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Hail to the Thief

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Hail To The Thief record cover Knowing that I would have to get Radiohead's new record sooner or later, I figured I could as well get it sooner. Thus, I picked up a copy quite close to the day it came out. Seeing that Radiohead seem to give their fans the whole as well, I was particularly pleased to get a vinyl copy instead of the CD.

In the ha-ha-funny-department, it took me a rather long while to figure out that the record – which looks like an ordinary double LP – has to be played at 45 rpm. When first playing it at 33, the music itself was slow but fine – the right speed is sometimes hard to tell if there are electronic influences in the music – everything is possible and everything is done by someone. They vocals were quite slow and low-treble, though, which made me start wondering.

Thus I checked the whole cover and the records themselves for a notice on the speed. There isn't any. As I am a rather lazy bastard and switching the playback speed on my record player requires me to completely stop it, remove the turntable and relocate the belt, I didn't simply try it out, but thought along the lines of Radiohead having done strange things in the past as well...

The next time I played the record, I played it to Claus without mentioning the speed issue and he came up with the same doubts by himself, so I finally switched the speed and at the least the vocals were right then. But the record didn't feel quite as relaxed as it did before. Now I am in the odd situation of actually liking a few of the instrumental passages at the wrong speed better than the proper versions.

Once the speed issue was settled, I could listen to the record normally. My impression so far is that it is good work. Many nice little bits to discover, clever music and lyrics. A record to get to know and appreciate. It doesn't rock, though.

To put it negatively: It isn't as captivating as the 'old' Radiohead were, making us want to listen to Anyone can play guitar or Creep over and over, and it isn't as exciting and challenging as Kid A was. To put it positively: While you can see hear that the album is a relative of Kid A and Amnesiac, it is much more accessible, read: easier to get used to it, without feeling like a 'dumbed down' version of those albums.

Another change from the previous albums is that Hail to the Thief admits what I'd call 'backwards listening', by which I don't mean reverse listening but listening with my back to the stereo, i.e. while sitting at my desk. The previous two records seem to beg for too much attention to allow that kind of listening. It's not that this record doesn't beg for attention as well, though: The opening song, 2+2=5 / The Lukewarm, starts quite slowly and innocently, just to burst out into

It's the devil's way now
There's no way out
You can scream
& you can shout
It is too late now
Because
You have not been
Paying attention.
half way through. The second song, Sit down. Stand up. / Snakes and Ladders culminates in a little piece of percussion that is quite cool. The C-side is quite parallell to this: Starting off with the slow-ish We suck Young Blood / Your Time is up and then dashing to the electronic and percussionist The Gloaming / Softly Open our Mouths in the Cold
Funny haha funny how
When the walls bend
With you breathing

They will suck you down
To the otherside
before finishing with the single There there / The Boney King of Nowhere, which is probably a good choice for the single as it is very easy to listen to. Seeing the video for it on telly, I must say that I remembered Thom Yorke to be much better looking from the Radiohead live video that Jean has. Perhaps it's an age thing, or simply the hair colour.

Just because you feel it
Doesn't mean it's there [...]
We are accidents
Waiting
Waiting to happen

I quite like the songs focusing on percussion and the electronic bits. Perhaps an interesting and promising way for Radiohead to go. My favourite side so far is the D-side that includes Myxomatosis / Judge, Jury & Executioner and A Wolf at the Door / It Girl. Rag Doll., which has cool lyrics.

Other things coming to my mind:

Peep. "Yes?" "Mmmmorrre coookiesss......."

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

June 22, 2003, 3:08

Tagged as music.

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June 22, 2003, 13:01

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