Radiohead releases new album, ad campaign

    Listener beware. The new album by Radiohead, that incorrigible quintet that loves to scare the paranoia into us all, is not the roots-rocking affair they would have you to believe.

    Courtesy of http://www.pagina12.com

    Well, so what? Radiohead has never been easy to categorize or follow, and there’s no use in trying to start now. Radiohead’s sixth album Hail to the Thief has been advertised by many, including the band members themselves, to be more “”song-oriented.””

    This approach would return the band to the days of creating the sweeping, guitar-based anthems that marked their masterful mid-’90s albums The Bends and OK Computer. After the decidedly more difficult textures of their last two albums, 2000’s Kid A and 2001’s Amnesiac, fans and critics alike have been waiting for a return to the days when Radiohead songs were hummable and radio-friendly.

    Revisiting these albums of the past reveals that Radiohead was never really radio-friendly or immediately accessible to begin with. After its first single “”Creep”” blew up on modern rock radio in 1993 from its otherwise inconsequential debut Pablo Honey, Radiohead has never really had a big hit in the U.S. in the traditional sense. The band has continually made albums that garnered as much head scratching as critical praise. To put it simply, Radiohead is an acquired taste that has never really sat well with the public, despite the band’s album sales eventually climbing to platinum status.

    Courtesy of http://www.manikomio.it/femeni/radiohead

    Like Amnesiac, Hail to the Thief has been promised to be a more tangible affair than the band’s recent output. Similar to the hype around Amnesiac when it was released, this is complete nonsense. Hail to the Thief is the band’s most challenging work to date.

    The album starts out with the uncharacteristically guitar-based and upbeat “”2+2=5″” (What? I thought it equaled 4! Damn your crazed logic Radiohead!). It’s the closest thing to songs like “”High and Dry”” from The Bends that the band has recorded in some time. It shuffles from a slow meandering passage to a fast-paced jam that will have Radiohead fans getting misty -eyed for those good ol’ days when Radiohead wrote pop songs. Thom Yorke sings “”Penetration!”” over and over again while his bandmates turn pop-song structures over on their tired asses once again. It’s the high point of the album and one of their best songs.

    The second song “”Sit Down. Stand Up.”” follows with a similar structure, picking up the pace with electronica beats as Yorke robotically chants what sounds like “”the raindrops.”” Yorke slurs his words as if he’s afraid to let you hear him, settling instead on making you feel his uncertainty and paranoia. Truthfully, the next couple of songs float by, piano pseudo-ballads infused with more of those darn electronica beats.

    Things pick up again during “”Go to Sleep,”” a sort of progressive folk tune reminiscent of “”Paranoid Android”” from OK Computer. “”Where I End and You Begin”” sounds tinny and dapper, soft chords wrapping around the computerized noises like a warm blanket. “”We Suck Young Blood”” features the piano for a dirge accentuated by eerie handclaps and Yorke’s possessed howl. The sequencing of the album is as schizophrenic as Amnesiac was, with beats and guitars and pianos knocking each other over, but this time in more of a hushed frenzy.

    The end of the album winds down slowly with a few notable exceptions. The five-minute guitar workout, “”There There,”” drifts along over a heavy beat and is reminiscent of recent Radiohead singles like “”Optimistic”” and “”I Might Be Wrong.”” “”I Will”” is the shortest song at just under two minutes and features Yorke singing more sensitively over little more than light piano and guitar. “”Myxomatosis,”” driven by a heavy synth line, is a slightly louder tune named after a disease that kills rabbits. As the album draws to its anticlimactic close, the question is left floating: Does Radiohead matter anymore?

    The question will no doubt be hotly debated by music fans when the album is released on June 10. Never mind that the album is nothing short of a four-star, excellent album. Even the worst Radiohead album is better than most band’s greatest efforts.

    In the meantime, Radiohead fans can pick up the first single, “”There There,”” on CD, 12″” vinyl or a limited edition DVD of the video, which features a stop-motion Yorke stealing glowing clothes from crows and turning into a tree.

    As the release date nears, the promotion squad is out spreading the word about the new album … sort of. Flyers posted around urban areas, such as the UCSD campus, read “”HUNGRY? SICK? BEGGING FOR A BREAK? SWEET? FRESH? WOULD YOU DO ANYTHING? WE SUCK YOUNG BLOOD. WE WANT SWEET MEATS. WE WANT YOUNG BLOOD. 1-866-868-4433.””

    Anyone wondering who was responsible for this strange request has Radiohead to thank. Calling the number begins a journey of button-pushing which leads nowhere, except that clips from the upcoming album can be heard.

    Pretentious? A little, but it’s also the most interesting promotion of an album in recent memory. Sure, Radiohead wants you to hear its album, but do they really want to compete with Christina Aguilera on TRL?

    A listening party was held recently at UCSD for the new album. Just before Amnesiac was released, a similar listening party was held in the Price Center Theater. A video featuring cartoon bears and other abstract images from the album’s artwork looped over and over on the movie screen while the new album blasted out of the speakers.

    Probably under a minute long, the images perfectly complemented the experimental sounds of the album. If Radiohead is going to hawk its album, it’s going to do it in an artistic way with some sort of social commentary.

    It looks as if Radiohead is going to continue contradicting themselves and pushing buttons well into the next millennium. After embarking on a European tour this summer, Radiohead will likely bring their head-scratch-inducing post-rock to the States this fall.

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