Far from the madding crowd, Radiohead sets itself apart from other contemporary British rock bands. Ever since their introduction in 1992 with the EP "Drill", Radiohead has provided listeners with a very unique perspective to alternative music. Starting off with a more traditional guitar based approach in "Pablo Honey" (1993), the band rose to a whole new level with the musically progressive "OK Computer" (1997), and have suffered critical backlashes for their predominant experimentation with electronic influences in their later albums, "Kid A" (2000) and "Amnesiac" (2001). With "Hail to the Thief", one can expect a mixture of their previous albums put together, to form a much more structured, yet surprising Radiohead sound.
"Hail to the Thief" categorically falls under the "newer" Radiohead, bringing in the very electronic sound that the band has, in the recent past, brought forth in its music. However, it does contain a lot of elements from the band's pre-electronic era too. Although the overall feel of the music in this album is typically Radiohead with that touch of gloom and depression, there are new territories explored, mainly in the experimentation with new sounds and instruments. The lyrics in this album are politically oriented, the basic theme revolving around the political incorrectness of the country today. The title itself defines it all, being targeted at President George Bush.
The album kicks off with "2+2=5", starting off on a slower, mellow note, only to suddenly come crashing down with a bang, with hard overdriven guitars, and sheer anger being belted out in the vocals. It is hard to not stand up and take notice. This then cuts into "Sit Down, Stand Up", a melodic and powerful journey into an electronic ambience, with the band shaping the sound of things to come in the album. Enter "Sail to the Moon", my personal favourite, with its haunting piano intro, vocal melody, and guitar tone. This song defines a whole new side to the band, shouting over the gloom its simple message, "there is yet hope."
From then on, the album causes the listener to slip in and out of the world that is Radiohead. "Myxomatosis", is definitely worth a listen, with its haunting and powerful attack of guitar and synth and unique time signature. You are finally brought to the last leg of the journey, closing with "A Wolf at the Door", a song that clearly marks a new territory for the band, with rap-style vocals, and a chorus that delves deep into your mind.
"Hail to the Thief" is definitely one of Radiohead's better, and lyrically superior, albums. Although it cannot match with the musical superiority of "OK Computer", it does manage to establish a well structured and to a certain extent, progressive sound, as compared to "Kid A" and "Amnesiac". In my opinion, this album is definitely worth the money, and although all the songs may not strike a chord in your soul, most of them do, and leave you asking for more. Overall, "Hail to the Thief" is worth a buy for listeners who are open to the band's experimental ideas.This article was first published on 16 Apr 2003.