Soundchecks Music Reviews

Hail to the Thief

EMI 7243 5 84543 2 1

HAIL TO THE THIEF
Radiohead

review by Peter Schilling

"Are you such a dreamer?/... / It's the Devil's way now/... / Because/ You have not been paying attention". From the understated (Lukewarm) opening of 2 + 2 = 5 to its strident denial of "Cozimnot!" this is assuredly a Radiohead album, with antithetical qualifications galore - even in the song titles. By the time "The Raindrops/ The Raindrops" arrive in Sit Down. Stand Up. (Snakes & Ladders), we can settle back knowing our ride-along for this band's guided-missile tour of their rainbow crayoned CD sleeve design's 'Honeycomb Roadmap' through 'Labyrinthine Catacombs' will provide us with eclectic, dazzling aural entertainment, asserting the crazy 21st century's honeymoon period [Perfect Enforced Luxuries] is well and truly over for all of us now.

As if referencing John Carpenter's weird sci-fi satire, They Live, the mordantly cranky undercurrents of Go To Sleep (Little Man Being Erased) poke and prod the mouldering body of modern British culture, to delineate the shadowy societal pecking order we may enjoy, nowadays, simply by conforming. Or not..? [Shareholders Judge Pickpockets] However, if you're looking for, and in need of, clear-sighted unambiguous explanations, please seek favourable comforts and glamorous teats elsewhere. This is more like Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd doing the soundtrack for a parliament-sacking, pro-revolutionary Lindsay Anderson movie (one co-written by Spike Milligan from beyond the grave) than any easily digestible Top Of The Pops fodder [Motorcade Smartarse Heretics]. The song for ancient, worldly vampire lovers everywhere - We Suck Young Blood (Your Time Is Up) has grotesque imagery and thoroughly uneasy-listening accompaniment.

So what's the prognosis? There There (The Boney King Of Nowhere) offers another one of those typically nonchalant, Radioheadaches - with a pinpoint accurate threat assessment that "We are accidents/ Waiting/ Waiting to happen". An untreatable case, or what? With its agreeably unsettling closing line about "Little babies' eyes", I Will (No Man's Land) unhappily realises that a raggedy uprising might be on the cards if we are to challenge the long established order [Twitching Mongrel Swarms]. But what are the soft and hard targets, and how can we tell them apart? A Punchup At A Wedding (No no no...) hints where right is the new wrong but, despite a grievance or two against rabidly poisonous hypocrisy, neglects to mention any shameless names.

The rambling satanic verses of Myxomatosis (Judge, Jury & Executioner) explore the confusions and psychic contusions suffered daily in Mr Blair's unsecured homeland. But whose fault is the horror, anyway? Scatterbrain (As Dead As Leaves) suggests finding a hole to fall into - bunker? grave? asylum? - yet A Wolf At The Door (It Girl. Rag Doll), seems to find renewed purpose in going on, or going somewhere, at least - no matter what. Do we deserve a better life? Should we just take "the flan in the face" and bear our share of the terrible guilt?

And then there's the eccentric, ambitious, imaginative, and strangely arresting music itself. Aah! Okay then, I'm a pretentious git, but, like any other virtually flawless work of art, perhaps Hail To The Thief (or, The Gloaming), like OK Computer before it, requires such pompous waffle as the above..? Or not. I really don't know what else to say about it.


Edited by Tony Lee
for PIGASUS Press