Classic Albums: Radiohead - Hail to the Thief. Review Date - 28th December

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Classic Albums: Radiohead - Hail to the Thief. Review Date - 28th December

Postby SteveC » Sun Dec 14, 2014 1:38 pm

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Re: Classic Albums: Radiohead - Hail to the Thief. Review Date - 28th December

Postby timbo » Sun Dec 14, 2014 5:44 pm

That's one way to annoy the family over Christmas sorted then!  ;D
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Re: Classic Albums: Radiohead - Hail to the Thief. Review Date - 28th December

Postby simbo » Sun Dec 14, 2014 11:51 pm

The short introduction...

This was one of my nominations and I was quite surprised it ended up with the second most votes. I only suggested it because that week I had purchased it on vinyl after listening to it since its release on CD only.

I was a late-comer to Radiohead. I'd heard Creep, but didn't know whose song it was. The Bends completely passed me by(!). I bought OK Computer when it came out as it had such great reviews and at the time I didn't play it at all. I think I skipped through the tracks thinking, no not for me. Though, this was very much in a 'funk & soul' phase, e.g. Brand New Heavies, Jamiroquai, etc.

Then, when I doing my computing degree assignments I put OK Computer on again, for something different to listen to while programming. Some work I can't do with music playing, but when it comes to computer programming, music just puts me 'in the zone'. As I have said before I tend to have music on when doing something else.

Repeated listening brought with it the rewards of what is a truly great album. I then got the rest of the then back catalogue, which comprised Pablo Honey and The Bends. I partly have Radiohead to thank, for OK Computer and The Bends, for helping me achieve a 1st class BSc. (Hons) in computing.

Kid A and Amnesiac followed of course, but with a very different musical direction with much more electronic production. Then when Hail to the Thief came out it was to me like the lessons learned in electronic through Amnesiac and Kid A had been applied to the previous musical style of OK Computer. The album was nominated for the 2003 Mercury Prize, but lost out to Boy In Da Corner by Dizzee Rascal.

My favourite track is A Punch Up at a Wedding.

I don't think I could choose a least favourite track.
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Re: Classic Albums: Radiohead - Hail to the Thief. Review Date - 28th December

Postby SteveC » Mon Dec 15, 2014 12:04 am

Thanks Simbo.  Topic Locked until due date.
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Re: Classic Albums: Radiohead - Hail to the Thief. Review Date - 28th December

Postby SteveC » Sat Dec 27, 2014 7:30 pm

Thread now opened for reviews.
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Re: Classic Albums: Radiohead - Hail to the Thief. Review Date - 28th December

Postby Bolts2109 » Sun Dec 28, 2014 9:44 am

OK as I was late last time I'll get in first...

I hadn’t listened to this for a while, so thank you for reminding me of it. When it came out I remember liking it even though the reviews were mixed.

Coming back to it now I really believe it deserves a place as one of the best Radiohead albums – the diversity is extraordinary even if it's a bit of a mess.

It is not a perfect album – definitely not an OK Computer – but it isn’t far off IMO.  It feels authentic to TY’s feelings and anxieties too – not Radiohead going through the motions of computer pyrotechnics as I think they have on some albums.

The opening track 2+2=5 lays out the intent and ratchets up to frenetic intensity with a sudden slamming on of the brakes  two-thirds of the way through allowing you to catch your breath – a great opener.

From there the album moves through a bewildering array of musical styles (some editing could have worked wonders) – e.g. Sail to the Moon  - heavily piano based followed by Backdrafts – techno, heavy synths with great backbeats at the end.  It's long, too long in parts and loses pace, but always redeems itself along the way.

The final track - ‘A Wolf at the Door’ – is my favourite, fear and anger building through the track, Radiohead at its best.  Apparently the lyrics partly refer back to Thom Yorke’s assault in a pub car park a few years earlier, something which apparently deeply shocked him. Perhaps this is why in some places the album feels more authentic and not trying to be clever (although it does that too).  Essentially then a brilliant, if chaotic work in progress and because of that a great choice. Thanks
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Re: Classic Albums: Radiohead - Hail to the Thief. Review Date - 28th December

Postby blair207 » Sun Dec 28, 2014 10:44 am

Radiohead    Hail To the Thief

Listened to CD rip on Cyrus Xa Streamer.

