The sixth album by the English band was their supposed return to the alternative rock genre after multiple forays into electronica and experimental rock. Although quite true, Hail to the Thief still incorporated many influences and essential elements of those genres, and due to this abundance of ideas, this is their longest studio album. After Kid A and Amnesiac, the thought of Radiohead lyrics actually having tangible purpose seems absurd, but a large part of the album is actually very political in nature and could be deemed in some ways as a form of ‘protest album’. Regardless of what the songs are about or their intent, this is a fine album from the boys once again, with its major flaw only really being that it contains just a couple too many songs which detract from the quality of other tracks.
Opener “2 + 2 = 5” is what many fans were missing, a brilliant rock song from the band, building up slowly to an explosive conclusion. The title statement is a reference to George Orwell and ‘1984’, suggesting people will believe anything even if the truth is obvious. The last lyric captures this perfectly, “Go and tell the king that the sky is falling in, but it’s not… Maybe not.” Album highlight, “Sail to the Moon”, is a ballad-like lullaby for Thom Yorke’s son Noah, and easily the most haunting track off the album. Beautiful instrumentation sets the tone immaculately, as Yorke is at his very best vocally, lecturing, “maybe you’ll be president, but know right from wrong.”
The album’s best track, “There There”, like most Radiohead songs, is very open to interpretation. “Just ‘cause you feel it, doesn’t mean it’s there,” could refer to love, God, trust, ghosts, or typical Radiohead nonsense? It really is up to the listener, but it definitely is one of the album’s strongest tracks. The closer is yet again, an album standout, “A Wolf at the Door”, the stunning track narrating about (in my opinion) Yorke’s problems with modern society (the wolf). Despite how hard he tries to keep the wolf away, it manages to find ways to corrupt his thoughts and entice his children into its grasp, eventually ending with Yorke giving in (after he sings the last lyric, “So I’m just gonna”, he howls in a wolf-like manner).
The comprehensible (in comparison to other Radiohead anyway…) lyrics also play a large part into why this is record is as good as it is, but it does however contain ludicrous gems like, “Dance you fucker, dance you fucker, don’t you dare, don’t you dare, don’t you flan in the face.” No, this is not their finest album, but what Hail to the Thief is, is Radiohead’s resurgence into music from this world, a set of songs capably showing their transition back into ‘rock’ music (don’t forget, this will later lead into the fully realized and stunning In Rainbows). Maybe not an Ok Computer or Kid A, but this still remains a very good record from arguably the greatest band of this generation.
Top Songs – “Sail to the Moon”, “There There”, “A Wolf at the Door”