Hail to the Thief and a hiatus RadioHead Reading Festival (2002–2004)


During July and August 2002 Radiohead toured Portugal and Spain, playing a number of newly written songs. They then recorded the new material in two weeks in a Los Angeles studio with Nigel Godrich, adding several tracks later in Oxford, where the band continued their work into the next year. Radiohead members described the recording process as relaxed, in contrast to the tense sessions for Kid A and Amnesiac.The band’s sixth album, Hail to the Thief, was released in June 2003. Mixing sounds from throughout their career, Hail to the Thief combined guitar-based rock with electronic influences and topical lyrics by Yorke.Although the album was critically praised, many critics felt that Radiohead were treading water creatively rather than continuing the “genre-redefining” trend that OK Computer had begun.Nevertheless, Hail to the Thief enjoyed commercial success, debuting at number one in the UK and number three on the Billboard chart and eventually being certified platinum in the UK and gold in the US. The album’s singles, “There There”, “Go to Sleep” and “2 + 2 = 5”, achieved a level of play on modern rock radio. At the 2003 Grammy Awards, Radiohead were again nominated for Best Alternative Album, while producer Godrich and engineer Darrell Thorp received the Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album.

Yorke denied that Hail to the Thief’s title was a comment on the controversial 2000 US presidential election, explaining that he first heard the words in a BBC Radio 4 discussion of 19th century American politics.Yorke said his lyrics had been affected by news reports of war in 2001 to 2002 and “the feeling that we are entering an age of intolerance and fear where the power to express ourselves in a democracy and have our voices heard is being denied us”but said, “[Radiohead] didn’t write a protest record, we didn’t write a political record.”After the release of Hail to the Thief, Radiohead embarked in May 2003 on a world tour, including a headlining performance at the Glastonbury Festival. The tour finished in May 2004 with a performance at the Coachella Festival. During their tour, the band released COM LAG, an EP compiling most of their b-sides from the time. Following their tour, the band began writing and rehearsing in their Oxford studio but soon went on hiatus. Free of their label contract, Radiohead spent the remainder of 2004 resting with their families and working on solo projects.

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