Radiohead  - Hail To The Thief. I have to lay my cards on the table here. I am a massive Radiohead fan and caught the live show on the tour for this album twice so my opinion is very favourable. A very political album, the phrase "hail to the thief" was used by anti-George W. Bush protesters during the controversy surrounding the 2000 US presidential election as a play on "Hail to the Chief", the American presidential anthem. Yorke described hearing the phrase for the first time as a "formative moment". It was chosen as the album title to "state the bleeding obvious ... that the most powerful country on earth is run by somebody who stole an election".  Look up the album on Wikipedia and you find that the lyrics are heavily influenced by the political situation of the time as well as Yorke’s family life. There is a lot to dig into and the album reveals a lot on repeated listening. Musically the album has great songs in a variety of styles, rock, electronica, jazz, folk. I have always found the continual variation of the style to be captivating in way that Kid A, Amnesiac and Thom Yorke’s solo work cannot match. Many, including the producer and members of the band, feel the album is too long but I love the songs which some would remove.   

2+2=5. A great rock song with real tension which builds until the full band come in then it rocks out.
Sit Down Stand Up. An electronic piece with superb vocals which also builds to a rocky conclusion.             
Sail To The Moon. One of Thom Yorkes finest vocals with a great piano accompaniment and beautifully understated guitar from Jonny.          Backdrifts. A quirky electronic piece with really good upfront vocals.
Go To Sleep. Folky start builds into a rocky number with some fantastic variations in style.       
Where I End And You Begin.  Electronic piece with a thumping bass line and superb vocals. Magnificent live. 
We Suck Young Blood. Brilliant. All over the place and odd but never loses momentum.
The Gloaming. Another electronic piece with great vocals which builds throughout.
There There. Centrepiece of the album. See favourite track below. 
I Will. Electric ballad. Great singing. 
A Punch Up At A Wedding. A great dancelike groove with standard instruments so unRadiohead but very acidic lyrics.                                  Myxomatosis.  Fits well in the album but a bit boring to me. 
Scatterbrain. Perfect combination of electronic and rock band Radiohead. Great vocals yet again.
Wolf At The Door. Very melodic although it’s almost a rap song. Builds to fitting end to the album. 
                                                                                                                                                                   
It’s an outstanding album musically, vocally, and in production as well. I think one of the secrets of this albums appeal is that although there are electronic instruments on it, everything is recorded without much processing. There are acoustic instruments on it and Jonny Greenwood uses very few effects on the guitar so the album combines the electronic and rock band elements of Radiohead perfectly. If you are new to it and really like what you hear I can recommend the COM LAG (2plus2isfive) EP, a collection of B sides, remixes and live versions from the time.     
                                                                                                 
Favourite track. There There, great song, great singing, drums and guitar sound. Starts off with multiple drum parts and an interesting guitar riff. “There’s always a siren singing you to shipwreck” is one of my favourite lines from a Radiohead song. The song builds with a straightforward but brilliant guitar solo  Thom Yorke burst into tears at the end of recording this he was so pleased with it.

Least favourite track. Myxomatosis, it’s a bit detuned and awkward for my taste.

Outstanding moment. When the full band comes in on 2+2=5, if you have ever caught this live you will have felt the tension building through the song  then the pit just erupts when the band comes in, every time.
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Re: Classic Albums: Radiohead - Hail to the Thief. Review Date - 28th December

Postby SteveC » Sun Dec 28, 2014 4:11 pm

Streamed at 16/44 from Oppo 105D via DACXP.

By the end of track four I had unsheathed the blade on the Stanley knife and was getting ready to cut.  Fortunately, Backdrifts came on and I pulled the blade back into the handle.

Go To Sleep was quite good too, but Where I End and & You Begin, was, to my taste quite boring.  The Gloaming, well it has deep bass. Things picked up after a flat ‘There There’.  I Will, is good and A Punchbag at a Wedding was my favourite track.  Myxomatosis (Yuk) and didn’t like Scatterbrain.  I liked A Wolf At The Door.

Did you notice that against Myxomatosis I used the same pretentious device used by Radiohead in subtitling every track in brackets?

Overall well recorded, if quite ‘loud’, compressing the dynamics, and some interesting harmonies (if you can call two people wailing together a harmony).

I don’t think I will be revisiting this album in a long while.
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Re: Classic Albums: Radiohead - Hail to the Thief. Review Date - 28th December

Postby STodd » Sun Dec 28, 2014 10:54 pm

Sorry my homework was late teacher, I was sat on the M6 southbound today for hours  ::) ::) >:( >:(

Format: CD rip FLAC, 44.1k/16bit
Recording quality: quite good, although very heavily-produced in places (DR score of 6!)

Another month, another album I'd heard nothing of oh no, wait, that was earlier this month and last month! Finally, an album I know! With this in mind, I now have to be a little more critical though...

As I confessed in my last review, I do like a bit of Radiohead, the mix of guitars and Thom Yorke's vocals, in the right setting, can be a lethal cocktail. That said, this album has a little too much in the way of synthesised beats in places for me - and it can get a little repetitive ('Sit Down. Stand Up' is a good example). There are still markers for earlier work (There There), but the advent of the synth sounds left me pining for older, raw material, played with instruments - like many things, horses for courses though, it's still a pretty decent album.

