Top positive review
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I sat in the cupboard and wrote it down in neat...
on July 6, 2004
The latest Radiohead album, Hail To The Thief, is actually a tricky one to review. While it can't be denied that it doesn't match their two classics, The Bends and OK Computer, it is still a piece of art that proves the genious of Radiohead and shows some real music in comparison to today's majority of acts who are either schematic, uninspired, silly, or absolutely devoid of any talent.
One thing I'll have to admit is that so far I have listened not to britpop or alternative rock, but to American alternative post-grunge metal or, if you will, to much-hated nu-metal. And it is noteworthy that Hail To The Thief was the album that showed me how wrong I was.
The secret of Radiohead's music lies, in my opinion, in its unexplaiable expression. It was of course present on The Bends and OK Computer, but, as the new album is considerably less melodic than both, it is one of the first things that attract the listener's attention and make him fall in love with the music. Radiohead's ability to express feelings or states of mind or to recall situations from life in their music is untopped. Tom Yorke's vocals and lyrics (on Hail To The Thief they are deliberately 'childish' - just read the song titles - but it really helps settle the mood, making the album a slight medieval gothic flavour) suit the instrumental parts ingeniously well and alltogether they paint a wonderful atmosphere.
Some listeners say Hail To The Thief hasn't got a topical unity as OK Computer did, but I have to disagree and point out that the feeling of doom, end, and inevitable danger can be seen in any of the album's 14 tracks, giving the album a universal, apocalypthic side that so far has been absent in the group's catalog. Tom Yorke explained that the main topic of the album, and the second title, is 'the Gloaming', which means that bad times have come to people who were unaware, 'not paying attention'. Just listen to the eponimous track and read the lyrics. I believe you'll get the feeling.
As to the musical side of Hail To The Thief, virtuosity and subtle, layered arrangements remain part of Radiohead's music like on previous releases and can be witnessed on every track. However, some songs include non-electronic instrumentation which is pleasant to hear and, although it is definitely not 'coming back to the roots', it makes the album more adventurous and, yes, more fun. Rocking songs are followed by more electronic ones, or by piano-driven pieces that help the record avoid the occasional dullness of its two predecessors.
The songs themselves are versatile also, and offer different dynamic and tempo changes. While, as I mentioned before, they are perhaps not so melodic and instantly memorable as on The Bends and OK Computer, the songwriting has improved even further. As on Kid A and Amnesiac, Radiohead don't usually use traditional verse-chorus song structures and this only demonstrates their immense imagination. Perhaps the most catchy tunes are 2+2=5, There There, A Punchup At A Wedding and Where I End And You Begin. However, there are songs that show the group's ralents equally well, such as Go To Sleep, Myxomatosis and I Will which all paint emotional pictures that get stuck in your mind. The only song that drags a bit to me is We Suck Young Blood, but anyway it is supposed to capture the feeling of devil's coming which anyone can hardly like.
So the bottom line would be that this album is highly recommended to people who like either Radiohead themselves, today's alternative rock or simply atmospheric, emotional, expressive, beautiful music. One of the best bands in the world.