Review Summary: Radiohead combine all the sounds they have collected throughout their music to brilliant effect in this eclectic album.
‘Hail to the Thief’ is Radiohead’s 6th album, and by far the most accessible since ‘OK Computer’. This album was a major departure from the two albums prior to it, and in my opinion it was a step in the right direction.
It bursts immediately into life with the rip-roaring ‘2+2=5 (The Lukewarm)’, an energetic Orwellian rock song. The explosive first track is definitely a high point in the album, and came as a complete shock after two albums of quiet and disturbing music. Unfortunately, the album drops off a little after this song, and definitely hits a low point with the drab ‘Backdrifts (Honeymoon is Over)’. After two minutes of the same sounds I was bored, but after 5 minutes I was bored to death. It’s completely monotonous and tiresome and is probably one of the band’s worst songs. Fortunately, the album was resuscitated by the chaotic and exciting ‘Go to Sleep (Little Man Being Erased)’. Thom Yorke wails, “We don’t want the loonies taking over” over rich acoustic chords and scratchy guitar. The album then genre hops incredibly for the next few songs, and probably the most severe of these is ‘The Gloaming (Softly Open Our Mouths in the Cold)’, and full-on electronica song. It has a chilling melody accompanied by lyrics such as ‘This is now the witching hour’, and backed-up with luxurious electro tones. The sound the band hit upon in this song would go on to dictate the sound of Thom Yorke’s solo album ‘The Eraser’, and could easily rival any song on it.
The next song, the melancholic ‘There There (The Boney King of Nowhere)’, is a brilliant throwback to ‘OK Computer’. It’s a gloomy rock song with a steady beat and a heartwarming vocal melody, which bursts into a pixies-esque refrain with loud scratchy distorted guitars, reminiscent of the classic ‘Paranoid Android’. This is a fantastic song, but in my opinion the greatest song on the album, and dare I say one of the greatest songs the band has ever done, is the final song ‘A Wolf at the Door (It Girl, Rag Doll)’. It kicks off with a foreboding-fingerpicking riff accompanied by organs. Then Thom Yorke comes in with the spoken stream of consciousness style lyrics, which can be anything from ‘Flan in the face’ to ‘With my x-ray eyes I will strip you naked’. But the real brilliance of this song stems from the uplifting sounding, yet incredibly sinister chorus. You find yourself feeling warmed as Thom sings ‘Steal all my children if I don’t pay the ransom, but I’ll never see them again if I squeal to the cops’.
In conclusion, this is a brilliant album. It’s got some of the bands finest work, it spans several genres and it ties together all the different sounds the band have stumbled across, right from the straight rock songs of ‘Pablo Honey’, the melancholy of ‘OK Computer’ and the dark and intense songs of ‘ Kid A’. It’s not flawless, and songs such as ‘Backdrifts’ and ‘ Where I End and You Begin’ do let the album down, but on the whole it’s a very good listen, it’s accessible and it has something for everyone.
Highlights: A Wolf at the Door; 2+2=5; There There