Musicology: Rahsaan’s Rhythm Review

Rahsaan Nance In-Depth Album Reviews A new year means new installments of Musicology! Thank you so much for reading! Today we will be taking a look at Radiohead’s 2003 album, Hail to the Thief (Or, The Gloaming). While OK Computer, Kid A, and In Rainbows are all considered classics, this album often gets lost in the shuffle. Hopefully, this article will convince you that Hail to the Thief is not an album to be overlooked. We start our journey into this underrated album with the song “2+2=5 (The Lukewarm).” It begins with some guitar strums and the beginning of the recording session. We then get introduced to an electronic beat(in 7!), followed suit by guitar, and eventually, vocals. Lead singer Thom Yorke’s haunting words resonate over the “simple backing,” until the beat drops out, and we are greeted with an equally haunting guitar riff. Thom’s, “because,” leads into the next section, driven by rock guitars, an intense bassline, and a frantic drum beat, as Thom yells, “you have not been paying attention,” hinting at the political undertones that can be found across the rest of the album. We then change to an equally intense but quiet section, with frequent “mood swings.” It ends on high energy, which, oddly enough, serves as a perfect transition into the next song: “Sit Down. Stand Up. (Snakes & Ladders).”  “Sit Down. Stand Up. (Snakes & Ladders)” begins with another automated beat, followed by some simple synth and glockenspiel accompaniment. Yorke hops on piano and plays a distant, eerie riff. The words “Sit Down. Stand Up.” are repeated, referring to how the American government at the time controlled the people, making them into puppets. This song has few lyrics, but they are all impactful. A great example of this is the line, “we can wipe you out anytime,” which is in reference to America’s irrational wars and conversions of countries in the middle east. Then, the music builds and gets more intense, leading into the next section, with an insane drum beat, frantic bass line, and airy guitar. Soon, drummer Philip Selway kicks in with some equally insane drums, as Thom Yorke sings, “And the raindrops” relentlessly, with lasers shooting in the background, and an abrupt end. Next is a big shift, as a calm guitar and building piano leads us into “Sail to the Moon (Brush the Cobwebs out of the Sky).” The song was written in five minutes for Yorke’s infant son, this song serves as a nice break from the intense start of the album. Up next is “Backdrifts (Honeymoon is Over.)” It begins with a wavy keyboard riff, leading into a simple beat and a Depeche Mode-esque key bass. As the song continues, harmonies develop, and the ambient sounds get more intense, creating a sonic landscape rarely found (especially) today. “Go To Sleep(Little Man being Erased.)” contrasts the keyboards of the track prior with acoustic guitars, drums, and piano. This song is very reminiscent of the classic rock that inspired this band, with a more simplified approach, and more seldom use of the haunting effects that frequent the rest of the album thus far. We return to that in “Where I End and You Begin(The Sky is Falling In.)” A mix of electronic and alternative rock, this song really seems ahead of its time, as I haven’t personally heard anything else like it until the late 2000s/early 2010s. After the initial verses and chorus, Jonny Greenwood delivers an intense rock section before more singing, and a keyboard breakdown. His brother Colin returns with the bassline for a freaky instrumental section. When Thom’s vocals return, they are equally as disturbing, as he says “I will eat you alive,” which takes us out. That last line is the perfect segway to our next track, “We suck Young Blood(Your Time is Up.).” It satires the need to be young that our society perpetuates, in a dark vampire track that Yorke says is “not to be taken seriously.” It then transitions into a brief freeform jazz section before returning to the darkness to finish out the track. Next is the ‘title track,’ “The Gloaming(Softly Open our Mouths in the Cold.).” After some static, the eerie key bass kicks in, followed by drums and some haunting synths. Thom sings the melody with a reverb to reinforcing this strange atmosphere that characterizes the album. Next is “There There(The Boney King Of Nowhere.),” with some tom-heavy drums and a somewhat high bassline. This song is more in the tradition of rock from the 80s and 90s, no doubt influenced by the likes of R.E.M. and Talking Heads. As the song progresses, it gets more intense, with a chaotic and powerful outro. It’s only natural to mellow out with the brief “I Will(No Man’s Land.).” Nothing but Thom’s lead, a harmony line, and guitar to bring us down. It leads right into the drums of “A Punchup At A Wedding(No No No No No No No No No.).” A rather down song, the ‘no’s’ are eerily repeated at the beginning of the song, setting up for this rather dark song. After the first chorus, some distorted strokes of a guitar can be faintly heard in the background, effectively setting the scene. Eventually, we break down to just the keyboards and drums, as we go right into album highlight, “Myxomatosis(Judge, Jury, & Executioner.)” An active drum beat and bassline give energy to the insane lyrics. The chorus removes all chordal backgrounds as Thom recites a chant. As the song progresses, hypnotic keyboards enter the background laying a perfect canvas for the songs insanity. Next is “Scatterbrain(As Dead As Leaves.),” a rather somber rock tune. It has another signature build of instruments that serve to complement Yorke’s heartfelt delivery. Finally, we arrive at “A Wolf At The Door(It Girl. Rag Doll.).” Reminiscent of the Beatles “I Want You(She’s So Heavy),” a three-feel seems like the perfect compliment to Yorke’s rap-like phrasing. We enter the chorus, which picks things up a bit. We go back down as Thom hums to let the music build before going into the next verse. The music escalates with before it mellows out with humming and a gradual decline. Thank you for reading. We are changing some things up in the bottom section here, as from now on, we will include personnel in addition to the recommended recordings. Finally, it’s time for a cheap plug. Please join Music Club, a new club where we will discuss, listen to, and play music in the music tech room. If you are even remotely interested, please email me at [email protected]. Radiohead: Thom Yorke: vocals, guitar, piano, laptop Jonny Greenwood: guitar, analog systems, ondes Martenot, laptop, toy piano, glockenspiel Colin Greenwood: bass, string synth, sampler Ed O’Brien: guitar, effects, vocals Philip Selway: drums, percussion Recommended Recordings: Ultra-Depeche Mode Abbey Road-the Beatles Sound & Color-Alabama Shakes]]>