Highlights for me are 2 + 2 = 5, the piano on Sail to the Moon, Go to Sleep, There There
Low points: Myxomatosis

3.5/5 from the Weybridge jury - a 'good' album, but due to a strong canon it's not in my Radiohead 'Top 3' for regular listens, it's just nice for a change.

PS I'm normally pretty good at 'rating' my music in JRemote, so in the interests of 'science' I added up my 'stars' to get an average per track - totalled 47/14 tracks = 3.35 per track, so not far off my 3.5/5 mark.
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Re: Classic Albums: Radiohead - Hail to the Thief. Review Date - 28th December

Postby crimsondonkey » Mon Dec 29, 2014 10:32 am

I like Radiohead.  I think they're a good band with lots of ideas and some talented musicians.  I used to go to their early gigs, when they use to play whilst 90% of the audience stood by the bar waiting for 'Creep' to be played, at which point they would rush to the front lighters in the air and imagine they had written this anthem/ it was all about them  ::)

When they're good they're brilliant.  I never imagined though that they would go on to become stadium sized rock stars (hence I'm glad I didn't follow a career in music management or promotions).  What Thom Yorke can do very well is to err on the right side of melancholy, and to make that relatable to the audience.  Its quite a skill, and if you get it wrong you end up with lumpen private misery which no-one really wants to join in with (see Grech).  OK Computer' is a truly amazing album because Radiohead nail this distinction and reinforce it with a great backing track which has all kinds of subtlety and fireworks interlaced.

Right, pet peeves out of the way first - I really can't stand the trend since CD first afforded the extra capacity, to make albums with 14 odd tracks clocking in at about an hour.  I really lose interest at about 40 minutes of any album and can't wait for it to finish.  I also don't like the overuse of brackets in song titles, this one takes the piss, come on Thom just name the track once eh?

I'll preface my thoughts on 'Hail to the thief' by repeating that I like Radiohead, but I'm not a fan.  I think this is an album best appreciated by fans of the band.  Its all perfectly competent stuff -  it sounds like Radiohead.  Thom wails on some tracks, whines on others, the band produce enough interesting music to accompany him, there's plenty of variety in the arrangements etc.  My only reservation is that despite playing it about ten times it never once caught my interest.  Its all a bit meh really.  Despite all the ideas thrown at this it just chugs along without grabbing you or pulling you in to whatever Thom is trying to put across.

It has the sound of an album by a band who have made it and now have the freedom to do whatever they like, but seem to have mislaid the magic that made their songs vital and interesting.  Its frustrating, I can see what they're trying to do but it doesn't come off for me.  'Suck young blood' is for me the worst track on the album.  Its got some good bits but as a whole just grates - again this is the sound of them tripping over the line from melancholy to misery.  2+2=5 starts off with a clever reprise of the guitar reminiscent of a couple of tracks from 'The Bends (possibly 'Street spirit' IIRC), but then kind of loses its way a bit before livening up with some loud guitars that fail to convince me.  I like bits of each of the songs but I don't really find anything in the songs as a whole.  The ingredients are all there, but ...

Fans will revel in the various aspects of the album, there's nothing actually wrong with it, however somehow Radiohead manage to make this less than the sum of its parts.  Not every souffle will rise!
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Re: Classic Albums: Radiohead - Hail to the Thief. Review Date - 28th December

Postby blair207 » Mon Dec 29, 2014 10:49 am

About the subtitles in the brackets which seem to be a real source of irritation.
"The group felt that The Gloaming sounded "too prog-rock," however, so that became the album's subtitle. In fact, all 14 songs on the album have subtitles, making for names as bulky as Sail to the Moon (Brush the Cobwebs Out of the Sky) and Myxomatosis (Judge, Jury & Executioner). That should provide nice ammunition for all those who find this band too intellectual by half. Greenwood explains the idea for the subtitles came from "old Victorian playbills which chronicled the kind of moralistic songs which were played in music halls. That whole theatre culture was wiped out by the development of cinema." "
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Re: Classic Albums: Radiohead - Hail to the Thief. Review Date - 28th December

Postby argustimewas » Mon Dec 29, 2014 11:35 am

I, too, am late with my comments. Christmas and my son's birthday yesterday have given me little time. I think we should have had A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector as our selection for the festive period.

I have listened to the album only once (on Spotify). I had never heard any Radiohead before my one and only listen. I had voted for this album when we had the ballot because I wanted to use this reviewing process as a way to hear music unfamiliar to me.

