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A brief thought on Radiohead

Written: December 27, 2003

Having listened often to Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief, I have come up with a theory as to what it’s about, and haven’t seen anywhere else (not that I’ve looked very hard). I believe Hail to the Thief is a tribute album to all the bands Radiohead has stolen from, been influenced by. I can’t point to anything specific which would prove this definitively, but it’s an impression I get.

Most (if not all) of the songs on the album seem to reference other bands – not in the oblique way that their music hints, at times, at the music of, for example, The Beatles and Pink Floyd – but explicitly draws from the sound world of, say, early punk, ’70s rock, or even a little bit of psychidelia. One some of the tracks, I expect to hear someone from another band singing.

It’s a strange thing to hear an album based around anachronisms and yet still clearly be by nobody but Radiohead.

A friend of mine likened it to The Beatles’ White Album, a comparison I had considered as well – both are amalgamations of a wide variety of older musical styles, but nevertheless contemporary, and obviously the work of their creators.