Radiohead - Hail To The Thief

Year of Release: 2003
Label: EMI
Catalog Number: 7 243 5 84808 2 5
Format: CD
Total Time: 56:36:00

RadioheadHow he can keep a straight face, I don't know; yet every time Thom Yorke is interviewed about the new album, he comes up with the same story. Apparently three months before the album's official release, the complete album could already be found on the Internet. York says someone must have entered the studio whilst noone was there, opened the computer and simply made a copy of what was on its hard disk: all of the new album. Imagine it is true, don't you think the album's title Hail To The Thief blends perfectly with what's happened? I'm sure few marketing people would be able to come up with something that imaginative. But in order to still be a couple of yards in front of Coldplay, the music has to be out of this world. But is it?

By now we all know the history of the band, who with the incredible OK Computer album, topped the charts everywhere in the world, resulting in massive sales. It meant the band lost its connection with reality for a while, trying to become artier as time went by. Albums such as Kid A and Amnesiac and to a lesser extent the live recording I Might Be Wrong all went much further than the well structured pop rock on albums such as The Bends and OK Computer. For sure the pressure from fans, the media, and the record company must have been immense, asking the band over and over again to come up with yet another "Karma Police" or "Creep." Radiohead became the martyr of the rock industry, delivering music that became difficult to market by its record company and difficult to digest by its millions of fans. With Hail To The Thief the band delivers their final album for EMI, but also go back to the more song based structure, mixed with studio gadgetary. The result is an album that contains fourteen well balanced songs in which melody and rhythmic sense prevail.

Radiohead Special EditionAs so many times before, Yorke's voice remains uncertain, giving the end result a unique charm. As the opening song for their new album the band has chosen a rather daring song, as the intro for "2 2=5" is rather experimental and naked, whilst the powerful "body" of the song only becomes apparent towards the very end. Together with producer Nigel Godrich the band has also introduced a fair bit of electronics, which they try to blend with conventional instruments so as to create a unique canvas. In that respect "Sit Down. Stand Up" is a rather repetitive song, but which becomes addictive, adding extra sounds as time goes by. Towards the end the electronic rhythm is as if Radiohead combines it's wizardry with the influence of Kraftwerk. Personally I think working with Godrich has done them a world of good as Nigel is someone who can add interesting details to any band's music. Here his collaboration with The Sundays is of great value as one can hear shine through in "Sail To The Moon" with some outstanding vocal acrobatics from Thom. The arrangement is rather bare with some laidback drumming accompanied by sparse guitar and piano but the vocals are the main ingredient here. The ideal mixture between the band's ambient past and their more rhythmic efforts can be found in "Where I End And You Begin," where one notices some Frippertronics in the background.

Radiohead 'plan' As said before, Radiohead is not interested whether their new album will sell or not. All they want to do is to deliver something that is once again artistically acceptable. "We Suck Young Blood" certainly must be the most daring song on the album, sounding as if it has been recorded during a funeral in New Orleans. The music drags itself towards the end ruled by "dry" handclaps. We already mentioned the name Kraftwerk and during "The Gloaming," it's as if more Krautrock is putting its claws into Yorke's weird minimalistic soundscapes. The balance between calm, intimate songs and uptempo material is well respected with "There There" undoubtedly becoming a firm live favourite. More vocals in a naked arrangement with "I Will," which almost sounds like a 21st century barber shop quartet equivalent. One of the best build ups certainly has to be "A Punchup At The Wedding," which begins with a great sounding funky bass turning this song into something that could be a leftover from a distant Steely Dan session. Very dark analogue synths form the backbone for the powerful "Myxomatosis," bringing far away memories from the heydays of Gary Numan and his Tubeway Army to the forefront. The band move back again towards a more intimate setting with wonderful guitar playing and yet another outstanding Thom Yorke performance in "Scatterbrain." With a mixture of rap and The Beatles, "A Wolf At The Door" puts a final stop behind one incredible new album by a band who sound different and still recognizable time after time again. They had their go at being the arty band, but with Hail To The Thief, Radiohead delivers an album that is both arty and accessible and not many bands have the talent to combine both of those extremes into one whole. An incredible album and if you don't have the money to buy it ? nick it! [Well? - legal ed.]

2+2=5 (3:19) / Sit Down Stand Up (4:19) / Sail To The Moon (4:18) / Backdrifts (5:22) / Go To Sleep (3:21) / Where I End And You Begin (4:29) / We Suck Young Blood (4:56) / The Gloaming (3:32) / There There (5;23) / I Will (1:59) / A Punchup At A Wedding (4:57) / Myxomatosis (3:52) / Scatterbrain (3:21) / A Wolf At The Door (3:23)

Thom Yorke - vocals, guitar, keyboards, piano, laptop
Jonny Greenwood - lead guitar, analogue systems, ondes martenot, laptop, toy piano, glockenspiel
Ed O'Brien - guitar, effects, voice
Colin Greenwood - bass, string synth, sampler
Phil Selway - drums, percussion

Pablo Honey (1993)
The Bends (1995)
OK Computer (1997)
Kid A (2000)
Amnesiac (2001)
I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings (2001)
Hail To The Thief (2003)
In Rainbows (2007)

Genre: Rock

Origin UK

Added: June 23rd 2003
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 761
Language: english


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