Hail to the Thief

/emi; 2003/




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Well, I don't know what to think of this. If I only consider the expectations I was bound to have for a band like Radiohead, especially after kid a and amnesiac, I can't help but be a little disappointed. If I compare this record to most of the albums I've heard so far this year, well, it's great. The thing is that Kid A was a surprise and Amnesiac another one. Hail to the Thief is not really that surprising. 

I have seen Radiohead play most of these songs live with my friends El Rey, Double D and Scrooge in the supposedly lovely city of San Sebastian, which, because of greed and stubbornness, is unfortunately still unknown to me. The show was great. Apart from A Punch Up at a Wedding, which seems to be everyone's favourite, I really enjoyed the new songs. 

My point : a few of the songs on HTTT are just not good enough. Backdrifts, The Gloaming and Scatterbrain could have been left out. They should have stuck to the 10 songs format they had used on the two previous albums. Backdrifts and The Gloaming are not radical enough in their arrangements to be at least interesting and Scatterbrain sounds like a b-side. Anyway. The rest of the songs are great, so HTTT is a disappointment only because it could have been better. It does not suck. 2+2=5 opens the album in a great way, it explodes, just like Sit Down Stand Up, in which Yorke uses the trick used in Idioteque, but this time in a rock environment : he repeats the same lines over and over again and ends up producing a trance-like effect. Sail to the Moon is a lovely piano ballad, a message from Yorke to his son, Noah (and maybe you/will build an ark), which could have been corny and ends up being just beautiful. Go to Sleep is nice, its biggest flaw being that it sounds too much like Radiohead. I heard it would be the next single, maybe the b sides will be good. Where I End and You Begin is a dark damp love song, reminiscent of Talk Show Host, even though I'm not sure why. We Suck Young Blood is a gorgeous funeral anthem driven by clapping hands and a lazy piano. Yorke unleashes his full vocal potential and, as a result, sounds very disturbing. Once again it explodes, stops abruptly and Yorke is left faltering, on the brink of falling down. I like I Will even though most of the people find it annoying. It would be annoying if it were longer. I don't find A Punch Up at a Wedding particularly attractive. On the other hand, Myxomatosis is impressive. It sounds unearthly and sick, with its alien keyboard line. Yorke whispers I don't know why I feel so tongue-tied simply, without shouting madly, with soft keyboards underlining his singing and the song ends up being really moving behind the apparent ugliness. A Wolf at the Door closes the album in an elegantly wild way.

Despite the album title -which, according to Yorke, is not about G.W. Bush's election-, the OKC imagery and the leftist political point of view, HTTT is not a political record, that would be pretty boring, don't you think. It's more or less about the same things : love, paranoia, hatred, misunderstanding, an increased awareness of the world around us and the feelings emerging from it. In the end, Yorke still sounds like someone I don't want to trade places with: haunted, paranoid and (love)sick. 

-Barbara H

/june 1st 2003/