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Radiohead

Radiohead: Hail to the Thief: Special Collectors Edition

Capitol

Nov 10, 2009 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


After the revolutionary OK Computer and Kid A/Amnesiac, Radiohead took a step sideways with Hail to the Thief. The band had refined its sound, and its particular brand of adventurous electronic/organic push/pull. Hail sounded less like the cohesive statements that their predecessors put forth, and instead seemed more a collection of songs. Great songs, of course, with the guitars taking center stage once again. From the brilliant “2+2=5” to the threatening “Where I End and You Begin” to the slinky “Myxomatosis,” Radiohead had never sounded so dirty, so funky, and yet they felt totally comfortable in these slightly new duds.

Hail to the Thief is the band’s most overtly political, and the grimy feeling likely comes from the band getting down into the mire and doing some muckraking. Though Thom Yorke has always thrown the odd reference to politics, Hail‘s major theme seems to be the threat of power. Everywhere one turns, Yorke is making reference to the difference between the decision makers and the people. In “The Gloaming” he sings, “Murderers, you’re murderers/We are not the same as you.” “Where I End and You Begin” contains the lines, “There’s a gap in between/There’s a gap where we meet/Where I end and you begin/And I’m sorry for us.” He puts a spin on the “I say jump, you say how high” blind following throughout, but especially during “Sit Down. Stand Up.” Which begins, “Sit down. Stand up/Walk into the jaws of hell.” For someone who once pulled lyrics out of a hat he was so blocked, Yorke pulls no punches on Hail to the Thief, from the title on down.

This reissue contains materials that aren’t new to people who sought out the Com Lag EP, but for those who are either new to the band or those who spent their time studying the albums, the bonus disc contains some must-haves. The frenetic “Where Bluebirds Fly” is a study in anxiety. “I Am a Citizen Insane” belongs with the group’s best work, a positively simple and yet brilliant example of how they build something from nothing. Radiohead can coax a tune out of anything, and on “I Am a Citizen Insane” you can feel them building it in front of your ears. “Gagging Order” comes as a complete surprise; it’s Bends-era work, with a shy acoustic guitar leading some of Yorke’s most supple vocals in years.

The live tracks are excellent, as always, and they put on display what the band believes to be the most indispensable songs on the album: “2+2=5” (no surprise there), “Sail to the Moon” (maybe the most devastating), and “I Will” (which encourages one to listen to that track a few more times).

Hail to the Thief shows a band plotting a course for their near future. Indeed, In Rainbows played out as a less volatile extension of Hail, with less political concerns. (www.radiohead.com)

Author rating: 9/10

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daicy
February 12th 2010
6:09pm

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