By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
That song, too, ends with a boom. But what happened? Does it matter? The Cubans have a word, destemplanza, for an unexplained body temperature, not high enough to be considered fever, but serious enough to miss school and work. Toward the end of the disc, a fascinating variation on Radiohead’s deliriousness specialty comes in “Myxamatosis,” which the musos among you will appreciate for its complex shifting meters over a simply righteous fuzz bass sound, like an English or Italian prog band circa 1974 would’ve done. You don’t hear this sort of thing often enough, and note how such a proggy setting easily accommodates the song’s otherwise blatant obliqueness. You want to indulge them their experiments when they do stuff like this; Yorke’s still warbling things like “l don’t know why I feel so scared by myself,” but such timeless sentiment gains enormous resonance when the related instrumental attack muddies the motivation in the song, and the effect is multifarious, flanged, though not diluted.
A state of unwellness that can’t be diagnosed often characterizes Radiohead, and it’s a state the band is still incredibly good at conveying — and ought to continue pursuing. Yet there are several points on Hail to the Thief where a kind of selling out to the pop-marketplace crowd seems to cloud their judgment, such as the more overtly electronic-conscious “Backdrifts,” where Yorke’s still wailing obscurely about what ails him (and by shifting his register and choice of keys a bit, skirts the irritation factor), but the song itself, though attractively laced with muffled panning Morse Codes and ring-modulated pinging polyrhythms, lacks the substance to justify it dragging on so long. Much like U2’s songs (which have the effect of being all in the same key, even if they aren’t), this one wears out its limited charms because it lacks variation and simply doesn’t go nowhere, and doesn’t do it fast enough. Likewise the tuneless, meandering “Go to Sleep,” while relatively chipper and piled with busybusy askance-guitar splinters, sounds like an outtake, though perhaps it’s tailored for live performance.
But we demand perfection from Radiohead, don’t we?, and only a complete churl would deny them their occasional filler. It’s almost stunning to realize that, Radiohead being Radiohead — all about a kind of deception, or addressing (self-) delusion — at least one of the tunes on Hail to the Thief that I firmly believed bored me most is one I am now persuaded will most hungrily persist to gnaw at me. It’s called “Scatterbrain.” Strewn with humdrum U2-style rock rhythms and further varieties of arcane effluvia, it dared me to yawn — but a completely flooring and quite un-American chord progression rushed in, both nullifying and multiplying all that’d come before.
That’s no easy trick, and it’s Radiohead’s extant mastery of sophisticated structures like these — which remain song forms by establishing their own kind of symmetry — that imparts their simple and most important message: When you set your own terms, you can create your own shapes, and others are sure to follow.
RADIOHEAD | Hail to the Thief | (Capitol)