Soundtrack to despair (aka law school)
A. Hogle | Denver, CO | 10/09/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album got me through hell - specifically, my first year of law school. (If you've survived that you know what I'm talking about.) I spent many post-studying late nights with this CD, playing cards on the laptop (something to occupy my eyes but not my strained brain) while dissolving into the glorious gloom and despair swirling around in my headphones. And strangely loving it - there's something about wallowing in misery that's oddly freeing.
I know Yorke & Co. have denied it had any expressly political overtones, but part of the album's impact at the time (at least for me) was its ability to articulate a sense of the anxiousness surrounding the invasion of Iraq. Whether you thought we should be there or not (I didn't), it was gonna happen and you felt powerless to do much about it. Bigger forces than you were at work in the post 9/11 world, and those feelings of inevitability, confusion, irrelevance, and dread were expressed in the repetition of the lyrics and percussive instrumentation (punctuated with the occasional glorious chaotic noise) and connected with me much more than anything on Kid A or Amnesiac. 'There There' was a decent enough single, but it takes on a whole new character in the context of the album - a melodic release of tension that's exuberant, while still dark. And the handclaps on 'We Suck Young Blood' are just awesomely creepy.
Listening to it again now, long after Iraq has ceased to be the dominant issue of the day, the album holds up even better than I remember it - a sign that it's truly a work of art capable of reflecting whatever the listener needs to project onto it. It's almost operatic. The Bends will always be my favorite Radiohead disc, and there's no denying the perfection of OK Computer, but Hail to the Thief might be their best work."
"Just 'cause you feel it doesn't mean it's there."
Matt Jacobs | Trumansburg, NY | 12/11/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"And now my collection of full Radiohead studio albums that people actually like is complete. Unless they make another one, which they may or may not, depending on which member you listen to. Anyway, as expected, Hail to the Thief is quite good. Just to give you an idea of how much my taste in music has changed in just six years, I remember "There There" as the first Radiohead song I ever heard, or at least the first I knew was them, and being a bit bored by it. I started listening to the band a couple years later, and now I count that song among possibly their ten best, especially if you count radio playability as a factor. Maybe twenty best if you don't (they have a lot of really good songs).
Thief is an interesting transitional album. Their most recent work at the time was the game changing and unusual Kid A/Amnesiac project, which cemented them as a band that will do their own thing at any cost. Its traditional rock elements were few and far between, and Thief marks them easing into a return to that sound, although with heavy influence of their electronic sojourn still intact. It has the longest running length and most songs of any of their albums. Most have something pretty strong going for them, and unlike the vast majority of releases the record seems a bit back-loaded, with most of the less impressive ones packed toward the beginning.
Just a few tracks that stand out particularly even if it's just for an element that's gripping or interesting instead of a genuinely good song are "Backdrifts", "We Suck Your Blood" (best use of hand claps in a song ever?), "The Gloaming", "Myxomatosis", and "A Wolf at the Door". I know I mostly just picked the tracks that would fit in the most on Kid A, but that's not an indictment on what this album does differently - there are a lot of things about it I prefer. And honestly, for me, it might be the band's best release of this decade."