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Radiohead - Hail to the Thief CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.44 | 486 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Since Radiohead's inclusion into the Archives, some people have either jokingly or seriously nominated NOFX, Nirvana, Green Day, Bee Gees and Jimi Hendrix as nominees into the Archives. Though it's all a matter of how you perceive progressive rock, I think some people probably just aren't familiar enough with what Radiohead have done since "Creep" to make a fair comment. Apparently there are enough members of this site who feel Radiohead warrants consideration as a prog band. I do, and ever since 'OK Computer' I've felt they have just as much right to be considered amongst the prog family as Tool, Porcupine Tree, Voivod and Opeth. If the opening vibe of "Go To Sleep" were on a Jethro Tull or Strawbs album, it wouldn't be out of place. Call me nuts, but I hear something of Radiohead in bands as varied as Klaatu, Amon Duul II, Supertramp, The Mars Volta and Osanna. If those bands deserve a place here, then so does Radiohead.

I see 'Hail To The Thief' as a perfect meeting point between the grandiosity of 'OK Computer' and the nerdy speak-n-spell bizarreness of the 'Kid A' and 'Amnesiac' albums. Where "Backdrifts" floats along like one of the colder moments from 'Kid A', "Where I End And You Begin" goes in a completely different direction, echoing the exhausting emotional content of older songs like "Exit Music (For A Film)" and "You And Whose Army?" The album is quite long, and while that is usually detrimental to creating impact, 'Hail To The Thief' cooks along with enough song variety for it not to matter much. The first half of the album sits on a slow simmer, bouncing between digital freakouts like "Backdrifts" and "Sit Down, Stand Up" into earthier, more organic rhythms and textures like "Sail To The Moon". Once "Where I End And You Begin" works its bass- led hypnosis, you get hit with song after song representing their strongest and most enjoyable material since 'OK Computer'.

Thom Yorke seems to be enjoying singing with a little more force again. He seemed to be muting himself a little on the previous two albums, but here he opens up in many moments, and "We Suck Young Blood" is a great example of his capabilities as an emotionally riveting performer. It's a slow, depressive chant comprised of piano, hand- claps, and what sounds like a fretless bass (all slinky and watery). Beautiful. No use going into every remaining song (it's a 14-song album), but highlights include "Myxomatosis", a Moog-fueled paranoia trip, all squishy and disturbed (if that's not a Moog, I'm the ghost of Andy Gibb). "A Punchup At A Wedding" is a spiteful tune, Yorke at his fiery best, with great synergy between the musicians, layers building upon layers in time with Yorke's admonishments. 'Hail To The Thief' ends with 'A Wolf At The Door', a kind of collision between shuffle and psychedelia, which sees Ed O'Brien sharing vocals with Yorke. A haunting undertow is laid down underneath, making for an unsettling tune and an odd way to leave the album hanging.

Please don't hold the "alternative-rock" tag over this band's head. Not anymore. No one has ever argued against Rush's inclusion into the progarchives (not to my knowledge, anyway), and even if someone tried, they wouldn't be taken seriously if they claimed that "Rush is nothing but a Zeppelin clone!" Yeah, they were for one album--31 freakin' years ago. Radiohead is artistically as far away from the days of "Creep" and 'Pablo Honey' as Rush are from their humble origins. 'Hail To The Thief' is the fourth in a string of albums that stretch the rock boundaries by offering tons of wonderful ear-candy, interesting arrangements, headphone-friendly escapes, wild instrumentation and a pioneering sense of always going somewhere new with each song. A healthy dose of challenging and rewarding listening.

slipperman | 4/5 |


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