For the months leading up to the release of Hail To The Thief many people were speculating about which direction Radiohead would take their music, and the hype surrounding the album was incredible. After the last two albums by Radiohead, fans seemed to be split into two groups: fans of earlier material and fans of later material.
The fans of earlier Radiohead albums rejoiced when the band was quoted as saying that LP6, as it was then called, would be the "return to guitars". Fans of the newer albums saw the potential of what Radiohead could do when they were without restraints; focusing on music that could be written with other things beside guitars, such as computers and various other electronic instruments.
When HTTT finally came out, however, it seemed to please both Radiohead camps: both guitars and electronics reign supreme on the album. But even with the guitars back the album hardly fulfilled the "return of guitars" sound that most were expecting. Hail To The Thief has no blatant pop songs, no over emotional ballads, and no straight up rock songs; in fact, it doesn’t have any songs that are remotely similar to what would be considered "guitar driven Radiohead".
I’m just going to go ahead and say it… This album is a lot more like Amnesiac and Kid A, including B-sides from this time frame, than anyone seems to have noticed yet, which gives Hail To The Thief a "best of the 2000’s" feel to it.
I’ll admit, this does make sense; after all, the band is progressing and obviously to progress you have to have been places before that you can draw your change from. But what I can see in the album are songs that directly link up to previously recorded songs. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with that, in fact I love it; all I want to do is explore this idea in a organized manner.
Hail To The Thief or Kid Amnesiac
1. 2+2=5 or Trans-Atlantic Drawl
These songs are reversed to each other: 2+2=5 starts off with the slower, electronic section then explodes into the harder, rock and roll influenced section; Tran-Atlantic Drawl starts off with the harder, rock and roll influenced section and the explodes into the slower, electronic section. During the harder section the band even uses the exact same guitar effect to enhance both songs.
2. Sit Down. Stand up. or Kinetic
I know, this one is a long shot, mostly because Sit Down. Stand Up. is one of the songs on this album that doesn’t really touch on anything of the past. However, the ending mumble of "Raindrops" is very reminiscent to the mumble of "Kinetic".
3. Sail To The Moon or Pyramid Song
Not only because they are both piano driven songs, but because the melodies being played on those pianos are very similar, especially during Sail To The Moon when it walks up the scale. Lyrical content can also be linked as both songs deal with celestial and hydraulic things. Plus, both of the songs end with a swelling, looped noise.
Good job, Backdrifts, you are one of a kind.
5. Go To Sleep or I Might Be Wrong
This one might not be as concrete as some of the others, but I think it’s pretty valid. In general these two songs both share a drop-d-tuning/cowboy feel to them. Not too many specific details, but very similar tones.
6. Where I End And You Begin
Like Backdrifts this song doesn’t have any particular similarity that can be drawn. It sounds like it should have some prior reference but it’s hard to pin point exactly.
7. We Suck Young Blood or Life In A Glass House
To me these two songs couldn’t be any closer to each other. Both songs rely heavily on the New Orleans jazz sound, with it’s slow marching stagger. In both songs there are lines about eating or consuming of some sort: with We Suck Young Blood it’s blood, while with Life In A Glass House it’s fat.
8. The Gloaming or Worrywort
This might seem obscure but it these two songs do sound alike, primarily because of the drums. With the static bass drum and high hit rhythm, these two drum tracks could have been derived from the same loop, only with Worrywort obviously having more hits in it. The other thing that brings up image of Worrywort is the bloop sound used towards the end of The Gloaming, which was very prominent in Worrywort.
9. There There or Optimistic
It seems to make sense that There There would link up with another one of Radioheads most recent guitar driven songs. There There and Optimistic both share remarkably similar drums in two respects: first because they are both very tom oriented, which is simple enough, but then, secondly, both songs rely on the addition of the snare drum to bring the song into more climactic areas. Yeah, I know that sounds stupid, but if you listen to the song you’ll see what I mean.
10. I Will or You And Whose Army
These two songs would be virtually the exact same song if it weren’t for the ending of You And Whose Army. These two songs both consist of the same guitar strum underneath vocals with backing oo’s and aah’s. ‘Nuff said.
11. A Punchup At A Wedding
Can’t really compare this to anything either. It sounds heavily looped though, which probably gives it it's own unique sound.
12. Myxomatosis or Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box
Myxomatosis is such a great song, and I don’t want to take away from it at all, but I can see similarities between this song and Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box. The main similarity is the reliance on a fuzzed out bassline as the main melody for the song. Also, the way the song meshes with the drums is very similar.
This song could be linked back to some songs on OK Computer like Karma Police, but to a much lesser scale.
14. A Wolf At The Door or National Anthm/Idioteque
A Wolf At The Door is hyped up as the song where Thom Yorke raps but it really isn’t rapping. The vocals on this song are similar to the times during National Anthem or Idioteque where Thom goes off on his rants and talks sort of fast.
Please don’t take any of this the wrong way. Radiohead are allowed to have their own style, and their songs are allowed to sound like other songs they have already written. All I want to do is point out some specific similarities to help better explain where Radiohead is headed with their music. Although, they have recently been quoted saying, "in five years no one will recognize us anymore."