Radiohead's "In Rainbows" album is finally available online from its Web site today, with thousands of fans downloading the 10 new tracks from early this morning.
Billboard's unique download activation code arrived at 07.38AM British Summer Time and -- in contrast to ordering, which was categorised by Web site failures at radiohead.com and a clunky interface -- the downloading process was swift and glitch-free.
Within two minutes, the first track "15 Step" was flickering into life, a minimalist-yet-funky throwback to Thom Yorke's recent solo record "The Eraser."
Forty two and a half minutes later, and it's clear that -- while the business model may have shocked the music industry -- the album represents solid progression, rather than radical departure, from previous Radiohead albums.
The trademarks of Radiohead's post-"OK Computer" sound - electronic effects, intricate guitar work and Yorke's eerie falsetto - are all present and correct on songs like "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" and "Nude."
Yorke's vocals and lyrics are more prominent than on the likes of "Kid A," and there is a more accessible edge to songs like "Faust ARP," "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" and "House of Cards," which features the unusually direct Yorke lyric "I don't wanna be your friend, I just wanna be your lover."
But ultimately, the album seems like a worthy follow-up to 2003's "Hail to the Thief" rather than a brave new dawn, or the oft-touted throwback to the more obviously commercial rock sound of 1995's "The Bends"
No figures are yet available for how many downloads have been sold, or the average amount paid under the band's "honesty box" pricing policy - although unofficial sources suggest most customers have chosen to pay around £5 ($10.17) for the download edition. The album will not be U.K. chart eligible, according to the Official U.K. Charts Co.
U.K. modern rock radio network Xfm will play the album in full today from 12 noon U.K. time, while the album has also been made "Album of the Day" on BBC 6 Music.