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Even Great Bands Make Average Albums
on 14 June 2003
Over the years, Radiohead have done more than most to earn the numerous plaudits and unswerving support that some bands seem to receive from both fans and the press.
Indeed, they are without doubt one of the most original and talented acts of the last 20 years. Like any other great band, though, there are bound to be rises and falls in the quality of their career output even if the overall level is very high. Even the most die-hard fans of say Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Smashing Pumpkins, U2 or any other "classic" group would be hard pressed to give every album in their canon a 5 star rating.
And so it is with "Hail To The Thief". Whilst the instrumentation is flawless throughout and Thom Yorke's voice is in fine fettle, simply too much of this album is filler material by Radiohead's own high standards. Whereas each of their previous albums has represented a marked progression in both the group's sound and songwriting, HTTF is something of a regression.
Maybe this is due to Thom Yorke's distinct and singular voice, or the band's writing style that one's ears are attuned to certain chord progressions and musical motifs but this collection sounds almost like someone doing a parody of Radiohead but lacking that special spark that has ignited each of their previous albums since "The Bends".
That's not to say that it is without it's moments - first single "There There" is a great tune, as is the delicate "Scatterbrain" whilst "Where I end and you begin" perfectly combines the drama prevalent on "OK Computer" with their later, more experimental music.
But considering, as they have stated in a recent interview, Radiohead had at least 4 albums worth of new material from which to draw on to make this collection, how drab must have the other 30-40 songs have been? Judging by the b-sides to "There There", they can't have been too good.
This album will earn Radiohead few extra followers beyond those they already have, and even a proportion of them will feel disappointed by this cd.