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Radiohead - Hail To The Thief CD (album) cover

HAIL TO THE THIEF

Radiohead

 

Crossover Prog

3.44 | 408 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Allow me to announce up front that I'm far from being this band's most avid fan. However, I greatly admire their staunch refusal to play by the music industry's rules. In this day and age when so much of what passes for modern music is inane and unimaginative drivel I find any outfit that dares to be different rather refreshing, even if what they produce ain't my cup of tea exactly. Radiohead definitely fits into that category so when I review one of their albums I try to remain totally honest while refraining from being overly harsh when I hear something I don't find intriguing or engaging. Just the fact that they're following their muse wherever she leads earns them respectability in my book.

The CD opens with '2+2=5', a track that confirms from the get go that these guys are sticking with their usual unusual approach to making music. They certainly don't sound like anybody else that I'm aware of. Like I said, I find their work interesting even if I don't completely 'get it.' 'Sit Down Stand Up' follows whereupon a haunting piano roils beneath Thom Yorke's rough but emotional vocals till energetic drums enter to pick up the song's languid pace and carry it into the end. 'Sail to the Moon' is next. It has a melancholy yet beautiful aura that surrounds Thom's gliding vocal line and the overall effect is suitably spacy. 'Backdrifts' features a noisy, rumbling synth opening that steadily evolves into a pseudo techno pulsating beat as the vocal weaves around the track's core motif. 'Go to Sleep' is a bit of a departure in that it exudes a folkish, Led Zep III styled aroma that grows ever more frantic in the long run. During 'Where I End and You Begin' funky drums pound away under a meandering, bass-heavy pattern and ethereal melody lines emitting from Yorke's anguished pie hole. 'We Suck Young Blood' is a dreary dirge that features a chain gang-like clap track that casts an even darker pall on the proceedings. There's a fairly odd abrupt interlude included that proves they're liable to toss a surprise in at any moment.

'The Gloaming' begins with what I'll characterize as the sound made when a phonograph needle reaches the end of a vinyl LP side and rides endlessly on the inner grooves. That could be just me, though. But it's at this juncture I get the feeling the group wasn't trying to assemble 'songs' as much as they were experimenting with what their various devices offered up to play with. Again, I hold their spunkiness in high esteem but there's a lot of hit and miss going on here. 'There There' brings out the jungle toms that establish a thick rhythm to accompany the chunky guitar chording and a subtle vocal performance. To their credit it does gather intensity along the way. 'I Will' is more traditional-sounding than what's preceded it but that doesn't mean they lost their unconventional mindset. Sinatra it ain't. 'A Punch Up at a Wedding' builds on a straight-ahead rock beat that plows through some strange vocalizations and harmonies issuing from Thom. 'Myxamatosis' sports a heavy, fuzzy riff and pounding drums that dominate in the background whilst Yorke warbles a plethora of his existential poetry. It climaxes in a nifty sci-fi splash. 'Scatterbrain' follows. I have to warn the reader that if you're searching for a lot of variety this album really doesn't deliver much of that at all. I sense they were in a pensive, surreal mood when they put this one together and they maintained that navel-gazing countenance throughout the recording process. As for this particular cut, it's consistently indulgent. Sadly, their free-form noodlings do become wearying after a while. They finish with the cool 'A Wolf at the Door.' Thom's rap-tinted vocal lines hover over a bluesy drum pattern and I consider this unorthodox song the apex of the record.

I've read where Yorke claimed they wanted to take a more 'relaxed' approach when they constructed this collection of tunes. Well, it's relaxed alright. Not a lot of excitement being generated. I would've enjoyed hearing a tad more structure at times like I heard on 'Kid A' but my hat's off to them for not being predictable. 'Hail to the Thief' reached the top of the UK charts and #3 in the USA and that gives me hope that there are some in the younger set that appreciate musical creativity enough to support bands like Radiohead and others that dare to color outside the lines. 3.1 stars.

Chicapah | 3/5 |

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