The Michigan Daily discovered in November 2004 that several articles written by arts editor Alex Wolsky did not meet the newspaper’s standard of ethical journalism. Parts of these stories had been plagiarized from other news sources. Although the article below has not been found to contain plagiarism, the Daily no longer stands by its content. For details, see the Daily’s editorial.
Radiohead’s long-awaited, highly-anticipated follow-up to the experimental, extremely dystopian Kid A sessions has finally arrived. Hail to the Thief is a return to their guitar-laden roots or, as Thom Yorke put it, “OK Computer Part Two.” But he’s dead wrong in many aspects; for every part it embodies outward rock, it embodies the same inward experimentation that helped define the band’s sound since “OK Computer Part One.”
In the past, Radiohead has explored the inner-workings of rock music, redefining sonic imagery while writing songs of desolation, paranoia and just the overall creeps. And where Kid A and Amnesiac were highly introverted, rhythmically-driven works, Hail to the Thief is a proper return to normalcy of rock song composition (or as close as they can really get).
The lyrics are a conglomeration of the fear and paranoia that have grown within the emerging culture of war and terrorism. On “Sit Down. Stand Up.” Yorke sings that, “We can wipe you out anytime.” Yet Thom has become a father, and his writing seamlessly intertwines his adoration for his son with his fears of the outside world. On “Sail to the Moon” he writes, “Maybe you’ll be president / But know right from wrong.”
And while Thom croons out front, the men behind him are crafting a musical melee of sound. A combination of their past efforts more so than a new experiment, Hail to the Thief isn’t “OK Computer Part Two” in any shape or form. While being more guitar-focused and song driven than Kid A or Amnesiac, it’s still got some remnants of experimentation from those respective sessions. However, now instead of experimentation, the band seems completely comfortable integrating electronic music into their rock mold.
And while it’s instantly more accessible than their last two projects, Hail to the Thief loses the miniscule things that make an album completely engrossing. The constant nature of Kid A and the progressive rock of OK Computer are never reached here at all. While it seems that they’ve attempted to strike a balance between their electronic, experimental side and their rockin’ side, they lose themselves trying to combine them best and find themselves lost in limbo between the two.
Hail to the Thief sounds exactly like expected, and that’s the problem. The combination of rock and experimentation creates a sense of overcompensation which reminds us of why OK Computer and Kid A were so great: they were both so pure. Hail to the Thief’s attempt to combine the two strips the emotion and beauty the two predecessors hold.
Rating: 3 1/2 stars.