Radiohead: Hail to the Thief

Radiohead: Hail to the Thief

Joshua Reyes

“Hail to the Thief”, the sixth album created by Radiohead. The album was released on June 9, 2003, their previous album Amnesiac was released in 2001. Radiohead’s sound transformed from guitar-led rock songs to a more electronic approach. A common recurrence with Radiohead albums is their sound changes with each one. With the albums I’ve listened to from Radiohead, the most interesting sounding is “Hail to the Thief”.

Cover art for 2 + 2 = 5 by RadioheadThe opening track for “Hail to the Thief”,”2 + 2 = 5” helps introduce you to the album’s sound and what to expect from there on. A recurring theme for the album is a build up to a loud climax. I personally believe that “2 + 2 = 5” is one of their best openers for an album. Its lyrics are very interesting and always make you form a thought. Sail to the Moon is a memorable song for me with its piano instrumentation. The song sounds like a lullaby and was created for Thom Yorke’s infant son at the time. Whenever Radiohead uses a piano instrumental, it’s always superb. 

“Where I End and You Begin”, one of my favorite tracks off the album Thom Yorke’s best song writing pieces. With its ominous instrumentation, it just works very well with its lyrics overall. It’s said the band was influenced by New Order. The following track “We Suck Young Blood” is filled with a durge sound. The claps used in the song have a cult-like feeling which makes sense with its lyrics. I’m a huge fan of strange songs from Radiohead so it takes the cake. 

Cover art for There, There by RadioheadWith “There, There” I was expecting a calmer song because of its name, I was definitely wrong. Another song with a build up to a loud climax but with all very meaningful lyrics. The music video for “There, There” is interesting with stop motion claymation animals and Thom Yorke running through a forest. “A Punch Up at a Wedding” is another one of my favorites off the album with its unique sound. Thom Yorke had come across a review thrashing Radiohead’s performance at Oxford. In an interview he said,”I happened upon…by accident basically a review of our Oxford gig which was just like, I mean, one of the biggest days of my life obviously and for all of us. And this, whoever this person was, just tore it to shreds and they couldn’t quite think of how to tear us to shreds really. So they just tore the audience to shreds…..But this person managed to totally ruin that day for me forever. And it really shouldn’t have done. I should be big enough to just ignore it.” Ed O Brien, the guitarist for the band, believes “Karma Police” could be seen as a companion piece for “A Punch Up for a Wedding”

“Myxomatosis”, the most fuzzy sounding Radiohead song to exist. At the first listen of this song, I didn’t really like how loud it was. I wasn’t used to Radiohead songs being loud, but maybe that’s what makes it special. “Scatterbrain”, with its title, the song makes you feel scatterbrain. I believe “Scatterbrain” tells a story where a character is in a chaotic world, consisting of strong winds and having conflicting thoughts. “The roof is pulling off” and “Blown by the wind” gives more to the story and its environment. These conflicting thoughts are “Somewhere I’m not scatterbrain”. 

The final song off the album,”Wolf at the Door”. It has a very haunting instrumental and almost angry vocals. This song can be interpreted in many different ways like a political or story-telling song.The lyric, “Just know someone else is gonna come and clean it up, Born and raised for the job, Someone always does” gives an example of modern Capitalism and how certain socioeconomic classes are expected to clean up the mistakes of higher up classes. I personally like this song because of its political lyrics. 

Hail to the Thief - Wikipedia“Hail to the Thief” is an album that doesn’t stand out like the rest of the albums in their discography because it doesn’t introduce something new. For example, “Kid A” introduced a very electronic album which was very unheard of in Radiohead’s discography. With “Hail to the Thief” it has a very interesting sound to it, being chaotic at times but being super mellow. This is seen even in the songs, with very loud climaxes. This is an album I come back to many times.