Saturday, February 23, 2013

On Hail to the Thief

The question came through the music nerd Gods, Hail to the Thief, do I rate it? Yes I do but with caveats. As Rino in the twittermatrix pointed out it was a difficult transitional album and I agree with that. I also think there's a lot going for it as well.

Radiohead will always struggle to move out of the shadows of Ok Computer and Kid A (In Rainbows has come closest - a fucking marvel of a record). Amnesiac, while enjoyable felt like treading water to me where Hail to the Thief tried to incorporate the Kid A aesthetic with their indie guitar roots. In some respects, they failed but it is within that failure you will actually find a great record. The record doesn't know what it wants to be and tries to be everything all at once to its own detriment. It has always felt slightly unrefined and blunt (even the title of the record seems like a tossed away thought) and this is exacerbated by being too long and having a terrible track listing.

This is always surprising because one thing Radiohead seem good at is ordering their tracks. OK, Kid A, The Bends and Rainbows are masterclasses in getting albums to flow. Thief has none of that elegance. The first two tracks have the same dynamics that lead into a dead stop ballad and then the Kid A-esque electronic stuff is thrown in with little regard to what sits around it. It is almost tracked like a b-side collection and it is also too long by at least three songs.

However, like any canny music fan, you can make this work for you. As the record fails as a whole, it's easy to forget the casual brilliance of tracks like There ThereSit Down Stand Up and Backdrifts. If you are using itunes or spotify I would recommend playing with the track listing to give it more dynamics. This is my standard Thief playlist:

Go To Sleep   
Sail To The Moon 
There There
I Will
Punch Up At A Wedding
Sit Down Stand Up
The Gloaming

Maybe Thief had to happen for In Rainbows to work but I tend to think that Thief is underrated because of the reasons listed above. But it's worth revisiting, you forget how much great stuff is on there.

2 cents. There it is.


1 comment:

  1. it's definitely worth a revisit, agreed. At least in terms of answering the question: 'aren't we a guitar band? Well, maybe, I think so, yes'. Oddly, I think of it as a difficult second album, one that troublingly tries to rework by redefining itself, based on a wildly popular first album (which Pablo Honey wasn't). Hail could've been a great Mogwaiesque album, where guitars are a part of the question of expression, but it ends up sounding too dependent on Thom to provide great (old) songs. It smells of reprise/reprieve, but I think they were already too far adrift experimentally (in a positive sense) to come back to such basics until Rainbows showed them how, in a way.

    This is all sounding like piffle punditry, about a band whose creative mojo is actually informed by doubt and self-searching, but anyhoo. In fact, that'd underline the above. rino