Radiohead - Hail to the Thief

2006-03-29 18:17

Layers of fractured guitars and electronic rhythms unravel inwards then unfold, trapping the listener in the eye of a twister that is Radiohead's latest paranoiac masterpiece, Hail to the Thief.

"2+2=5" is a sprawling echo of Amnesiac (2001) while "Sit Down. Stand Up" could be a reconstructed outtake of the best bits from Kid A (2000). But what's appealing is not that Radiohead milks any well-crafted and oh-so-clever mood, it's that they never sound bound by their blueprint.

The oceanic "Sail to the Moon" bears the unmistakable atmospheric ambient stamp of Brian Eno's Another Green World (1976) shifting a playful studio t(h)om foolery into back masked beat scapes that birth skewered synth sullies ("Backdrifts"). By the time the cinematic architecture of "Where I End" caresses your eardrums you find yourself completely seduced by the sheer scope of this uniquely uneasy listen. And make no mistake, uneasy listening this is.

Yorke's hollow man vocal lamentations on downbeat drifters like "We Suck Young Blood" take the listener to the precipice. And then simply slide back into the inner abyss with a synapse smothering narcosis ("The Gloaming") of electro-glitches and spectral noir murmurs. It's precisely such incandescent rhythmic pulses that transform Yorke's audible claustrophobia into some kind of narrative cue. To what exactly is unclear. The jangle folk flavoured ballad "Go to Sleep" appears to edge into a glitter free glam interzone, while "There There" embraces then relinquishes rock altogether. And as for the spectral hymn "I Will" and the deliciously titled micro-observation of "A Punchup at a Wedding", well they simply allude elsewhere.

Where so-called contemporaries like Coldplay are consumed by the chart-driven constraints of their cerebral cardboard "cut-out" appeal, Radiohead insist on articulating the visceral dis-ease within the music itself. The scuzzy synth swathes of "Myxomatosis" seep into the maudlin lyrical treading water of "Scatterbrain" before the closing "Wolf at the Door" shuffles out the door and slowly fades from earshot.

- Miles Keylock

Always innovative, Radiohead's latest brilliant risk is way, way out there. Get it if you can.

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