Radiohead: Hail To The Thief

Radiohead: Hail To The Thief

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Radiohead

Album: Hail To The Thief
Label: Capitol

Even in the most obtuse and inscrutable moments of its endlessly discussed twin curveballs Kid A and Amnesiac, Radiohead exhibited a humanity and infectiousness for which it hasn't received enough credit. For all the anticipation of a "return to form"–that long-awaited album that would bring back the big hooks and earnest power of The Bends and the more ambitious OK Computer–Thom Yorke and company's intricately crafted experiments not only subvert conventional song structure, but also hold up as far more accessible than advertised. All of which makes it that much more exciting to hear Radiohead effectively split the difference between its best-known incarnations on Hail To The Thief, which brings the group's Consecutive Great Albums total to a remarkable five. The powerhouse "Myxomatosis" creates a forcefully disorienting effect through chest-caving beats and odd time signatures, while the willfully plodding "We Suck Young Blood" makes unforgettably creepy use of handclaps. But Radiohead and producer Nigel Godrich wash both tracks down with a generous assortment of pretty, swooning ballads (the Bends-esque "Scatterbrain," "Go To Sleep," "There There") and build-and-release monsters ("Sit Down. Stand Up.," "2 + 2 = 5"). Even more notably, Hail To The Thief's defining moment, "A Punchup At A Wedding," finds Yorke seething over a ruined moment of bliss ("Hypocrite / Opportunist / Don't infect me with your poison") in a way that's paranoid and pissed, yet defined by his assured and unsettlingly graceful delivery. That ability to be simultaneously cranky and winsome has seen Radiohead through many guises in recent years, and helped spawn a string of albums as rewarding as they are disparate and complex.