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Music / Hail to the Thief

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Not to be confused with the trope titled Hail to the Thief

"Are you such a dreamer
To put the world to rights?
I'll stay home forever
Where two and two always makes a five"
"2 + 2 = 5 (The Lukewarm)"

Hail to the Thief (also labelled as Hail to the Thief, (or, The Gloaming.) in the album booklet)note  is the sixth album released by Alternative Rock band Radiohead. With fourteen tracks adding together for almost an hour of music, it's the band's longest output.

The album was an attempt by the band to combine the experimental elements heavily present on their previous two albums Kid A and Amnesiac with the live instrumentation of their more well-known guitar-led sound, relying as little as possible on digital manipulation. Rather than record and then remix everything, electronic instruments (synthesizers, drum machines, etc.) were played live in the studio along with the "rock band" instruments for a more organic performance. It's also noteworthy for probably being the band's most political effort, as the album's title is a phrase used by anti-George W. Bush protesters during the controversy following the 2000 presidential election, and the theme of political futility and restriction is exhibited and experimented with throughout the album.


The band has since expressed regret for the album's outcome, not in that the album was bad but instead not as good as it could have been, with mentioned reasons including an unconventionally rushed recording period and a lack of substantial editing that led to the influx of tracks on the album. Despite the band's opinions, the public was generally positive to it when it dropped in June 2003, although most started getting suspicious that the band was getting overly self-indulgent and taking their Catharsis Factor methods to uncomfortable extremes. The album also received the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Engineered Non-Classical Album.

Just under a year after HTTT came out, an EP called COM LAG (2plus2isfive) was released to support the album, containing B-sides of singles released from the album as well as remixes.



  1. "2 + 2 = 5. (The Lukewarm.)" (3:19)
  2. "Sit Down. Stand Up. (Snakes & Ladders.)" (4:19)
  3. "Sail to the Moon. (Brush the Cobwebs Out of the Sky.)" (4:18)
  4. "Backdrifts. (Honeymoon Is Over.)" (5:22)
  5. "Go to Sleep. (Little Man Being Erased.)" (3:21)
  6. "Where I End and You Begin. (The Sky Is Falling In.)" (4:29)
  7. "We Suck Young Blood. (Your Time Is Up.)" (4:56)
  8. "The Gloaming. (Softly Open Our Mouths in the Cold.)" (3:32)
  9. "There There. (The Boney King of Nowhere.)" (5:25)
  10. "I Will. (No Man's Land.)" (1:59)
  11. "A Punchup at a Wedding. (No no no no no no no no.)" (4:57)
  12. "Myxomatosis. (Judge, Jury & Executioner.)" (3:52)
  13. "Scatterbrain. (As Dead as Leaves.)" (3:21)
  14. "A Wolf at the Door. (It Girl. Rag Doll.)" (3:21)

Hail to the tropes:

