Radiohead: Hail to the Thief


It's probably a worrying sign that the last three Radiohead albums have come in such lavish packaging, in much the same way you know that a DVD filled with special bonus features will probably turn out to be a rubbish film. It's also worrying that out of their five studio albums so far, the last two have been successes only due to the reputation garnered by The Bends and OK Computer.

 I've always been cynical of the assertion that certain albums are an acquired taste. Much like alcohol then, when what you are acquiring is a taste for poison. It ain't actually that good for you. So it goes with Radiohead's latest offering, Hail To The King, Baby! Sorry, no, that should be Hail To The Thief. Once again recording with Nigel Godrich, this album sees the boys emerge blinking from their blacked out cubby-holes, switching off the lap-tops, and familiarising themselves with musical instruments again. But the music was only ever half of what made Radiohead great. What thrilled us when Thom's voice was fluttering around the rooftops was more to do with what he was singing than how it sounded. And with this new album, the time has come to ask the question. Has Thom Yorke lost it?

 Probably the best place to start is the lead-off single 'There, There', being the closest approximation of Radiohead circa 1993-1997. All the strengths of the band are there, Phil Selway's fantastic jazz drumming (See also 'The Pyramid Song', anything from OK Computer), Colin Greenwood's always seductive bass playing (the only constant in Radiohead's universe) and guitars! Wonderful guitars, how we missed you! It's even got lyrics. But there's something missing, and it's indicative of the album as a whole. It sounds like an analogue attempt at some of the sequencer songs from Kid A and Amnesiac, but with one key ingredient missing. A tune.

 Put simply, it's rubbish. One of my mates is a huge Radiohead fan, and he's already returned his to the shop. I'm going to keep hold of mine for now. You never know, it might grow on me...


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