I enjoyed the guitar based more melodic tracks and found the electronic elements less to my taste and a bit gimmicky. The recording quality is excellent and I found it very system flattering. I found the musicianship, while technically strong, to be lacking soul and sparkle. For me it came across as a bit too self indulgent and gloomy.

I've enjoyed reading the reviews of others and these will be helpful to me to listen to this particular album again a few times - I haven't paid proper attention to be able to post a meaningful review. I will also explore a little more of the Radiohead back catalogue using the comments of others to help select a more accessible album.

Basically late and incomplete homework from me, sorry! (But I did enjoy Phil Spector over Christmas).   
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Re: Classic Albums: Radiohead - Hail to the Thief. Review Date - 28th December

Postby abozo » Wed Dec 31, 2014 7:27 pm

Late again today.  He'd be in trouble but..... no, wrong music

Radiohead - Hail To The Thief

1. Format

FLAC rip from an old, worn out CD

2. Overall comments

I'm a big fan of Radiohead and Hail To The Thief is a fairly good example. Though it's certainly not my favourite Radiohead album, it is hard (for me) to criticise any Radiohead album too much.  But I'll give it a good go here!

My main problem with the album is that it is a strange mix of pre and post OK Computer.  Although it was promoted as being "OK Computer 2" it certainly is not, for better or worse.  Not much compares favourably with OK Computer.

In the Kid A and Amnesiac days I admittedly battled with the new direction (I'm still not that comfortable with some of Kid A) so in 2003, Hail To The Thief was an "Ah yes" moment for me, even if Thom Yorke apologised that it wasn't ground breaking enough.

Lyrically, it all appealed to me at the time.  I guess it was comforting to get my sociopolitical views backed up by my favourite band.

But as always, it's the music that is far more important to me.  And although there is plenty of invention and creativity here, ultimately it fails to pull me back to play it over and over again.  Plenty of inspiration but little cohesion.

Maybe I'm fuddy-duddy but give me the first 3 Radiohead albums anyday as classics and I'll defend them to the death.  This one, not so much.  The start and end are incredible but I get lost at times and I think the album might just be too long.

Oh yes, I'd like to hear someone persuade me that the beautiful track, "We Suck Young Blood" isn't as depressing as anything Martin Grech came up with.  Yes, I just had to lick that wound!

3. Favourite track:
Sail To The Moon.  Just because it's a "hairs on the back of the neck" moment for me and it's a beautifully written song.  If you can get over the fact that it is exactly this type of Radiohead song that sprang Coldplay, etc. into existence.

4. Least Favourite track:
The Gloaming. It's heresy I know, but I just wish Radiohead had stuck to being the world's greatest rock band of their era, rather than trying to experiment with electronic music for the sake of it.  Perhaps they should've left that to others who were already better at it.  For me, this track, along with Backdrifts, could have been so much better, or even absent.

5. Outstanding moment(s)
Amazing moments of musical genius are apparent in 2+2=5, I Will and A Wolf At The Door, particularly that D/G chord change at the end.  Such music makes me ashamed to criticise anything this band chooses to do.  I'm a great believer in change and progress so I'll forgive a few wrong decisions here and there in the name of progress.  How magnanimous of me.

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Re: Classic Albums: Radiohead - Hail to the Thief. Review Date - 28th December

Postby callen24 » Tue Jan 13, 2015 9:03 am

FLAC rip from CD
main stereo twice, ipod 3 times

I really wanted to like this album.
I found it interesting.
But I didn't like it.

Maybe I need to listen to it more

I actually thought that quite a few tracks had fantastic elements, but were combined with elements that I just didn't like.
Thom Yorke vocals seem to be stuck in a particular range from beginning to end on many tracks, lacking the range, and build up of melancholy I loved on the bends and ok computer.
least favourite tracks were the gloaming, sit down, stand up

I quite liked back draft, sail to the moon

It didn't even have a brilliant moment to redeem it like - how to disappear completely ( as on kid A)

I had a key moment on my 5th listen through, when I suddenly really liked a track, it was actually the next track on the iPod A calf born in winter by khnuangbin. This really sealed it for me.

The previous Martin Greco album was a much better album overall, because it had a few killer highlights.

Just now I'm listening to a Can anthology - it reminds me that you can push boundaries, be interesting and still be great. I feel Radiohead failed to match this combination.
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Re: Classic Albums: Radiohead - Hail to the Thief. Review Date - 28th December

Postby caine » Tue Jan 13, 2015 9:50 am

Sorry for short impression: I have not listened to this album for quite some time. Though must admit to possibly listening to it well over 50 times. a while; enjoying it immensely. However my fav's are Kid A & Amnesiac; though fond of the rest.

For me the stand out track from this album is 'I Will'.
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