoothed out, with Thom Yorke's beat boxing now muffled down to a rhythmic shushing, now complimented by more of Jonny Greenwood's lush orchestration. It is much less rocking than when it debuted live, but tamed down it works quite nicely.
"Go Slowly" is an absolutely beautiful ballad, slowly building from intertwined keyboards and guitar, adding in Yorke's voice and acoustic guitar as the song progresses. It is a rather melancholic track, never gaining much momentum, but one thing that stands out is the vocals. Just as I said when reviewing the main disc of In Rainbows, he has never sounded better.
Unlike "MK 1," it is difficult to see where "MK 2" was going to fit on the album. It is fifty-three seconds of keyboards, which never take much melodic shape. It keeps the mood appropriately somber for the next track, "Last Flowers," a ballad that focuses mainly on Yorke's pristine vocals backed by little more than piano and a bit of acoustic guitar. The beauty of this track is that it is absolutely no frills, a bare-boned song that shows how brilliant these lads are. Sure they have access to plenty of studio toys, but their knack for writing amazing melodies has always remained.
After several minutes of mellowing out, our rock superheroes pick up the tempo with "Up On The Ladder." While it is far from a classic Radiohead rocker, a steady beat and electric guitars do return, along with some tiny moments of electronic wizardry that would have fit on Kid A. It isn't overpowering, sounding like looped, distorted handclaps, but it helps add to the feeling of paranoia that surrounds this song.
Now we get down to the one true rock track on the disc, "Bangers & Mash." It has been cleaned up since they debuted it on tour, but the energy is still there. The only thing I miss is the balls to the wall guitar wanking of Greenwood, which has been restrained quite a bit on the studio version. Radiohead then wraps things up with a final ballad, "4 Minute Warning."
The second disc of In Rainbows doesn't sound like a planned out continuation of the album, but more of a b-side compilation. There is nothing wrong with that whatsoever, as it is great to hear the other tracks that were completed during the Rainbows sessions. The bonus disc isn't for the passive Radiohead fan, but any true followers of these insanely talented musicians will want this for their collections.