Review this album
Jan 2, 2013It would appear that many of the lukewarm or negative reviews of Hail to the Thief have more to do with the density of this album [rather than any sub-standard songwriting on Radiohead's part]. Compared with the sparser textures of Kid A and [to a lesser extent] Amnesiac, which made these records more accessible despite the music's experimental nature, Hail to the Thief is thick with sound and heavily layered. Not only does this mean that more plays are needed to get to grips with, and appreciate, the power of the songs and their many subtleties, but also that listening to Hail to the Thief is exhausting - a result of the dense texture combined with a sense of melancholy and heaviness that saturates the 14 tracks. The fact that O'Brien and Greenwood have picked up their guitars again as well as the band continuing to use electronic sounds means that Hail to the Thief can be likened to Radiohead around the time of The Bends/Ok Computer playing at the same time as Radiohead circa Kid A. Given this, it is no wonder there is a lot going on, sonically.
As ever, Radiohead are breaking a lot of new ground here, as is especially apparent in tracks like A Wolf at the Door [musically pretty verses with a Yorke's drunken stream-of consciousness overlaid, and a simple, catchy, and highly effective 'The Bends'-like chorus], and the dance-like Backdrifts [with the chord progression that sounds like it should go with a piano ballad, but rhythmic elements and electronic pips that belong on the dancefloor]. However, there are plenty of nods to previous albums in Hail to Thief; Johnny Greenwood's shimmering octave-up guitar effects on Sail to the Moon are reminiscent of Subterranean Homesick Alien, and his playing on Go To Sleep could easily belong on The Bends.
Hail to the Thief also has its share of Radiohead's signature melancholic beauty, in the piano and glockenspiel opening of Sit Down. Stand Up[before it is shattered by a storm of electronic and vocal raindrops], the soaring slowness of Sail to the Moon, and pure vocal harmonies in I Will [surely Radiohead are masters of making anger something so beautiful]. The Upshot: All these factors combine to make an album that's success is due to the right mix of original sonic experimentation and elements from their previous albums. Of all their studio albums, Hail to the Thief is likely the most difficult to digest and comprehend, but to do so is certainly worth it. Persevere in getting to know the songs intimately, and be rewarded with the emotional power and musicianship of Radiohead at their very best.… Expand
Aug 20, 2010Besides being in my humble opinion a phenomonal record and also in my opinion being tied for third (with The Bends) in Radiohead's discography (behind OK Computer and Kid A), Radiohead diversifies themselves and shows all the Creep lovers and Kid A fanatics that we can all just get along and make a record that has it all. From heavy rock (2+2=5, Myxomytosis), to jazz (Sail to the Moon, We Suck Young Blood), to electronic (Sit Down Stand Up, Backdrifts, The Gloaming), to rock funk (Where I End and You Begin, A Punch Up at a Wedding), to Beatles/Rolling Stones-clad rock tunes (Go to Sleep, There There, A Wolf at the Door), to heart felt ballads (I Will, Scatterbrain.) It may be noticed that I have named every song on the album in that list, yet this only furthers my point that this is a record that somehow combines several very different genres to create a very well synced album. Not only that, but lyrically, Radiohead almost undoubtedly writes out their most politically vocal set of songs that exemplifies thier Orwellian and anti-Big Brother views in a way that is while very open, but is also not completely in your face and gives you an opportunaty to enjoy the music while not having to focus in politically. In this album Radiohead in a raw manner redefines their sound (again) and in the process creates a very memorable record.… Expand
Sep 5, 2010Completely melts my face off. I was confused by it at first, like most of their records, but unlike Kid A, I lost hope in this one for a while. After shelving it for a while I came back to it and was listening to it all the time. It might take effort, but this record will win you over if you let it.
Sep 7, 2010Radiohead's most underrated album, in my opinion. It may lack the unforgettable songs of other efforts but it makes for a damn fine listen. Its being stuck between Kid A/Amnesiac and In Rainbows probably hurts its reputation a bit, but Yorke and Company still deliver.
May 18, 2011This album is one of their best- at least in the parts of the whole sum. the problem with the whole is tracklisting. get rid of 2-4 songs and it really works well. i'd say we suck young blood, and scatterbrain and a few others would have comfortably fit onto a rather good side EP. no two people would agree on which songs to omit- the whole 14 gets lost, but when i have listened to about 11 and used the skip button-always a different set of songs, but it works and i think this is perhaps the most artistically developed and mature radiohead album in concept, if it is missing some of the more instinctive musical features. these points have never bothered me in the slightest!… Expand
Nov 16, 2011My favorite Radiohead album. Why? Because in addition to the experimental sound that was developed during the Kid A era, the rock sound is back with it. And these two sounds surprisingly incredible, and go together like vanilla and chocolate ice cream. This is one heck of a treat, for rock listeners and hipsters alike. In ways, I believe this is better than Kid A and OK Computer.
