Hail to the Thief

(EMI; 2003)

By Andy Watkins | 20 November 2007

"Radiohead is back."

This cliche phrase sat as the away message on my IM client for days in March after downloading the leaked rough mixes of Hail to the Thief. I now fully admit that my statement was incorrect - little more than a knee-jerk reaction that comes from listening to music that didn't require altering one's consciousness or a snobbish 'art-rock' attitude. Had I the power to correct my statement, I believe I would change it to this:

"Radiohead is better."

While I truly enjoy Kid A and portions of Amnesiac, both are outstripped by the sounds that drip out when this release hits your speakers. The reason (or at least, one of the major ones)? Thom & Co. remembered something. To be more specific, I mean guitars and that they exist. Not to say the guitar was ever fully abandoned by Camp Radiohead - just that the group became so obsessed with making a guitar sound like anything else that apparently the simple pleasure of a correctly utilized guitar was forgotten.

The experimental (dare I create a horible word and say 'Neo-lectronica'?) nature that drove Kid A and Amnesiac hasn't been placed by the wayside - 'The Gloaming' has slight undertones of 'Like Spinning Plates', but has a far more inviting musical 'hook' than 'Plates'. (I refer to the studio recording of 'Like Spinning Plates' - the live recording on the "I Might Be Wrong" ep is wonderful and trumps the studio cut.)

But what does this mean to you, Joe/Jane P. Consumer? I'll put it in easier to understand terms. Mix equal parts OK Computer & Kid A, add a bit of The Bends for flavor and just a hint of Amnesiac for color, and you have Hail to the Thief. It's easily one of the group's best albums to date and I can't wait to see what they will do next. Perhaps they will "regress" a bit more and we'll have another Pablo Honey - if anyone can bring back Brit-GrungeRock, it's Radiohead.