The intrigue surrounding Radiohead's seventh album has only a little to do with what the music will sound like. After a few years of inactivity, rock's most consistently innovative (some might say consistently frustrating) band debuted 13 songs on tour last year that alternate between misanthropy and romance, feedback and melody. Even if they weren't really good and a number of them were they would have inevitably been hailed as masterpieces by the group's admirers. No band has as many weeping acolytes among people who make a regular contribution to a 401(k).
While Radiohead keeps refining and writing with producer Nigel Godrich (there's still no release date), other matters remain unclear, such as who, if anyone, will be releasing the as-yet-untitled album. The group's contract with EMI ran out in 2003, and although a number of suitors have come calling at the band's Oxford, England, headquarters, they have so far been rebuffed. A spokesman says if the group does sign with a record label, it will be for only a single album. Shortly before the band started writing new songs, singer Thom Yorke told TIME, "I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say 'F___ you' to this decaying business model."