Album Review - Radiohead's <i>Hail To The Thief</i>

Radiohead burst onto the scene in 1993, fueled by the song 'Creep', with Thom Yorke's wrenching vocals and Jon Greenwood's guitar bursts. Both Pablo Honey and The Bends placed Radiohead as one of the most successful UK rock acts in the States during the 1990s, with songs including singles 'High and Dry' and 'Fake Plastic Trees'.

In 1997, along came the highly-acclaimed OK Computer, which veered into a bit more into “experimentation” … some electronics, looser song structure, etc. From this CD came 'Paranoid Android', 'Karma Police', and my personal favorite, 'Let Down'.

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Then came Kid A and Amnesiac, both diving into blip-and-bleep space rock, vocal manipulation, and subtle electronics. I have a liking for many discs in the ambient-electronica genre, but – aside from a track here and there - I couldn’t get into the new direction Radiohead was moving. With Radiohead’s departure from its 'roots' of the first two discs, Coldplay seemed to become the new King of Britpop in the US.

With the new CD, Hail To The Thief, Radiohead return to a good hybrid of guitar crunch and electronic tinkering not too dissimilar from OK Computer, and lyrically has a certain fiery quality to it. While I wouldn’t call Radiohead one of my favorite bands (even in their Bends heyday), this disc is a pretty solid effort. '2+2 = 5' starts the disc with a soft-then-raucous track covered with Yorke’s trademark wailing, while 'Sail To The Moon' evokes tranquil piano and guitar, and 'Backdrifts' comes complete with programming and keyboard noodling. Then we hear 'Go To Sleep', a driving acoustic-guitar driven tune.

Further into the disc, solid uptempo tracks 'Where I End And You Begin' and 'There There' mix well with laid-back somber songs.

Overall, this CD does take about 2-3 listens to get accustomed to it, as it does seem to "grow" on you. Aside from just a few, most songs are interesting and the entire album itself is quite varied from beginning to end. Slow dirges, electronic bass, straight-forward rock… Radiohead gives a sampling of everything on here.

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