After hearing Kid A, I was fairly certain that Radiohead had grown incapable of putting out anything other than self-indulgent wanking. Glad to see I was wrong.
Okay, so Hail to the Thief is self-indulgent, but it's also good. The band has energy, the songs are edgy, and the album is experimental. Most importantly, Radiohead rarely loses site of what made them great in the first place: they're a rock band with a mighty big imagination. Most of the songs are basic pop songs, but the band forces them to do things that are completely unnatural in pop music. Each song possesses layers of sound that reveal new secrets even after repeat plays. The music has a manic desperation that gets better with every listen. To me, this is a record that could accompany the end of the world. My only complaint about the album is it sounds like Son of OK Computer rather than Radiohead Does Something New.
(It's interesting to listen to "A Punchup at a Wedding," then listen to "Chimera Obscura" by The Velvet Teen. It sounds as if The Velvet Teen took a Radiohead idea and ran in a completely different direction with it. Each is a very strong song in its own way.)
I'm not even going to try to describe the meaning behind the painting of words and phrases (most of which seem to come from the lyrics) that makes up the first eight pages of the booklet. I know what it means to me, but I won't pretend to know enough about art or the artist to say I know what it means, period. All I can say is the artwork is strong enough to support a bit of thought and analysis. The lyrics are printed after the map of words, and they are the kind of words that are typical of Radiohead's brightest moments.
Listen if you like: Radiohead's OK Computer, Pink Floyd, Muse, Gorillaz
If it were food, it'd be: The last can of food in a bomb shelter or a lonely man's house