Radiohead

Record Review

Phases and Stages

Radiohead

Hail to the Thief (Capitol) If the evolution of Radiohead hasn't ceased altogether, then the once-cherished pioneers of modern rock have at least painted themselves into a corner with their sixth studio album. Not without occasional moments of brilliance, Hail to the Thief is nevertheless well-trodden territory for the beloved British quintet. The new songs have attitude, but they sound like outtakes from 2000's classic Kid A and 2001's lesser Amnesiac. This is not the rock album Radiohead had initially tempted fans with; it's the sound of lighter hard-wiring, and that's the problem. Like the clockwork of a broken clock, "2+2=5" opens Thief with the kind of sublime insecurity that Radiohead perfected on their last three releases, then segues into "Sit Down, Stand Up," the only true shot of adrenaline on Thief, and most likely its best track. "Scatterbrain" is moody, ethereal, and reminiscent of past glories "Karma Police" and "Knives Out" yet lacks either of those songs' gravitational pull toward the surreal. Breakthroughs are songs like the dreamy "Sail to the Moon" and the nightmarish first single "There There." For the first time, Radiohead recorded in Los Angeles, and it's when Thief sounds its most domestic ("Go to Sleep") that it also sounds its most exhausted. Euro pop teasers like "Backdrifts" and "Where I End and You Begin," meanwhile, are precisely why we love Radiohead: They challenge the listener as well as themselves. Hail to the Thief is unfortunately not the sound of Radiohead marching to the beat of a new drum machine.

**.5

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
X: The Godless Void and Other Stories (Record Review)

Alejandra Ramirez, Feb. 21, 2020

Texas Platters
Daniel Johnston
Chicago 2017 (Record Review)

Raoul Hernandez, Feb. 21, 2020

More by Matt Dentler
Best Ofs
The Beta Band
The Best of the Beta Band (Record Review)

Dec. 30, 2005

Best Ofs
Beastie Boys
Solid Gold Hits (Record Review)

Dec. 30, 2005

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle