Radiohead do not make B-sides, they make non-album tracks (listen to the stuff that didn’t make Kid A, Amnesiac or OK Computer). In Rainbows (Disc 2), a 30 minute mini-album, includes various tracks recorded and culled from the In Rainbows sessions. Each of the songs here could have fit somewhere on the first disc’s October release, but the album is still very much its own unified entity.
“Down is the New Up” has more of those amazing icy strings that Jonny Greenwood filled in throughout either album. The song is Yorke on piano a la “Sail to the Moon,” with its strange rhythm and subtler-than-subtle hooks. “Bangers and Mash” is a jilted part two of “Bodysnatchers,” with many more stuttered guitar lines and a live drum kit that sounds as precise as any drum machine. “Last Flowers” feels like a Bends-era throwback with only piano and acoustic guitar, with the focus really on Yorke’s voice, and “Up on the Ladder’s” rocky guitar rhythm has smoothed out considerably from its conception around Kid A, with some chilly ambiance noise setting the scene for Yorke’s classic cryptic paranoia. The other two songs, “Go Slowly” and “4 Minute Warning,” showcase the style people will come to associate with In Rainbows, like with “Nude” and “Reckoner” on the first disc. This style features clear and cool upfront vocals (maybe showing off how sweet his voice without being buried in effects, and before it goes with age), guitar lines that naturally swim around inside its production like fish down a river, and the tightest walking rhythm section in the music business.
These songs go so well together that these don’t seem like non-album tracks as much as they seem the second disc of a double album, “The Rainbow Album” (yes, that’s a Beatles comparison). The spread of the releases was just another extremely clever marketing experiment.