  • Adult Fear: The album as a whole was motivated by this – it directly followed both 9/11 and the birth of Thom Yorke's son.
  • Album Title Drop: "2 + 2 = 5" has "All hail to the thief, all hail to the thief, but I'm not."
    • If we're talking about the album's second title The Gloaming, then there's also a case in "The Gloaming".
    "This is the gloaming."
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: This set of lines from "Myxomatosis", done to offsetting effect.
    They were cheering and waving
    Cheering and waving
    Twitching and salivating like with myxomatosis
  • Broken Record:
    • Used extensively on some lines of "The Gloaming".
    • "Sit Down, Stand Up" after its beat switch.
    "AND THE RAINDROPS. (repeat ad infinitum)"
    • The ending of "Where I End and You Begin".
  • Concept Album: HTTT's political undertones/overtones make it a candidate.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: An unmastered version of Hail to the Thief was leaked onto the internet. Nigel Godrich was a bit disappointed because the release was far from finished, but Jonny Greenwood:
    "Shame it's not a package with the artwork and all, but there you go. I feel bemused, though, not annoyed. I'm glad people like it, most of all. It's a little earlier than we'd expected, but there it is."
    • He also commented that he wasn't angry that the album was leaked, rather, he was angry about how it was leaked in an unfinished manner, much like with the Amnesiac leak as described earlier.
  • Echoing Acoustics: Used extensively throughout the album, especially on Thom's voice (ex: "The Gloaming", "Scatterbrain"), to a beautifully chilling effect.
  • Either/Or Title: Every song on the album. Even the album itself has an alternate title: The Gloaming.
  • Even the Subtitler Is Stumped: The lyric booklet for HTTT actually gives up on trying to understand what's said in the end section of "2 + 2 = 5" and just says:
  • Executive Meddling: In-Universe; the basis of "Myxomatosis". This example is especially significant since its chorus ("I don't know why I feel so tongue-tied / don't know why I feel so skinned alive") is taken from "Cuttooth", a song which was supposed to be on Amnesiac but was held off by the executives for unknown reasons.
    • Another song on the album, "Where I End and You Begin", also takes some of it's lyrics ("dinosaurs roam the earth") from another Radiohead song, "Optimistic".
  • Fading into the Next Song: "I Will" fades into "A Punchup at a Wedding".
  • Genre Roulette: HTTT has a fairly eclectic blend of styles. It even includes some hip hop elements, particularly noticeable in the drums and semi-spoken choruses of "Myxomatosis" and the Piss-Take Rap of "A Wolf at the Door". There are also some relatively straightforward rock songs, like "2 + 2 = 5" and "There There".
  • Gratuitous Panning:
    • The first section of "2 + 2 = 5" has guitar panned to the right side.
    • "The Gloaming" begins with a strange electronic noise that starts in the right side before progressively shifting to the center.
    • "Scatterbrain" has guitar panned entirely to the right.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every song has two titles, as does the album itself. None of the alternate titles except the one for "A Punchup at a Wedding" appear in the lyrics for their respective tracks, though some of them appear in the lyrics for other tracks ("The Sky Is Falling In", for example, appears in "2 + 2 = 5").
  • Last Note Nightmare: HTTT as an album has this, ending with the creepy "A Wolf at the Door". In fact, Thom Yorke has explicitly compared the album to a nightmare, with "A Wolf at the Door" signifying waking up and finding out that the real world has become worse than the nightmare (hence the themes of Adult Fear in the song).
  • Long Title: A lot of songs, since each song has a main title and a secondary one in parenthesis. "Where I End and You Begin (The Sky is Falling In)," "The Gloaming (Softly Open Our Mouths in the Cold)," "A Punchup at a Wedding (No No No No No No No No)," and "Sail to the Moon (Brush the Cobwebs out of the Sky)" are particularly notable examples.
  • Loudness War: As with most recent Radiohead albums, although they avoided clipping it as badly as a number of contemporary releases (some songs still clip, however). The leak, mentioned above under Digital Piracy Is Evil, is not brickwalled (amongst other differences from the final product such as passages that were removed etc.) and therefore subject to Keep Circulating the Tapes. Unfortunately, it's only available as 192kbps mp3.
  • My Greatest Failure: A lot of the band members have remarked that the album in particular was an album they wish they could have went back to; Thom, Ed and Colin all seem to agree that the album was filled with too many songs and not edited well enough, which was in part a result of their more spontaneous recording process.
  • New Sound Album: Or rather "two older sounds to make a new sound" album. As mentioned above, the album saw the band playing electronic instruments live in the studio in time with the traditional "rock band" ones for a more organic performance.
  • Non-Appearing Title: For most of the songs, the second title appearing in parentheses never appears in the song. The exception is "A Punchup At a Wedding", which actually does open with a series of nos.
  • Papa Wolf: "I Will" is a song about how war affects children, but according to Thom the song's influences are more about him being this.
    " can do anything you want to me, but if you come after my family I will kill you."
  • Piss-Take Rap: "A Wolf at the Door".
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • The "it got edited, fucked up" line from "Myxomatosis".
    • The "dance, you fucker" line from "A Wolf at the Door".
  • Pun-Based Title: "Myxomatosis" was remixed on COM LAG as..."Remyxomatosis".
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Thom sings the choruses of "Myxomatosis" in this manner.
  • Rapid-Fire "No!":
    • "A Punchup at a Wedding". Even besides its Either/Or Title, the song begins with Thom singing 42 consecutive "no"'s.
    • The post-chorus section of "A Wolf at the Door".
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "A Punchup at a Wedding" is most definitely this, directed at a critic who wrote a bad review of one of the band's concerts. See Take That, Critics! below for more info.
  • Recut: Thom wrote up a considerably shorter alternate tracklisting for Hail to the Thief. While it cuts out several widely-liked songs, it also flows a lot better as an album, and a fan who misses the removed tracks could presumably just program them in at the beginning or end of the playlist.
    1. There There
    2. The Gloaming
    3. Sail to the Moon
    4. Sit Down. Stand Up.
    5. Go to Sleep
    6. Where I End and You Begin
    7. Scatterbrain
    8. 2 + 2 = 5
    9. Myxomatosis
    10. A Wolf at the Door
    • Their original track nos are 9, 8, 3, 2, 5, 6, 13, 1, 12, 14.
  • Shout-Out: Of course, "2 + 2 = 5" is a nod to Nineteen Eighty-Four.
  • Studio Chatter: The start of "2 + 2 = 5".
    Jonny: We're on.
    Thom: That's a nice way to start, Jonny.
  • Take That, Critics!: "A Punch Up at a Wedding (No No No No No No No No)" is about a critic who wrote an extremely negative review of the band's Oxford show and tore into the band and audience. Thom admits he shouldn't have let it get to him:
    I mean, one of the biggest days in my life. Obviously for all of us. And this... Whoever this person was, just tore it to shreds. And they just tore the audience to shreds [...] This person managed to totally and utterly ruin that day for me forever. And it really shouldn't have done, and I should be bighead enough to just ignore it. And there was a lesson there, which I have I learned now. But I just didn't understand why someone, just because they had access to a keyboard and a typewriter, could just totally write off an event, that meant an awful lot to an awful lot of people. And there'd been just no answering back, no nothing, that was it, the end of the story.
  • Tranquil Fury: "I Will", which is sort of like a commentary on the effects of war on children, who can be both victims and resources. Thom has even described it as the angriest song he's ever written.
    I won't let this happen to my children
    Meet the real world coming out of your shell
  • Uncommon Time:
    • "2 + 2 = 5" opens in 7/8.
    • "Go to Sleep" alternates between 4/4 and 6/8 (it could also be counted as simply being in 10/4).
    • "Myxomatosis" sounds like an example of this trope, but it's actually just in highly syncopated Common Time.
    • Depending how you count it, "Sail to the Moon" has as many as 30 or 40 time signature changes, though it's such a subdued song casual listeners might not even notice. It's easily Radiohead's most extreme deployment of this trope, though. Take a look.


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