Jul 21, 2012My first non-immediate album back in the day. There There worked from the first listen, but the rest of the album seemed boring on first hand and my teenage mind didn't expect patience to be rewarded, but through repeated listenings I came to understand what a deep and pertinent yet abstract work of art this is. You'll see imperfections at first, quirks later on, and by the crucial listen you will see charisma and strength.… Expand
Mar 6, 2013I put this album as Radiohead's 4th best album and it is excellent. It has tons of songs which is rare on a Radiohead album. This is their darkest album in terms of tone and lyrics. It can get borderline uncomfortable on tracks like "Suck Young Blood", "Wolf at the Door", "Myxamatosis" but like all Radiohead albums, more and more listens offer revelations and satisfaction. HTTT has classic songs Go To Sleep, There There, 2 2 5, Sit Down. Stand Up) and true to form there is one absolute dud (Gloaming). This album isn't warm and inviting like earlier efforts and thats the point. Like the metal band Tool said once, "finding beauty in the dissonance".… Expand
Jul 24, 2014Here is my track by track, but first; this album is all the things that make Radiohead loveable channeled into one cohesive body of work, with great songs and a sound that is distinctly theirs. It would be one of their best, but the 56-minute runtime is not supported with enough variety to carry it through. It's still nice to see them so in their own, and though it may be a little self-indulgent for them, I can't help but love it. A significant chapter in their career. (Note: All track-by-track ratings are in context to the album; a 5 here might be a 4 elsewhere or vice versa.)
One of Radiohead's best openers to date, then slow-moving jazz-influenced number evolves into a paranoid punk rock anthem, then screeches to a halt.
Sit Down, Stand Up (5/5)
A haunting yet beautiful melody exhibits Thom Yorke's political paranoia; the instrumentation builds until the song is drowned out in a roar of white noise. Radiohead in their essence.
Sail To The Moon (5/5)
Another win for HTTT! the third in a masterful opening sequence this drifts along with the ease of a 50's ballad. The classical picking adds to the daydream effect, and it serves as the calm after the storm!
Back Drifts (4/5)
Though a little over-extended this song has killer bass, and the beat keeps the pulse of the song moving, even when it's broke the 4-minute mark. A little more variety would have been nice though...
Go To Sleep (3.5/5)
While it's rock feel fits well in the midst of an electronic wasteland, it's easily forgettable, and lacks the characteristics of the other songs. Not a disappointment just not a jackpot either!
Where I End (4.5/5)
A pick-me-up, this song represents the album's sound quite nicely. While not quite as spectacular as the opening three it's very pop, though quite dark, and it keeps the album moving.
We Suck Young Blood (2.5/5)
If Where I End kept the album moving, then this was a major road block, tripping it up with a ridiculously slow tempo, and a slightly repetitive structure. Elements of it have potential but as it's whole it's a bore.
The Gloaming (5/5)
I don't know why I like this song so much- it's the waterfall drip maybe, or it's the fact that it breathes life into the album after "WSYB". Though I may be over-rating it it flows well and it's a good side opener.
There There (3.5/5)
Often regarded as the album's best track I disagree, but believe it's a good catchy song. Not quite a 5, because I rarely feel the urge to play it, and it's a little too slow, but far from filler.
I Will (4/5)
I Will on it's own is far from a massive accomplishment. But when viewed as the intro to Drunken Punch-Up, as there is no break in between, it's brilliant and contributes to the album in mood and variety.
Drunken Punch-up (5/5)
And they're back. The album's building up steam before it ends and this jazz fusion pop-fest is no exception. It manages to be dark, complex and fun all at the same time.
Also rocks. the album's over all slow tempo is sped up a little in a catchy and vibrant jam comparable to a track off THE BENDS, or Bodysnatchers off IN RAINBOWS.
It's beautiful, and the lick would be heart-breaking, but it meanders, and the album would be just fine without it. WSYB & this could be removed to make an amazing and way shorter album.
Wolf At The Door (5/5)
Radiohead always have the best closers. Always. The abstract poetic lyrics, incredibly melodic chorus and almost hip-hop influenced verse serves to make a total masterstroke!… Expand
As admirable as Radiohead's quest ongoing quest to ignore expectations, tear up the manual and proudly rebel against the limitations of 4/4 time seems, some of Hail To The Thief comes dangerously close to being all experimentalism and precious little substance. [Jul 2003, p.98]
Of course it's political, and of course it continues to merge electronic experimentation with more familiar rock structures; but it employs all those debate-igniting props simply to further the band's more pressing agenda: to tirelessly explore beauty's terrible fragility.